Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So you think you can dance?

When the kindergarten class graduates from Marion G. Austin school, some of our girls will present a dance as part of the ceremony. They spent several afternoons last week practicing. Fabiola was the one teaching them, but she gets hit with spells of shyness, so she was hiding in the school office where only Merline Jean could see her. Merline knew the dance moderately well and by watching Fabi, she was able to do the whole thing. The other girls followed what she did. Every time there was a break in the music, I tried to drag Fabiola out of the office so that everyone could see her. I got her out once, but she retreated back inside as soon as I turned away. It was strange because she loves performing. Maybe she has a crush on the carpenter's assistant and didn't want him to see her dancing...Or maybe she thinks that I will laugh at her dance. HA! I am white and I cannot dance. I will never tease your dancing, Fabi!
The graduates themselves will also perform a dance. Several times a week, Fabiola and Merline Jean are excused from their last class to teach the kids a few dances. The 5, 6 and 7 year-olds are still just learning, so they aren't particularly good yet, but I'm sure they'll get there. As they practice, older students gather at the classroom window to watch. Fortunately, the kindergarten kids are too young to be embarrassed.
On Thursday, the day before I left, Stephanie was preparing a song that she had planned to sing at chapel at Maranatha on Friday. She set up the big speakers down in the courtyard and sang "Miracles" from The Prince of Egypt over and over. I didn't know the song when she started. I know it now.

As soon as Stephanie decided she knew the song well enough, the girls switched the CD for one of Haitian songs. When they were younger, they had a dance teacher who taught them some modern dances and some traditional Haitian dances. They remember a few of their favorites - they are simple enough that even clumsy, uncoordinated Keziah could join in. Of course, they laughed at my feeble attempts to move my hips like a Haitian, but it was fun.

Follow this link to see the girls dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7z7sg3xENk

Krystel had just finished helping the kitchen ladies pick through a bunch of dried herring and some lettuce. The discards were in a flat basket sitting in the corner of the courtyard where we were dancing. As soon as the "paysan" (peasant) music started, the girls seized the basket and started incorporating it into their dances.

Wislandy tried hard to sell me the basket's contents. "Only 100 gourdes, Keziah! That's not expensive." Krystel dared me to eat some. I foolishly said that I would if she did. Without a second's hesitation, the girl grabbed a herring tail and started gnawing on it. I stared her, not believing what I was seeing. Shoot! What was I thinking? This is Haiti, remember. They eat everything. Krystel beamed at me, "Your turn, Keziah."

I picked up the rest of that poor herring's spine and shoved it into my mouth. I do not like fish and I definitely don't like fish bones. I chewed for about 3 nano seconds while the girls cheered and then I spat it out into my hand. "Too fishy!" The girls just giggled, grabbed the fish skeleton from me and chewed it into pulp. Not a moment I wish to relive.

Bryn had assigned the kids in Group 2 English class to write a song in English. Renick and Jessica wrote a duet that was hauntingly reminiscent of the High School Musical songs. While we were dancing, Renick was in the open courtyard, practicing his part. Every now he would come in, looking desperate, and yell for Jessica. She would dash out to help him and then hurry back to the dancing. We tried and tried to get them to perform it for us but as soon as Renick hit a note out of key, Jessica grabbed the words and ran away. Oh well.

Emmanuel also had to write a song. I stalked him down that evening and demanded to hear it. He refused, of course.

"I'll sing it for you tomorrow, Keziah."
"Emmanuel, you promised me in August that you would dance for me 'tomorrow'. I'm still waiting on that dance. How long am I going to have to wait for you to sing for me too? C'mon, just sing it now."
"No, I won't sing for you. But you can sing for me."

I think he missed the point.

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