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gardenia jasmin
Location
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Birthday
May 28
Bio
I loved living in New York City way back in the early '70's. But I never had enough money to do concerts, theatre, restaurants, beaches -- why stay? In AZ there is less, but it's more accessible. We're pioneers here - we create it. Currently busy writing. Most recent novel is Rosie's Gold (www.rosiesgold.com), about personal trauma issues. On to the next, "Abuse of Power 101," about some of what ails us on account of our elected officials in arizona. Glad to have traveled on several continents and feel connections on many levels with folks on OS, from topics to places to foods to hopes and dreams.

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DECEMBER 10, 2010 11:07AM

Rosie's Gold, chapter 1

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Chapter 1

8 She thought she’d give a short wave. She looked toward him.

Instead, a tall, older white man to his left caught her eye.

He was thin, swarthy, unshaven, with dark eyes and black

messy hair. A Jimi Hendrix T-shirt showed years of wear. The

jeans were rumpled, though by wear, not design. There was

something familiar, unsettling, about his pose as he hovered

over his drum. Too familiar, though she was sure he was a

stranger. The lanky torso suggested some substance abuse

that, even from this distance and with no facts, repulsed

her. Yet there was a kind of pucker of the lips, a loosening

of the shoulders before playing, that drew her attention.

Suddenly she realized that he was looking directly at her.

No, he was looking through her. She quickly looked away.

Josuf started with a short introduction and asked the assembled

members to first set their minds to the spirit of African

dance. “We are bringing ourselves, our bodies, our spirits,

close to the Mother Earth and her healing powers, her powers

of regeneration. We dance and drum without shoes, to

feel her power. If we feel locked in the cage of life, we can

now unlock this cage and begin to feel the fullness of our

freedom. This is a time to liberate ourselves from fears and

inhibitions, to enjoy our sensuous lively beings. We are free,

and at the same time we are safe. We work as a community,

men and women together, drummers and dancers, tapping

into the powers nature has given to us. Let us begin by lightly

warming up in a slow dance.” He signaled to the drummers.

Rosie had attended a number of dance gatherings.

Sometimes it was in classes, throughout Arizona, whenever

and wherever they were available. Sometimes drum circles

popped up in a plaza in the summer and dancers would

enter the round open space that invited color and movement.

The drummers would always make room for dancers

to enter and then flank them, as if surrounding an altar.

To Rosie, African dance had assumed the place of a virtual

altar in her fight against fear. The steadiness of the drums,

the unison of the dancers, the leadership of a man like Josuf

9

— all provided a time and space in which she could express

her sensuality and feel entirely safe. Indeed, the fact that the

dance took on a wildness and she could transport herself

away from reality increased its import. For this brief evening

workshop at Coconino Community College outside Flagstaff,

Arizona, the ordinary gymnasium floor would become hallowed

ground.

As if it were the natural order of things, the men became

the drummers and the women the dancers. The men

— dressed in various outfits — stood at the drums; the

women stood, spread out at arm’s length from each other,

waiting for Josuf to instruct them in specific dances and

rhythms, the vibrations, the earthiness, the abandonment

of inhibition, that might arise from the pounding of feet

to the pulsing of hand drums in the night-hushed room.

Josuf, well known in African dance circles, had visited

the Southwest several times. Now, he was spending a semester

as Visiting Professor of African Dance and Drums at

Arizona State University. He and his videos were familiar

to Rosie. Tonight, his electrifying presence, combined with

a wisdom and even gentleness of presentation, engaged

her psyche from the inception. She became enveloped in

the living, breathing organism of this evening of dance.

The men nodded to each other, looked at Josuf, and

continued on. Josuf occasionally gave them a cue, but one

of the men from Africa kept the beat and served as lead

drummer. They began at one end, rippling toward the other

end of the crescent, until all the drummers were playing.

The drums picked up in speed and sound, resonant and pulsing,

with intertwined rhythms. Occasionally there would be a

change. A student of both piano and dance in college, Rosie

listened for the rhythm and cadence. At first she heard fugal

rhythms, with a few drums beating to the “1, 2, 3 and 4 and,”

then the next group entering on the first group’s “3, 4” with a

“1, 2.” The drummers created a fugue of four parts. Then Rosie

could hear competing rhythms, with one group at a 4/4 count,

but another group with an indiscernible beat. Rosie felt as well

as heard their skill as she absorbed the music’s complexity.

