“To be honest, I have never seen you dance. But what I heard you say in a youtube interview- not just about dance, but about Art and life- told me everything I needed to know to assure me that I would be learning from a great teacher.”
That was part of the email I sent to Kwenda Lima before I met him and just after I booked a flight to San Francisco to take his workshops.
As I explained to Kwenda, for the past few years, I have been writing about the power of dance to inspire, to strengthen, and to heal. But I knew I was missing something – someone who could speak deeply about the spirituality aspect of dancing- someone who lived and breathed it. And I knew instantly- I felt it through his energy actually- that Kwenda would be one of those people.
And I was right. Not only did he respond very quickly to my message with a few heartfelt words of his own, but he made sure to keep his word by making time, in the middle of his workshops, to discuss with me some of the issues around health, dance and teaching that I had brought up in my email.
Insights into how to live a fuller life were cleverly woven into, and sometimes just outwardly stated, in Kwenda’s teachings during that weekend. The kizomba movements and exercises we learned were just one aspect of the lessons. There was such emotion and purpose in every one of Kwenda’s actions, including the moments where he just fell silent. It was hard not to be captivated by this man’s spirit.
And for those of us who stayed until the last workshop—when Kwenda
introduced us to Kaizen dance- we went from jumping in utter happiness, holding hands in gratitude, laying on each other’s shoulders in a clump of bodies on the floor, letting our tongues hang out, freeing our inner child, and forming a tight spiral around Kwenda, which reminded me of his belief that we are all in fact one. But it was the final exercise about forgiveness that seemed to have been the most impactful for some. Every single person in that room was moved to tears from it. But it felt more like a long awaited, giant, collective exhale, a letting go of something heavy, rather than tears of sorrow. We may not forever remember all the details of the dance steps learned that weekend, but I am sure the depth of feeling through dance that Kwenda left us with, will remain with us for a long time.
Thank you Kwenda, for proving my instincts right, and being that great teacher I felt you would be. And special thanks to Emile Carter for doing an amazing job in organizing Kwenda’s first visit to the U.S.
The beads on your hand – around your wrist and fingers- are they spiritual or religious or have any particular significance? You wear them all the time, it seems.
Yes, I wear this all the time (skims his fingers over the beads). It is a spiritual thing. And it’s something very personal for me. It reminds me of things that are important to me.
I was curious about that because you have this spirituality about you which was evident well before I met you. I could feel it even when just watching you in another interview on the internet. Where do you think that spirituality comes from?
It’s a mix of everything, actually, but it’s not a cultural thing or anything like that. I would say it comes from my ‘education’. When I talk about education, I am referring to my parents, I’m talking about my friends, I’m talking about the books I came across, I’m talking about the movies I’ve seen, I’m talking about the situations that I went through. For me, that is my education. And it is what has taken me to where I am now.
Have you always been that way? That depth that you convey- has it always been there? Or did something happen in your life to instil that in you so strongly?
As I said, it’s a mix of everything. Nothing happened to make me change suddenly. But I’ve always behaved in a different way, even when I was a child. I was different. My friends would always say to me “You’re complicated,” or, “You’re different”. They would say, “Okay, you’re talking too much,” or something like that (smiles). I was the kind of child that would spend a lot of time in my room alone. And so all of those things- EVERYTHING that surrounds you- of course, will kind of guide you to what you’re supposed to do. That’s what I believe.
I believe there is a mission for each of us, something we are meant to do. So probably, those things- the people, the books- those situations, were taking me to where I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to do.