African Voices Summer 2017 AV Summer 2017 Digital Issue - Page 12

and transmitted my every movement to Isis without hindering my movement . I was the behind-the-scenes choreographer and the spotlit superstar — all at once . As a child , like many girls , I used to dance in the middle of my room , until one of my sisters would walk in . Then I would stop for a moment and giggle , then begin the dance again as if no one was there . As I danced alone , I was the brightest star , the only star in my imagination . In the crystal cave , whose walls sparkled with light and data and pulsed with the music ’ s rhythm , the illusion was the same . In the cave , I was the puppet and the puppeteer , a tamed dragon .
Instead of breathing fire , I was the flame .
Management wanted to install climate control , to reduce the possibility of my sweat damaging the software and equipment . Under our special contract , “ unprecedented ” my agent had said , there was a severe gag order — proprietary tech and cloak-and-dagger secrecy — and clause after clause after clause . So many fine points and legalese that I finally signed it when my agent emphasized the number of unprecedented zeros that would grace my first check . Management was worried about me damaging the equipment , but no one was worried about the equipment damaging me . Climate control for their suit . Ksst ! I laughed at this , said I preferred to sweat . Surely they had insurance for cosmic funk . They pushed back . I pushed harder then . It would make the dance more authentic , and Isis , despite her meteoric rise , needed all the help she could get . My dance was born in New York ’ s streets , channeled fractals from across the nation , adopted traditions from around the world , reimagined Ailey and Dunham , Jamison and Jackson reborn as starship troopers , flinging their black bodies through space . Isis was born in the city of a thousand suns , her voice quickly becoming the anthem of a legion . To deliver , I needed to feel the saltwater beading on my skin , to feel the fire coursing through me .
I needed it far more than Isis and her backup dancers , gifted girls who twirled and stamped in perfect synchronized steps . I watched as the dancers performed my choreography , as Isis , the blazing star , performed my steps mere nanoseconds after my own movements , the delay an unavoidable consequence of the ocean between us .
Mistress of my crystal cave with its vital signs monitors and cords , its wall-to-floor screens reflected the sold-out concert stage and the audience that screamed four thousand miles away in Freetown . I could see the stadium reflected all around me . Each set for Isis was a variation of an ancient Egyptian or other pseudo-African theme . Over the last of our fortycity tour , the world had seen Nubians and Pharaonic Pyramids , Dogon masks and references to alien close encounters with the inhabitants of the Dog Star , Sirius . The last show in Paris had Isis lounging on Napoleon ’ s tomb , surrounded by obelisks and giant replicas of herself . Tonight ’ s show in Sierra Leone , diamond capital of the world for centuries , was an ahistorical remix of surrounding nations . Our biggest number — my biggest number — would find Isis rising up from a rolling pink lake like the one in Senegal , its waves carrying her up to the base of a skyscraper-sized baobab tree that held her throne . All praise Isis , Queen of Life . For her finale she would appear to break into a hundred pieces , then resurrect herself for the last song .
Even though Isis could not create her own dance , I knew better than anyone how good she was at creating her own myth . Friendships , family , and fans , she hustled them as deftly as a goddess . All were ripe for sacrifice .
“ We sisters ,” she had said when I had mustered the courage enough to tell her I was gone . Even her voice had taken on my cadence . She could code-switch with the best . “ You need me , I need you . Sanaa , Na-Na , they can ’ t do this without us . I can ’ t do this without you .”
I guess Management had told her I was serious this time , so Isis made a special live-in-the-flesh personal visit to me . It had been a long time . It caught me by surprise , and I was angry that she could still flatter me , that I still cared so much about her opinion .
I was suited up , the brown fabric covering me like a second skin . She stared me down , watching me hungrily . Like my
12 african Voices
and transmitted my every movement to Isis without hindering my movement. I was the behind-the-scenes choreographer and the spotlit superstar—all at once. As a child, like many girls, I used to dance in the middle of my room, until one of my sisters would walk in. Then I would stop for a moment and giggle, then begin the dance again as if no one was there. As I danced alone, I was the brightest star, the only star in my imagination. In the crystal cave, whose walls sparkled with light and data and pulsed with the music’s rhythm, the illusion was the same. In the cave, I was the puppet and the puppeteer, a tamed dragon. Instead of breathing fire, I was the flame. Management wanted to install climate control, to reduce the possibility of my sweat damaging the software and equipment. Under our special contract, “unprecedented” my agent had said, there was a severe gag order—proprietary tech and cloak-and-dagger secrecy—and clause after clause after clause. So many fine points and legalese that I finally signed it when my agent emphasized the number of unprecedented zeros that would grace my first check. Management was worried about me damaging the equipment, but no one was worried about the equipment damaging me. Climate control for their suit. Ksst! I laughed at this, said I preferred to sweat. Surely they had insurance for cosmic funk. They pushed back. I pushed harder then. It would make the dance more authentic, and Isis, despite her meteoric rise, needed all the help she could get. My dance was born in New York’s streets, channeled fractals from across the nation, adopted traditions from around the world, reimagined Ailey and Dunham, Jamison and Jackson reborn as starship troopers, flinging their black bodies through space. Isis was born in the city of a thousand suns, her voice quickly becoming the anthem of a legion. To deliver, I needed to feel the saltwater beading on my skin, to feel the fire coursing through me. I needed it far more than Isis and her backup dancers, gifted girls who twirled and stamped in perfect synchronized steps. I watched as the dancers performed my choreography, as Isis, the blazing star, performed my steps mere nanoseconds after my own movements, the delay an unavoidable consequence of the ocean between us. Mistress of my crystal cave with its vital signs monitors and cords, its wall-to-floor screens reflected the sold-out concert stage and the audience that screamed four thousand miles away in Freetown. I could see the stadium reflected all around me. Each set for Isis was a variation of an ancient Egyptian or other pseudo-African theme. Over the last of our forty- city tour, the world had seen Nubians and Pharaonic Pyramids, Dogon masks and references to alien close encounters with the inhabitants of the Dog Star, Sirius. The last show in Paris had Isis lounging on Napoleon’s tomb, surrounded by obelisks and giant replicas of herself. Tonight’s show in Sierra Leone, diamond capital of the world for centuries, was an ahistorical remix of surrounding nations. Our biggest number—my biggest number—would find Isis rising up from a rolling pink lake like the one in Senegal, its waves carrying her up to the base of a skyscrap ȵͥ镐ɕѡЁ)ȁѡɽɅ͔%̰ͥEՕ1ȁȁ͡ݽձȁѼɕѼչɕ̰ѡɕɕ)͕ȁѡЁͽ)ٕѡ՝%ͥ́ձЁɕєȁݸ$܁ѕȁѡ役܁݅́͡ЁɕѥȁݸѠ)ɥ̰͡䰁̰͡ѱѡ́ѱ䁅̸́ݕɔɥȁͅɥ+q]ͥѕ̳t͡ͅݡ$ѕɕѡɅ՝Ѽѕȁ$ٕ݅́ȁٽх)MձݥэݥѠѡиqeԁ$ԸM99ѡ䁍eЁѡ́ݥѡЁ̸$)eЁѡ́ݥѡЁԻt)$Օ́5Ёѽȁ$͕݅́ɥ́ѡ́ѥͼ%ͥ́ٔѡ͠ͽ٥ͥЁѼ%)ѥ%Ё՝Ёɥ͔$݅́ѡЁ͡ձѥѕȁѡЁ$ѥɕͼՍ)Ёȁ)$݅́եѕѡɽݸɥٕɥ͕ͭMхɕݸ݅эչɥ丁1()ɥY