July 4, 2016
PAZ MOV: Dancing on Colombian “first day without war”
By: Carolina Rudas
I began to dance because my body was broken, shattered and sick from war. For more than ten years I worked as a human rights defender in many Colombian war zones, places which most of you have never heard of. Little towns which for the past fifty years were torn apart by forced displacement, massacres, and selective killings, as most rural areas of my country. No one from my generation or younger can even imagine their lives without the armed conflict that has broken down our communities and has polarized and divided our society.
Tired from the war in my country, I got a job with the United Nations in East Timor. The country was at peace when I arrived, but a civil war began six months later. I lived there for three years, supporting thousands of people in need and suffering the war in my own flesh. My house was burned to the ground; my spirit and my hope were turned to ashes. My body felt sick, as did my mind and heart, so I had to resign. I discovered the 5Rhythms in Bali and then I moved to New York. I felt my body once more; my spirit, which had been hiding from the terrors of war, was able to shine again.
I wanted to become a 5Rhythms teacher so more people in my country could move out from the numbness of war. During my training, I worked with various groups of Afro-Colombian forcefully displaced elders in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city of Cali. They were four hundred people from Chocó, one of the most beautiful, but poorest and most dangerous areas in Colombia, who had been forced to leave their farms and houses. Guided closely by Gabrielle, I began a program of reconciliation through 5Rhythms and art. The feet that were tired of fleeing began to dance again. Their hips, full of violent memories, began to move. They danced their souls and their tears. With their dances they told the horrible stories of when they had to abandon their houses, their farms, their plantain trees, and their animals. Their communities were broken down in the process, but now they could dance again in a tribe.
Two years ago, the Colombian government entered into peace talks with FARC, the older and biggest guerrilla army of the country. Most Colombians were —and still are— skeptical and contrary to the peace process, but others, including myself, think that a cease-fire is the only option to stop the absurdity of war and build peace together. I promised myself that when the ceasefire was signed, we were going to dance in the streets to let go and move all the emotions trapped inside during long years of fear and war. In preparation for this day, I worked with an amazing drummer who danced and practiced with me to understand, feel and play the 5Rhythms. Also, our small tribe of dancers began to dance in the streets in order to prepare us for what was coming. We began to move!
The day finally came. On June 23rd, the government announced that the guerrilla was signing a ceasefire. It was not yet the final Peace Agreement, but they promised that this was to be the last day of war. And we were ready to dance! I created an event on Facebook called “PAZ MOV,” inviting people to share and free their emotions of happiness, but also the fear and anxiety of what is coming next. It became viral because it really answered and connected to what people were feeling and experiencing in that moment. More than 500 people said they wanted to attend, and more than 1,000 were interested. We even got messages from other countries and cities in Colombia that wanted to join.
On Friday 24th, we were ready to take our movement and dances to the streets. Nearly one hundred people showed up to the first meeting point at the heart of the financial center in Bogotá. When we arrived, there were many people sitting around. There were no words or any kind of gathering. As the drummer began to play, everyone on the square began to dance. They did not know they were dancing the 5Rhythms. Most of them did not know me. They just trusted the tribe and the feeling of connection, and danced. There were people singing, others were clapping and looking, but most of them were just dancing with all their hearts. This lasted 20 minutes, until we got to stillness. Then we moved to another spot in downtown Bogotá. Here, less people showed up, but those who came were 5Rhythms dancers. We danced a wave and passers-by began to join, among them a small girl who had come with her family, a baby who wanted to play the drum, a woman who began to sing, and a homeless man who danced the most amazing stillness I have ever seen in my life. After another 20 minutes of dance, the drummer stopped, and we moved on to our daily lives. Four different TV channels reported on us. We were the first to dance for peace in my country, and we will not be the last.
We will dance until peace is signed, and after that, we will keep dancing. Next September I will begin a project called “Body and Post-conflict” at one of the major Colombian universities, to reflect on reconciliation processes through body and dance. We will continue moving because, as I personally know, the 5Rhythms is one of the best ways to put our violent past behind. It is the only way I know we can heal and move our feet towards hope.
If you want to support our dances, visit the event on FB: PAZ MOV or visit our FB page 5RitmosColombia, where you will find all the information. If you want to join our tribe dancing for peace in Colombia, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.