On being inflexible in double-jointed places

Clad in a bright orange dress that somewhat resembled the Zambian flag (flag-inspired clothes are quite the fashion around Macha), I spent the entirety of last Sunday at a colleague’s wedding. Megan (a friend from Guinea) and I had been desperate to see one of these affairs at some point during our stay here, and jumped at the opportunity to attend one – even if we technically weren’t invited, and had to sneak in with the help of the best man.
All our efforts to remain the inconspicuous and unseen gatecrashers became worthless, however, when we found that we were the only two foreigners there. As soon as our van (designed for nine, but seating sixteen) pulled into the wedding venue, we were greeted by a small audience of children frantically screaming ‘Sola! Sola!’ (foreigner in Tonga). The elders at the wedding, smelling fresh blood and an opportunity for some fun, dragged both us into the drum circle and tried to get us to dance.
Now, even though Megan was brought up in the US, she was the captain of her university’s African dance team and was blessed with the ability to contort her body in a manner that most can only dream of. I, on the other hand, was ‘blessed’ with two left feet. She willingly joined the circle, matching their steps and even teaching them her own. I made several attempts to evade the elders’ attempts to pull me in – even feigning a sprained ankle at one point – but eventually found myself standing rather uncomfortably right in the middle of the circle with Megan dancing to my right, and an elder with a death-grip on my arm to my left.
’I teach you! Like this!’ the elder told me, starting to demonstrate in painstaking detail exactly how to move. This form of dance – its name I did not catch – involves a next-to-impossible movement of the gluteus maximus accompanied by a contortion of the torso that, it seems, would require years of training to perfect. There is no doubt that it is one of the most intricate dance forms I have encountered; watching the elders dance together became an almost mesmerizing experience. Regardless of my fascination with the dance, I responded the only way I know how – with an awkward two-step, accompanied by
some basic moves that I picked up from a few Bollywood movies.
It did the trick. While she was doubled over laughing at my inadequate attempt to imitate her, I made a beeline for the food. The best man walked up to me and mimicked my horrendous dancing, a massive grin plastered across his face.
‘The price you pay for gatecrashing a wedding’, he told me, hardly able to contain his laughter.
Sakshi Kumar ‘ 16 is blogging from Zambia this summer. You can contact her at sakshi.kumar@yale.edu.