The fear of dancing (when you are the only white person at a Senegalese marriage)


You are dressed in a (beautiful) traditional Boubou, walking through the sand of the ‘banlieue’ with the heat beating down upon your white skin. -most of the ghetto is unpaved, so that you feel like walking through a huge sandpit..

The Senegalese say that not everybody looks at white people, at the ‘Toubab’, but it sure does feel like it. It is not something negative, especially if you are a person who likes attention, but…

When it comes to dancing, the expectation is high. If you are white, it is an obligation for you to dance. Everyone wants to see the Toubab dance.

Can the Toubab even dance?

Dancing is not something difficult. Dancing in truth, is letting go and rhyming one’s body movements with music, releasing our feelings until we don’t have to ‘think’ anymore.

But what do you do when you have to dance in the middle of a circle of clapping Senegalese, the live tam-tams beating the beat on the side, and all those eyes fixed upon you?

Some would say to just ignore those eyes, but that is not an easy thing to do. One of the greatest abilities in human beings is confidence. There are so many people who seem to be confident, but in truth they are the complete opposite.

It takes a lot of confidence to dance in front of people. It takes even more confidence when those people are Senegalese, who have dancing in their blood, who follow the beat with a swing of the hips, which when replicated by a white person, ends up being an unelegant droop of the body.

When you take this little drop of confidence out of your heart and decide to go out there at least with the other group of young people surrounding you..
When you decide to ‘move’ a bit and a guy comments; ‘Oh so you really cannot dance…’

That is when you lose every drop of confidence you ever had.

“Don’t listen to what others say.”

Easier said than done…

When night falls however and you are surrounded by your group of newly made friends, that is when you don’t care about confidence anymore. The music pumping from the boxes makes the ground vibrate and the dark sky provides a comforting cover for some uncoordinated movements.

But in the end it doesn’t matter how you dance, the importance is in letting go. I think that everybody is able to dance, some people just find it difficult to take the leap into the unknown.

Dancing is not something strict and rigid, it is somehing which you can follow and invent yourself in a maelstrom of movements, and a mind full of freedom.


4 thoughts on “The fear of dancing (when you are the only white person at a Senegalese marriage)

Add yours

  1. Well said, especially your last two paragraphs. “A maelstrom of movements” not only has excellent alliteration, but it helps me visualize where you were.

    And maybe it’s not so much how you dance, but the fact that you *are* dancing, that is, participating.

    BTW, thanks for following.

  2. I’ve managed to find that “fearless” dancing a few times. I suspect it helps if one is just a bit drunk in order to stifle inhibitions. I remember those moments fondly… even after some 40+ years. What an interesting blog, looking into a way of life that is so different from ours. Thank you for the comment, helping me to find my way here. Now I need to find someone to scratch from my “follow” list so I can add you! Sadly there are a limited number of hours in the days… 😉

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