If you add it all up, I probably have more than 15 minutes of fame under my belt, just from this past weekend alone. It all started when the lights came up on stage at the Contemporary African Dance Festival in Togo and the audience gasped. I panicked for just a short moment thinking something was wrong, possibly the end of my dress stuck in the waist of my tights or a fallen drummer behind me, but then I realized, "Oh yeah, I'm white!" This was the last performance of the second night of the festival and I was the only white girl to enter from stage left.
My partners, Kofi and Emmanuel, and I had been collaborating for weeks on a piece that depicts the continental struggle for essential resources, from drought to survival. We proudly took command of the stage to share our work, a perfect marriage of African and contemporary dance, complete with black and white not only in style, but also in color. We carried the audience on a journey from daily chores at the well, like bathing and washing, through suffering in the dry season and then a joyous thunderstorm and ensuing well-side frolic. We danced, we sang, we drummed, we carried each other. By performance end, we were soaked, not only with the sweat of hard work, but also the splashes of water incorporated in the dance.
At performance end, our francophone audience rewarded us with calls of "Bravo!" They too had shared in our joy, our anguish and even our singing of native songs. For me, more than the hugs, the reward came in the euphoric feeling of being lost in the dance for 25 minutes. I took residence in each moment, each jump, turn and lift. I reveled in the opportunity to express true emotion and tell a story with my body. Many times in the performing arts we say that we have a gift to share with the audience. I would argue the contrary, as it was me who received a gift that night, the chance to experience my own vitality and life force. Having that gift compounded by the presence of an African audience made it all the more jubilant.
When adding together the minutes on stage and the revelry afterwards, not to mention the participation as the only white girl boogying in an African dance workshop earlier that day, I know I can be credited with at least 30 minutes of fame. I gave the Africans something to talk about, but if I'm only a legend in my own mind I'm grateful for that as well.