The Magic Island

By B. Seabrook; Alexander King | Go to book overview

Chapter VI
THE "DANSE CONGO"

To please me, since I was interested in such matters, Constant gave a danse Congo. He and Julie did not participate in these dances, but once or twice a year he invited the mountainside to a big bamboche, and now while I was there visiting him, he said, was a "happy time" to do it.

The Congo dances, African in origin, but without a parallel among the negroes in the United States, are danced to the accompaniment of tom-tom work-drums, rattles, and shrill singing. They are the universal Saturday night diversion of the peasants both in the mountains and the plain. They are lawful, in no way connected with Voodoo, quite easy to see, and nearly all writers visiting Haiti have seen and written about them.

They are, of course, sexual dances. But there is no dancing in couples, no waists encircled by arms, no interlacing. The dancers move their feet in a sort of loose-limbed jigging, but most of the rhythm is with their bodies. It is somewhat like Oriental dancing, but has a special quality of its own. All the phases and variations of the sexual act, including orgasm, are reproduced. With the incessant rhythm of the tom-toms and copious drinking of rum, these festivals often become slightly orgiastic, and travelers have sometimes imagined they were witnessing Voodoo dances. But the Congo is simply a wild frolic. It is the night club of the jungle.

I had seen such dances numbers of times -- every one in Haiti has -- and they have been described so frequently and so well, as a spectacle, that I should hesitate to include a

-219-

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