At the end of every day during an exchange the dance diplomats gather in a circle for a reflection session. Tonight as we each took our turn to share there were a lot of “apples” (highlights of the day) and barely any “onions” (low parts of the day). The most frequent “apple” was by far our trip to a Wounaan village. The Wounaan are one of many protected indigenous communities in Meteti.
After three hours of teaching dance to students in Meteti and a meal at the home of one of our students, we were off on our adventure to the Wounaan village. Arriving by boat, the entire village of 30 adults and 15 children were there to great us with a song. It felt like stepping into a living museum. From their brightly colored skirts and elaborately beaded jewelry to the rhythmic song the women were singing, it was clear this would be an experience like none other.
After taking a seat in the gathering hut in the center of the village, a leader in the community explained to us their way of life. We learned about the traditional crafts of weaving, beading, and carving that the Wounaan still practice and now sell to earn a living. We learned about the traditional dress of the men and women and where the children go to school. We also learned this particular village was only recently reclaimed by the Wounaan in 2014 as a place for the the community to practice and preserve their culture.
After we finished asking questions to the village leader we were treated to a dance performance. While the discussion portion of the afternoon felt like we were in a living museum, the dance performance changed that perception completely as we were invited to join the women during the final dance. We were no longer simply spectators. By participating in the Wounaan dances just hours after teaching our own dances to the students of Meteti, we truly embodied the spirit of dance exchanges.
Today we were both teachers and students.