The final essay in our group of contest winners is from Francoise Bouffault who traveled all the way to Senegal in pursuit of her passion to experience the dance at its source. Stay tuned to Root Magazine for more on Sabar...
Back in 1990, going to
"I will not come this weekend", I would say to my dancing companions. "Unfortunately, I am invited to the beach." They would nod in sympathy. For they knew, as I did, I would be missing a terrific class or two: the exhilaration, the challenge, the togetherness, the live, electrifying drumming... what was the beach compared to all that?
I did know something about the power
of rhythm and the beauty of the Sabar Dances of the Wolof of Senegal when I
embarked on my first trip there. What I did not expect was “
I had so far only seen the dances “out of context”, taken away from the refined ritual that surrounds them, away from the stunning beauty and talent of Senegalese women, the intoxicating smell of “shurai” perfume, the sounds of the Wolof language that fill the air with a special vibrancy, in a word, the “atmosphere”.
The first Sabar event I attended was
an overwhelming experience that filled me with admiration and awe. When a Sabar
is announced in
I was totally taken. I liked everything about the dancers: their control, the way they moved with unselfconscious grace; the way they left the dancing circle with casual disdain even after the most provocative steps; the way they kept rearranging their beautiful “boubous” around their shoulders as if it were part of some unwritten choreography. Sabar dances involve intricate, fast, high spirited leg and arm movements but the dancers always seem to deliberately hold their heads up high, thus projecting inner calm and dignity.
Rhythms change, dancers go back and forth the whole evening, challenging and being challenged by drummers. And then, unpredictably, the drumming stops. The crowd disperses. Soon, there is no one left in the “Guew”.
Of course, I was too awestruck to dance
that first time. But later, I did. The Senegalese welcomed it as a sign of my
appreciation. I was indeed forever indebted:
Want to see a Sabar dance? Check out these videos from YouTube.... direct from Senegal!
Top photo from the video: Binta Dances