A little over a month ago, one of my best friends, Ralph, moved back to LA. I’ve known Ralph since I started school at UCLA, I as a freshman and he as a transfer student. I knew him very well primarily because we had to go to a lot of meetings together on campus, I saw him at home a lot (he was the ex-roomie’s boyfriend) and because he worked as an advisor at the Community Programs Office while I was also on staff.
Ralph was pretty much my first serious introduction into a lot of indigenous philosphy and history. Prior to moving to LA for school, he was a danzante in the bay. He discontinued the practice in LA. I’m not sure why, but I think time and a lack of Aztec dance groups on the Westside to join might have contributed to dropping the practice for several years.
Whether or not my indigenous roots can be traced back to the Mexica (or Aztecs) was never truly important to me, but my hunger to learn about the ways of los antepasados (my ancestors) . Because of Ralph, I learned a few words in Nahuatl and got the chance to learn from an excellent maestro.
Ralph invited me to go to ensayo for danza ateca with Danza Tenochtitlán in East LA. The experience thus far has been incredible. I’ve learned a lot, but the best part is the actual dancing. The first time, my feet were incredibly sore, especially my big toes. I got blisters and decided not to go the next week because travelling from work in Westwood to Boyle Heights on a Thursday around 5 or 6 just did not appeal to me. Since then, my feet have been holding up better and I’m getting the hang of the dances a little bit more.
Someone asked me why I went. I could have answered, why not? Everything about danza feels good to me (well, except the traffic getting there, but even that I can manage). Being in East LA somehow makes me feel better. After ensayo Ralph and another friend, Eric, and I have gone to grab tacos. A few times we’ve found ourselves near the homes where my parents grew up. It’s no surprise I feel at home in the area.
Photo credit: Dancing on my Mind