Dancing over boundaries

By Josie Emanuelli ~

Today we plunged into Cuban culture and the lives of the local people as we visited the Muraleando project in Havana. This project was started by local artists to provide a place for artists to create and to bring art to the local community.

The project built around an old water tank, and entering into it, I felt as if we were diving into the lives of Cuban people living in the neighborhood. All of the art displayed in the project was done by local artists and when we walked upstairs, there was a band of local musicians playing Cuban music. Almost immediately after the music began, an elderly woman started dancing, pulling people watching up to dance with her. Her joy was radiating from her face, the way she moved and how she pulled others in to dance with her and share her joy. Despite the age and hardships that had worn lines into her face, she still found joy in the music and dance that was being shared with us. Throughout my time in Cuba, music seems to be an ever-present theme, whether it be live music being played for tourists, the rhythmic beats and stomps of the ballet school around the corner or the music videos being played in our bus. Music and dance serve to unite people here, even when language cannot.

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By the end of our trip to the Muraleando, the group had reached a consensus that we wanted to adopt the dancing woman as our grandmother. Even though none of us had a conversation with her, we all developed a mutual love and admiration for this woman through the experience of sharing music and dance with her. Despite the language boundary and cultural divide that would have separated us from her, we were able to connect with this woman through a common love of dance and music, allowing us to overcome the boundaries that would typically hold us apart.

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