Do you remember the exact moment when you realized
the sacred nature of dance?

Was it on a bright and sunny Sunday?  In a church? Oh, Happy Day! The choir swayed as they wailed the gospel tune. In My Father’s House! Electricity was building in the air on that hot and muggy Sunday. The Spirit lifted the overcome piano player from her bench. Her song transformed into dance. She danced around the pulpit in pure ecstasy. Lord have mercy! Sister Jones was communicating with the divine as her body jerked and twisted. Sweet Jesus!

Maybe you were able to ignore the call of dance all those Sunday mornings. Is it possible that dance emerged during the party in the tight basement of a classmate? Dance inserted itself in that small space between you and your partner as you slow dragged across the floor. Unlike the bright church, the absence of light could not obscure the beauty and power of the movements. Were you lost in snug embrace of your partner, hoping the moment would last forever? If this world were mine! If you looked hard enough, would you be able to trace the invisible outlines that wondrous slow drag left on your soul?

Is it possible that you missed all those teenage moments of tense becoming? Perhaps you were at a concert. Prepared to hear music, you were caught off guard when you encountered the divine. Just maybe, Fela returned from intermission with a fresh change of clothes and his face painted. As he played, the whole world began to dance. Not only were the people assembled dancing, the whole frame was jumping, baby! The world had discovered its healing groove. Like that slow drag of your youth, the troubles of this world had momentarily disappeared. We were all “dragging” between the notes of his maddening sax. Ayibobo!

Perhaps you were present that night at the Portela Samba School in the suburbs of Rio. The fifty plus members of the percussion section began beating their drums, causing something to break inside you. “Portela eu nunca vi uma coisa mais bela!,” the song Portela na Avenida [Portela on the Avenue] begins. And it is true: you had never seen a thing more beautiful. You are up on my feet, dancing furiously. It is as if this moment has been waiting for your arrival. No need to think, let the words of the song penetrate your being and explain it all. The song claims “when the people sing in the streets, they make a prayer, a ritual.” As you participate in the procession of dancers, a type of “Samba blessing,” you are transformed from an outside observer into an intimate of the collective divine. Were you wrapped up in the loving arms of Our Lady of Aparecida? I hope so!











No matter where you were or how you discovered the power of dance, you have never been the same since. You are relegated to dance across the page of life. At that moment of cognition, you became a drum of affliction [Ngoma], capable of healing all the afflictions of this world one step at a time.

Arriba tambores!

Robert L. Adams, Jr., Ph.D.
Cultural Anthropologist