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The Mapale Dance: The Dance of souls

You have probably heard there is no shortcut to happiness, dance well, could be one. Dance has been an escape for many for centuries. In African communities dance has always been at the helm of everything. We sing and dance during the good and bad times. At celebrations and funerals. Dance is more than just dance, it’s a form of communication. It's the stories we fail to tell with our lips but find the strength to tell through the fluidity and movements of our bodies.

The Mapale dance, like any other dance with its roots in Africa, tells a story of fish, the sea and the men that fished in the seas. It is a story of freedom, slavery and escape. The Mapale dance is an Afro-Colombian dance style from the 16 century that is still danced in the Afro-Colombian communities of the Pacific right from Colombia to Panama down to Peru and even some parts of Ecuador.

The dance first emerged at the banks of the Magdalena River. The rigorous dance that was originally danced at night after a long day of work was influenced by trafficked African Slaves mainly from Angola.

The movements of the bodies of the men and women that took part of the dance were a representation of freedom, the sea and the fish. The men gyarate to symbolise the movement of fish when it is out of the water and the women the freedom and waves of the sea. The name Mapale derives its meaning from a fish species calthrops mapale.

To the slaves dance was a form of self enjoyment and entertainment, it was an escape, something tangible that they could turn to remind them of home, freedom and a sense that they were still human after all. As years went by, dance became intertwined with resistance and survival. It became a means through which they with the traditions that they had long been forced to leave behind.

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