Friday, February 14, 2014

And I dub thee "Solares"

We're going ahead with the weekly workshops.

I've just emerged from the throes of articulating the specification document for my session, from which I'm deriving the outward-facing i.e. student-facing interest-capturing blurb. (I'm also writing the blurb for Eşref's session.) Then there's the tough question of what to call it - as tortuous and as important as the opening line of a book - because it sets the tone for everything.

It has to have cultural meaning
It has to be completely symbolic of the learning ethos
It has to be pronounceable
It as to be natural
It has to be honest
It's going to be Solares.

"Why the Spanish word for 'courtyards'?" you might ask.

Solares has a deeper meaning. Solares are tenement buildings, blocks of single-room apartments, opening onto a central courtyard. Each apartment would house an entire family, and facilities like water and sanitation were shared. Just because slavery ended, it did not mean an end to misery nor poverty. These urban experiments in housing the poor were Pan-Caribbean and objects of institutional shame in the early 20th century, "teeming with mullattoes and blacks" (Irene Alice Wright, Latin American Studies Association Conference, Miami, Florida, 2002) and associated with squalor.

"Why on Earth would you name it after that?!?" you might ask in horror.

I believe that our greatest social dances were born out of poverty and social injustice. Solares doesn't celebrate it, solares acknowledges it. The sessions will look to allow for the African voice to re-enter the dialogue of Caribbean dance - a voice I believe erased when U.S.American and European ballroomers codified Latin American dance. The central courtyard was a focus of social activity, and despite abject conditions, ritmo continued to be produced, to flourish and to grow in these communal spaces throughout the Caribbean.

The Solares Workshops will not be about salsa. It will be ambitious. It will be about the Pan-Caribbean experience of music and its embodiment in its communities.

Loo Yen Yeo