I love Sunday mornings. Often I wake to the smell of coffee and know that the New York Times awaits me on the dining room table, but these enticements don’t get me out of bed. I rise to dance the samba. For no matter what the weather is in Berkeley, California for one hour, I am transported to a warm Brazilian sandy beach, a Carnaval parade line moving in unison, or a spontaneous Latin street party.
At 11:00 in the morning I take my place in Elisita’s Afro-Brazilian dance class at the downtown Berkeley YMCA. I rush to get my spot in the dance studio — behind and slightly left of her so I can watch Elisita’s every move. It’s in the second row so that, thankfully, someone blocks my view of the mirror. I am not fond of mirrors in general, and even less so when I wear spandex and no makeup.
I take off my gym shoes. My bare feet, liberated, feel the hardwood floor give as I step from side-to-side. I stretch while waiting for the music to start. I dance to escape my daily concerns and leave my worries behind. I dance rather than remain at home writing. If I arrive at class stressed or frantic, I won’t feel that way when I leave.
Elisita takes her place in front, presses the play button, and begins to move. I hear the drums, flutes, and tambourines and feel the Samba beat —1-2-3. Da, da, da. Ba, ba, ba. Elisita does not have a flat stomach, small chest, or firm butt. She is, instead, a big woman whose bulging stomach rolls over her spandex waistband. She has a large lumpy behind and full limbs. But when she dances her jiggling skin transforms into a taut figure of strength, grace, and beauty. And when she smiles her entire face radiates.