10 Josuf stepped forward and back, gesturing all the dancers

to move toward him as he moved one foot behind the other,

then for them to retreat as he danced forward into their midst.

Rosie looked first only at him, then shifted her gaze to the

brown/red/gold/azure skirt of the African-American woman

diagonally to her right. Soon, though, as if drawn by an invisible

magnet, she found herself looking directly at the floor

just in front of her as she began to stomp, slide and pace in

rhythm with Josuf, the musicians, and the multicolored chorus

of women dancers.

There were a few musical numbers from specific regions,

each a few minutes long. Then, after some words from Josuf,

the drummers embarked on a series of cadences that waved,

pounded, and continued to throb. Rosie no longer needed to

look at anyone or anything. She swayed. She stomped. She

felt her center, her core, drawing closer to the earth. She felt

her hair dampening at the nape of her neck, a few rivulets of

perspiration moving down her face and between her breasts.

A sense of freedom flowed from her groin down her legs and

shimmered out through her arms to her fingertips. When the

mood invited her, she shook her shoulders and fanny and

raised her face as if to the sun.

Others swayed in sensual synchronization. Rosie glanced

across the room to see waves of reds, yellows and blues

flowing as one, bodies moving in a chorus. Some women

had taken off blouses and let their breasts move freely. Wide

white-toothed smiles accompanied the movements, as if mere

dance was delivering these women from a place of bondage

to a field of freedom.

Rosie smelled the sweat of the many heated bodies swaying

and stomping, the scent of dirty feet against the woodbeamed

gym floor. Yet the smells mattered little. What mattered

at this moment in time was the beat, the swirling colors,

the heat, the passion, the harmony in numbers, as drummers

and dancers spoke to each other in the language of movement

and sound. She had come here to dance in preparation for

her recital at the end of the semester. It was early December,

cold and dark outside, seemingly unpropitious for anything

11

close to a vibrant African dance dress rehearsal. She had

come feeling tight, even apprehensive.

Yet here it was, the full experience; public yet intimate,

close yet expanding; hot; gathered yet disseminated. The

sounds she had heard dozens of times before combining

anew to become a vehicle of transport. Rosie let herself follow

the beat, the rhythm, the shushuring of the dancers’ feet

and skirts. She lost track of time and place. As if in a dream,

she saw herself on the earth in a faraway place, maybe at

night, maybe in West Africa, maybe not even of this world.

Her emotions ruled her moves and she went into a trance,

with her conscious mind not awake, but her core remaining

in touch with the ground, the beat, those around her, and

the parameters of place. She felt pure and impure, dirty and

washed, in control of her destiny and unable to change it,

step-sliding and hip-swiveling in what seemed an unending

frenzy.

The drummers wrapped it up in a slick cadence and a

crescendo of all drums in sync. They suddenly stopped. The

auditorium burst into applause, every member of the group

clapping and laughing. Rosie awoke. She was drenched in

sweat. But the gaunt old drummer was there, again appearing

to look her way. What was it that lured her, yet so quickly destroyed

the freedom she had felt just moment before? A shiver

racked her body. An old anxiety returned, cellular memory

triggered by the swarthy stranger in the drum circle.

Josuf was saying kind, professorial and complimentary

things to the entire class of performers —amateur, student and

professional alike. He spoke about some occasions coming

together in a special communion. He said he had felt it here

tonight, here in this off-the-main-road Coconino County Community

College gym. He mentioned a few women in specific

outfits (not knowing people by name). Rosie’s sienna, teal and

ochre skirt was among those praised. She, in fact, did stand

out for excellence. She was good at this dance, because she

so desperately needed it. She danced, she knew, to escape

memories from the past, from the room, from despair. Like

12 a lion in the savannah, the dance promised a momentary

freedom from the uncertainty of never knowing when the

feelings, the persistent fear, would return and overwhelm

her.

None of this internal whirlwind showed to the outside

world in the face of the twenty-four-year-old woman with

curly mahogany hair, wrapped in a vibrant Nigerian skirt.

At the moment that the applause swelled for Josuf, the

drummers and the dancers, she knew she would go to the

family farm in the mountains.

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You're off to a rousing start.