“…But those unheard are sweeter”

Heard melodies are sweet,

but those unheard are sweeter.”

~John Keats

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Recently, I saw this quote from Ode to a Grecian Urn tattooed on a girl’s back shoulder.  I am glad there was a huge treble clef attached to it, which drew my attention to the words.

So many memories of English Literature class, and falling in love with Romantic poets were brought back to me in that moment. And Professor Lee Johnson, my favorite professor, who instilled such a passion for poetry and words in me, even though I was actually in sciences at that time.

Those words meant something in particular to me at that time, according to what was going on in my life then. I wasn’t dancing, and I definitely wasn’t singing when I first read those poets and Keats’ ode.  But I understood and got a taste of those “unheard melodies” in the form of pauses and breaths in the middle of certain sentences or poetry lines.  Writing and reading took on this whole other sensation for me because of this.   So did fine art, as I would notice not just the strokes and colours on the canvases I painted or drew on, but also the negative space within those creations.  I could see the beauty of the “unheard” melodies in the artwork I studied in art history classes as well. To me, they were the spots that the artist chose to purposely leave blank.   The blank spaces often said as much, if not more, than the ones full of swirling brushstrokes.

It’s amazing how now, the words take on another layer because of these newer passions of mine, especially dance.

Because it is the breaths and pauses in dancing and singing that I live for the most in these disciplines.  Very often, we concentrate on the hits, the strong beats, the parts in the music where your feet want to step the loudest or strongest.  But when someone breathes with me at the beginning of a dance, or when suddenly, there is a pause in the music, and we stop together to take in that moment, that’s what makes the hits and sharper, quicker movements so memorable.

It’s also what gives me goosebumps- those “unheard” melodies in between the musical notes, in between the dips and spins and waves.  I can name particular dancers over the course of my dancing experience who have made me feel those moments, those pauses, between the pulses and traveling sequences.  It is the leaders who have stopped me in my tracks to be so present in those moments, to experience the sweetness of what is not heard but felt so deeply, that remain in my memory forever.  Although those moments can never be replicated again exactly as they were, that is also what is beautiful about them.  They linger within us, long after they happen, because of their magic to bring us into that very instance.

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It’s like nothing else exists in those moments except for that feeling. And that is the part of dance that makes me crave more of it.  These captured moments of ‘stillness’ that we often don’t take the time for in our daily lives, these instances of total surrender to our senses- the feel of our partner’s hands or arms around us, the touch of our feet pushing through the floor, or the floor pushing back up into us to ground us and keep the motion flowing, or the deep breaths taken at the same time as the pause in the music.

It is this that draws me to the dance floor again and again, no matter how tired I might feel beforehand, no matter how many other life issues are on my mind.  Dance takes me out of this and into the moment.  It feels like something otherworldly, orchestrated not by us but by something divine. Or to remind us of our connection to Spirit and the Divine. We just have to be open to it, to allow ourselves to listen and believe in the “unheard” melodies that capture our hearts and let our souls soar. It is the pauses and the breaths in the dances that enliven me and convince me that we are connected to something so much greater than ourselves. We just have to let that connection flow to and from us.

Dance allows us to hear the unheard, to experience something out of this world while still remaining in it.

Dance is divine.

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Interview with Yesenia Peralta- Part 2

Part 2: “Learning about the history of salsa- how can you not be moved?  I mean, it’s like yesenia1planting a seed in your soul!”  – Yesenia Peralta

(To begin at Part 1 – “Dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined“- click here)

What has stood out to me about your dancing is that it is much deeper than just steps. You have that heart and passion for it….

SOUL! It’s called SOUL, baby! (smiles).

Yes, exactly (laughs)!  So did you grow up with lots of music and dancing in your family? Where did that SOUL (smiles) come from?

