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Emerging Voices | Be Free: Embrace Cuba’s Spirit of Dance

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There is a liberating spirit in Cuba. You may think I am talking about a spirit of revolution, but what I am talking about is dance.

I traveled to Cuba recently with seven other students enrolled in the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) master of divinity program at Central Baptist Theological Seminary (CBTS).

On Wednesday evening, our hosts took us to the Kairos Center in Matanzas, where a band and a dance instructor were waiting to teach us three dances – the cha-cha, the salsa and the mambo.

I was so excited along with the whole WLI team and our instructors, CBTS President Molly T. Marshall and Eileen Campbell-Reed, WLI mentoring, coaching and internship coordinator.

I got out on the dance floor thinking, “I am a music major; I can do this.” Boy, was I wrong.

It started out simple. The instructor got us doing one simple step at a time. All was well with that. Then it was time to put the actions with the music. Here is where it became more difficult for me.

I could do each individual movement, but when it came to putting each individual step together succinctly and then moving to the music, I was lost. It was so frustrating, yet I loved it.

I started out on the front row and gravitated to the back row, feeling very clumsy. From the back row, I kept wanting to let go and hoping that all of a sudden, my brain and body would forget about concentrating and just enjoy.

You see, as a little girl I was not allowed to dance. It was considered sinful back in those days (in my family and my cultural setting).

Somewhere along the way, I lost the ease in movement to music. No amount of formal study could change that.

Every time I found myself frustrated as I tried dancing right next to the instructor, she would say, “You can do this.” Even the other members of our cohort urged me on.

In the end, it was overload for me. The time was not right that night, but I haven’t given up. For those that did get the beat and hung in there for the entire time, my hat is off to you.

Dancing is freeing but it takes letting go of inhibitions. I saw that freedom in our instructor and in the musicians who played. That same inhibition was evident in the women that persevered in dancing. Joy filled their faces.

As we have studied about Cuba and now, having experienced Cuba for just a week in person, I thought about their history.

The island has a history of slavery and injustice. The people have learned to be resilient and to sing and dance even amid hardships.

Music has that healing power. Music has that liberating power. Music is full of passion and movement. Music puts a smile on their faces and helps them dance through the hardships in life. Music gives hope.

I walked right up to this freeing experience, and in my fear of looking awkward I stopped. I was afraid to embrace the freedom offered. That in itself was a learning experience.

I am still on this journey of seminary and learning to become a minister, and I have no intention of stopping now. There is too much inside me that wants to dance.

Oh Cuba, dance on. Let’s do this together.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series focused on engaging emerging faith leaders. Learn more about EthicsDaily.com’s “Emerging Voices” and “U:21” series here.

Marilee White

Marilee White is a third-year MDiv student at Central Seminary in the Women’s Leadership Initiative. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, and serves as the Executive Director Assistant to the Executive Director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.