Straddling two worlds

06 Apr

Just recently, I attended an amazing adult ballet intensive workshop at Alvin Ailey taught by Finis Jhung.  It was such a treat to be in the presence of a master and I did my best to soak in every drop of movement wisdom, of which there was plenty thanks to Finis’ keen insight into how the body moves.  I have been taking classes at The Ailey Extension for some time, but stumbling upon Finis was a real find.

While at his weekend ballet intensive, I met a very lovely woman who is a high school teacher and has been studying and performing belly dance for over five years.  She explained to me that she was mortally afraid of any of her high school students, especially her male students, finding out that she is a belly dancer or, worse yet, turning up at one of her performances.  I completely empathized with her concerns and was reminded of my experience in Kenya.

I held a key and fairly public role as the Head of the Aid Effectiveness Secretariat, a body that regularly interacted with all the key Ambassadors and Heads of Missions to Kenya, as well as with top Kenyan government officials, for the purpose of making flows of aid into the country better serve the Kenyan people.  But knowing that when I am not dancing I am not nearly as happy, I continued to look for and find opportunities to move and to share my love of movement.  I taught ballet and contemporary dance to professional modern dancers at the Kenyan National Theatre and judged several dance competitions including the Kenyan National Salsa Competition, in which the winners won an all expenses paid trip sponsored by the Turkish Embassy in Kenya to compete in the International Salsa Competition held in Istanbul.

But the real challenge of straddling two worlds came when I was asked to judge a street dance competition that would appear on national television in Kenya for an entire season, and then later be re-aired.  The program, Sakata, was wildly popular and become a big hit.  Soon I would show up to my Government meetings and be asked how my dance show was going, or see people giggling and pointing at me; once someone even asked me for an autograph.  My worlds were colliding on a major scale.  But somehow I felt what I was doing in both were important enough for me to keep going forward in both arenas.  I actually did not feel divided; I felt I was living up to my full potential and being the best me I could be by honoring both sets of talents.  I would not be a whole person, true to myself, letting my personal light shine if I had given up and chosen one over the other.  And I would not have had the courage to now follow my passion for dance full time and stand here before you baring my insides, steadfast in the conviction that in order to live my best life I must do my part to awaken the power we all have in us to live our best lives.

There is, as I am learning, an inner sense of peace and harmony that comes from not feeling as though you have to hide all of your amazing talents lest you be judged, from knowing that you can be free to be just exactly who you are and just exactly how God made you.  So don’t be afraid to shine your light.  When you let your light shine, you give permission to others to do the same.


7 responses to “Straddling two worlds

  1. Damaso

    April 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    And how are you finding these two worlds in New York? Are you leaning one way or another?

    • elanazumba

      April 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      That’s a good question, thanks Damaso. The answer is: I am dancing like mad! I think I’m making up for lost time when I was confused about having to chose one path or the other. Turns out what I choose to do is my path. I still keep very close to the world of international development through my colleagues and my own research, and am always looking for meaningful and useful ways to combine both.

  2. Tahira

    April 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Hey Elana,

    It’s been a minute. Glad to see (I liked the inclusion of the pics)/read that you are doing well. I enjoyed your post.

    Be well,


    • elanazumba

      April 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      Hey Tahira, thanks so much for the love. It sure has been a long time, so glad to hear from you.

  3. Chef Lex

    April 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    This could literally be the foreword to my cookbook… I gotta say, I am uber-excited to be participating in this era we live in because there is such a strong movement for self-empowerment and people finally have the means to truly embrace it… Is a dance event at the U.N. in the future?

    • elanazumba

      April 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      I 2nd that emotion and wld certainly welcome an opportunity to offer a class or throw a Zumba fitness party at the UN. And of course too many of us are waiting with baited breath for your rockstar cookbook!

  4. Charlie Black

    April 7, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I feel as though I have walkd the same path with you..kenya and all..except for the dancing of course…Its how you feel inside that reflects on your skin, eyes etc and defines your relationships with people you always!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: