The point of dancing is to become one with the music and the dance, fully in the moment. You cannot dance in the past or the future. You can only dance Now, in the present.
Alan Watts said “ When we make music, we don’t do it to reach a certain point such as the end of the composition. If that were the purpose of music, to get to the end of the piece, then obviously, the fastest players would be the best. And so likewise, when we are dancing, we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor, as we would be if we were taking a journey. When we dance, the journey itself is the point, when we play music, the playing itself is the point.”
If we try to dance in the past or the future, we are worrying about making previous mistakes again, or trying to assure we will look and perform just so on the dance floor. We find then, that our trying, our over thinking, and being absent from the present moment, causes two left feet, and all our aiming for perfection sees us stumbling. The way to be a great dancer is just to dance, to so fully embrace the music and movement, that there is no longer any separation between ourself and the act of dancing. To be a great dancer, become the dance, moment, by moment, by moment, until time slows, stops, and you are only dancing, only The Dance. In dancing, playing music, making love, and giving birth, we must get our trying, over thinking mind out of the way, and allow our heart and soul to take over.
In Zen philosophy we call it mindfulness, in art and music we welcome El Duende. Both must be not just merely experienced, but fully and unreservedly embodied in the here and now, the one precious and only present moment. In both there must be so close a union that past and future are no more, nor even their definition or names, no, nor even self or thought of self, nothing remaining but simply the dance. Although words, thought, and definitions must fall away as we enter fully into the moment, for the sake of explanation I will offer definitions of both mindfulness and El Duende.
Mindfulness meditation is based on Vipassana (Insight) meditation, introduced by the Buddha 2500 years ago. Mindfulness involves learning to be fully here in the present moment, and paying attention to our direct, moment to moment experience as it unfolds, with acceptance, curiosity, compassion and non-judgement. Mindfulness is both a practice and a way of being. Mindfulness is present time, here and now awareness. Mindfulness forever occurs in the present , as if surging ever onward on the very tip and crest of each passing wave in the Ocean of time. Mindfulness is impartial observance, being fully in and aware of the perpetual now, witnessing, but not over thinking or judging. Mindfulness does not compare, categorize, criticize, judge, or label, but simply watches the moment unfold. It is simply mirror thought, reflecting exactly what is happening, without adding anything more to it, or clinging as each moment passes. Mindfulness occurs before the connection, the analogy, the symbols we use to conjur explanation or meaning. Mindfulness must be embodied and experienced to be understood, for even definitions of mindfulness are only mere words, or what Zen philosophers would call merely fingers pointing at the moon.
El Duende is “ the wind that blows soul into the face of listeners” the soul within the soul, Rio abajo rio, the river beneath the river. An infuser of spirit, a mystical far seer of the deep heart, one who sees into the Well and draws from it life. She who welcomes the Ancient Voice to speak through her, an oracle who inhabits a space between worlds, channeling the birth of story, music, art, as soul takes form and finds its voice and true name. El Duende is inspiration, magic, creative fire, mystery, power of ancient culture, force of creative action, the sound and mystery, the essence, the roots reaching, thrusting deep within the fertile, teeming earth, taken hold unseen of that from which we draw what is real and truthful in our art.
El Duende can be experienced but not explained. It is present, captivating, bewitching, rendering the observer speechless, their throat constricted, engendering tears as the artist and her art become one with El Duende, creating an ephemeral presence which never knew birth and yet is connected to the ages. It is not form, but the marrow of form, bringing a freshness unknown until that moment, to all forms that existed before. It is an air of the miraculous that brings an almost religious experience and tears for a majesty and beauty that startles, enflames, enlivens the very soul. A master flamenco player once said, “El Duende is not born in the throat, it surges up from the soles of the feet, from the very depths of the earth.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves, writes, “ El Duende is literally a goblin wind or force behind a persons actions and creative life, including the way they walk, the sound of their voice, even the way they lift their little finger. It is a term used in flamenco dance, and is also used to describe the ability to “think” in poetic images. Among Latina storytellers, it is understood as the ability to be filled with the spirit that is more than one’s own spirit. Whether you are the artist or whether you are the watcher, listener, or reader, when El Duende is present, you see it, hear it, read it, feel it underneath the dance, the music, in the words, the art, you know it is there. When El Duende is not present, you know that too.”
El Duende is a creative fire challenging and inspiring us to maintain our connection to the Ancient of Days, to Spirit, to Earth, the music of the spheres, to those who came before pointing the way, to Truth and Beauty. It is a living presence on the edge of a moment in time, a mysterious power that all may feel, but no philosophy can explain. It is not talent or experience, but rather a feeling, a thing of the heart and soul that comes unbidden without conscious effort, an act of spontaneous expression. True artists, poets, dancers, singers, musicians, writers, actors, who have touched the world through their art, have El Duende coursing through their veins. When a singer or dancer performs with a passion and inspiration that is beyond the realm of his usual day- to- day experience, he has been led by El Duende, who has entered into, and led him like a vision from beyond this time and place. An angel sheds light, a muse gives inspiration, but El Duende must come from the depths of the earth and be a part of the very life blood of the artist. It is a one- time gift of deeply spiritual expression, created in a sudden moment, wondrously alive, infused with truth, reaching to the core of our being, a Divine flash of artistry, uncontrollable, tremulous, and as ephemeral as the Night Blooming Cereus flower which , in its entire life, blossoms for only one night, wafting its evanescent beauty and spicey fragrance to the heavens, and then, with the coming of dawns light, it exists no more.
During your labor and birth may you live and revel so fully, so mindfully, and so completely in each miraculous moment of your birth, that it will be said you were visited by El Duende, and became the very Dance of Life itself!