Ciara’s stunning new visual was an easy share for me and will undoubtedly go viral. But the song is a mismatch for the potential energy of her aesthetic and movement. That critique however isn’t intended to force her, myself, or others into an essentialist performance of African cultures or identities. To be Black in this contemporary moment is to relinquish all claims of authenticity, in favour of our unique vantage point of seeing, feeling and being through a lens of Blackness attached to us like an iris.
As someone who has had to re-construct my cultural and spiritual knowledge independently, I believe through the legacy of those who survived we have earned the liberty to create and re-imagine. It’s a form of cultural syncretism:
Definition; the merging and blending of dissimilar cultural forms resulting in the creation of something distinct and new. An example of this for Black Brits is Grime music.
All of us living in the diaspora know – by experience if not intellectually – how crucial syncretism is to making peace with ourselves as variants of a single root. So, the pop vibe chorus that punctures the Afrobeat of Ciara’s song, whilst jarring for me, is a congruent expression of her identity and legacy in music.
But when I watch her dance I feel the centuries move through her. Dance is both technical proficiency and spirit, and I have only seen Black and Brown people know how to move that energy. That is not to say all Black people can dance, but “dance” is something different, if and when, it moves through the vehicle of Blackness.
In recent weeks, my ancestors have been asking me to remember how and why we dance. Back in May when I was sharing daily tarot messages on Instagram, “The Chariot” came up repeatedly as a lesson unfolding for us. We were all wondering how we could drive our lives forward past our stagnation or obstacles. Months on I can finally answer that dancing into sweat is the energetic match for the archetype of that card: Cheth. In the Kabbalah tree of life this is the path between understanding (Binah) and strength/action (Geburah). It is not just physical movement; it is emotional and spiritual progress, if we can match action with intention.
When we dance, it is very root and sacral chakra focused. I.e. twerk, whine, stomp. Yet those are the areas we have been most impeded and weakened: safety, (financial) security/resource, sexuality, creativity. There is clearly a disconnect. As a culture, where our growth, strength and collective power is concerned, we are the ones dancing to treble and missing the beat. We move and think without spirit.
No one person can give you back the power of your movement, but that does not absolve you of the responsibility of finding it. Whether it’s a crip walk or yoga, the next time you are in flow give spiritual intention to your movement and watch the ancestors clear a path for you.
Leona Nichole Black