Well, yes, we did listen to A LOT of music.  And my sister –Irene Otero- and my brother – Ismael Otero – are six and seven years older than me.  So imagine, when I was seven, they were in their teens.  What do you think they were blasting? – Music EVERYWHERE.  They were really into breakdancing and all that crazy stuff.  And with the dancing, well, my brother and sister used to battle- in breakdancing battles, on the street.  And THEY WERE BAD ASS!  My sister was a beast!  Don’t mess with her.  Don’t even try (laughs).  The way she is now in salsa is the way she was then in breakdancing, and of course, my brother too.  They were the best.  And I was the little sister.  And so for me, oh my God, that was all normal to me (smiles).  It was what I grew up with.

So at a certain point, did you start taking formal classes in any type of dance at all?

I’ve never taken formal dance classes except for learning salsa from my brother. My yesenia2brother learned from Luis Zegarra, ‘cause Luis lived upstairs from us and we grew up with him.  And then my brother decided to start doing his own thing.  And I would just go hang out, ‘cause salsa was not my thing, in the beginning.   But I learned the basics, and I caught on very quickly.  Within the first three months, I was winning competitions with my brother.  It was unbelievable- me and my brother were on a rampage, taking over the WORLD, just winning competitions, street-style.  No rehearsals. None of that stuff.  It felt like it was in us already.

But it’s not until NOW that I notice that I had a talent.  The way I look at my videos now, I never looked at them like that before.  So I’m kind of looking at them with different eyes now.

Wow. That must be interesting for you.

It is. It is. And I’m in awe, because I never realized I had talent then.  I was grateful that people enjoyed watching me. But I never understood why.   I just enjoyed dancing.  You know, I never did it for attention.  I’m gonna be honest, my intentions were NEVER to be in the public eye because I AM a private person.  And I am a little shy, believe it or not (smiles).

And I’m learning about myself through all this stuff that I’m going through now with the MS.   I didn’t really know that I had impacted so many people.  And it makes me feel good right now.  It makes me feel amazing to see so many people write me- oh my God- so many emails!  And it’s too much for me to even respond to. That’s why I like that I’m even doing this interview, because people will also get to know me a little better through this. Up until now, they know me for my name, but they don’t know my story or who I really am.

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You don’t have to be on your feet to dance…

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“Even if you lie, seemingly stagnant, you have the power to dance. While your muscles rest, your soul has the ability to soar free from this limiting body we inhabit.  But one must first ALLOW the movement to happen. Our minds are the trickiest trap that we posses.  Along with its great power, we have also inherited its greatest weakness… Judgement.”

-Orin McRey

 

Dance- there are so many strengths to it…

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“Dance- there are so many strengths to it, beyond the superficial, that people don’t know about.  I think that dance is such an internal thing.  I think it feeds the soul in such a way that it stems from this passion but also from our experiences.  And the things that we’ve gone through, the things that we have on our minds, are pushed out and energized into the world through a movement.  Sometimes I watch people perform, and you can tell they’ve really BEEN somewhere.  And I don’t know where that somewhere is, and I don’t always NEED to know where that somewhere is.  But you connect to those people because you can see how much their dancing is driven by something really deep and rich and powerful.”

– Marc Kimelman

Salsa As Medicine

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It was a cold morning in December. My feet were unusually tingly on my way to the shower. I laughed, thinking that’s what I get for having worn a warm pair of woolen socks to sleep all night. I was sure that it was just a strong case of pins and needles. But stepping out of the shower, I was startled to find that no matter how much I scrubbed my thick towel against my skin, I couldn’t feel parts of my legs under it.

I tried not to panic, believing that the feeling – or lack of feeling – would subside. But within a few weeks, the numbness traveled to my stomach, and turned into a strain on my spine. On some days, I could barely bend down to help the students in my grade six classroom. And I felt tired after just an hour of any concentrated activity. My usual energy and enthusiasm was quickly transformed into an uncontrollable lethargy.

After many visits to various doctors and specialists, and finally being sent for an MRI exam in March, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but had heard stories that it had the power to permanently disable or cripple. And sitting in the waiting room of the MS Clinic quickly added to my fears: patients in wheel chairs, canes and severe limps, and swollen feet surrounded me.  Continue reading