By Lorna Shannon
I first met Samba Colorado’s Artistic Director Kebrina De Jesus at the First Friday Art Walk in Denver, where she was performing. I had heard about her classes from some friends and I was excited to meet her and see her dance live. She and her fellow dancers exuded such a joyous energy while accompanied by live Brazilian drums. It drew me in and enticed me further to explore this beautiful cultural dance as a new creative outlet in my life. A couple months later I finally made it to her Afro-Brazilian Song and Dance workshop in Boulder. We danced the inspiration of Oxum, the fresh water River Goddess of femininity, beauty, fertility, and love, and sang her song to further understand what we were dancing. Even though it was a challenge for me, I felt empowered in trying something new. I connected deeply to the movements and stories we were telling with our bodies, as the live drummers’ energy filled me with joy and gratitude. The essence of Oxum was a force I didn’t know I needed to connect to within. This opened a portal to a new healing journey for me that led me to take weekly classes and become a member of the Samba Colorado company. Kebrina’s passion, energy, and dedication to bringing out the best in her students brought out a fire in me that has changed my life. Each time I enter class, rehearsal, or a performance, I am challenged to bring my most authentic self, and to cultivate joy from that authenticity.
Healing and Connection Through Dance
As Kebrina says, “How you show up in your art is how you show up in your life”. Many people in today’s society struggle with finding time for creative ventures in the midst of the day to day routines of just getting by. It sometimes seems like we exist to work rather than to really live. Our collective mental health is being compromised everyday and we are all in need of deep healing and connection. It is no wonder that the very thing we feel we don’t have time for is often the very thing we need the most.
Like so many of us do, I carry a great deal of trauma and stress in my body. It shows up in my posture, it shows up in my self doubt, it shows up in my voice. The idea of embodied liberation has been both an inspiration and a personal struggle for me, and has come to the forefront of my inner work. Kebrina’s approach to teaching, which draws on a somatic and contemplative movement background, speaks directly to the heart of those challenges for me. She reminds the student that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how able bodied you are, what your size, color, gender identity or level of dance experience is.
We can all dance.
Dance connects us all.
Dance is freedom.
Exploring the Human Condition
In the times we currently face, we have much to learn from our past, in order to evolve to our highest selves and a more just society. Dance is one of the oldest forms of art and expression humanity has found healing in. To paraphrase Mickey Hart, “Life is about rhythm. We are a rhythm machine”. We can trace our ancestors’ relationships to the elements, spiritual forces, and each other through the development of rhythms and movements over several millennia. Samba has the ability to heal us by connecting our past with our future, right now. By celebrating Brazilian culture through this dance, our bodies and voices reflect traditions and tell ancestral stories of the roots of Samba.
Samba grounds us into the earth, moving our bodies in alignment with universal qi, releasing stagnant energy that blocks the flow of all that is possible within us. When we dance, we honor those who came before us, and ourselves as ancestors to a future generation. Embodied liberation through dance is our birthright. In a world where art has been commodified, it is an act of resistance to utilize art to engage in fully exploring what it means to be human, to be of an oppressed people, and to fight for your freedom.
A Call to “Artivism”
Connection to this lineage of using art and movement for healing and resistance, what I like to call “artivism”, is a huge aspect of why I love dancing with Samba Colorado. Everyone I get to train with is also engaged in other work that is changing the world. We are teachers, scientists, dance therapists, doctors, mothers, fathers, college professors, magicians, filmmakers, activists, and much more. Samba Colorado is devoted to building an artistic, educational, positive community by sharing the roots of Brazilian culture through dance, music, ancestral stories and art.
Join us in celebrating an art form and culture that has brought each of the dancers in our ensemble great joy and immense healing.