Actor and storyteller Christopher Rivas created this short film, "Sweat Drought," about our need for movement and release after all the overlapping traumas and pent-up frustrations of the pandemic. Set to a mix of recorded dance footage and submitted videos from the community, Rivas reads this moving essay he wrote:
As a child I often watched in awe as my mother and father danced for hours. It was mesmerizing. Like a whole language and a whole other world I could only hope to become a part of. Doing the hustle in the living room at 8 am for no other reason than to do the hustle in the living room at 8 am. Or salsa dancing till 3 am at a house party with 40 of my cousins and 40 more people we called cousins. They could spend hours not speaking, just dancing. I would watch the world melt away with every bead of sweat they shared. Some of my earliest memories are of me in my tighty-whities and my mama just twirling me around the house.
We danced at parties, we danced at weddings, we danced when my pops pulled the car over when a good track came on and he bumped the speakers, we danced at funerals even.
The night Prince died, I danced all night.
The night MJ died, I danced all night.
The day Kamala won, I danced all day and all night.
On days when I think too much, full of joy and full of grief I dance all night.
In a lot of space, in a little space, there is no perfect space to dance all night.
I don't know about you, but boy oh boy do I miss dancing. I miss the sweat and the escape. In the darkness and in the light. I miss the cool air on my skin after opening every pore. I miss strangers getting just the right amount and maybe even too close, closer even. I'll be dropping it in a sweaty, packed club, breathing in every germy air particle I can.
I think we need to dance in the name of all that has passed, all that is here, and all that is to come. Dance for what was lost and those lost. Workweek schedule be damned. We need to dance.
Let's celebrate what the many restricted breaths and lives lost meant in the best way possible—loudly— with sweat dripping down our foreheads and us making the earth tremble. Do it as if they are still here. Do it because you're still here.
So much to honor and so much stuck to our bones we need to set free.
May we touch and say with our bodies and its closeness and its sweat—"I know it was hard, I know it was tiresome, all that you've been holding, you can now let it go"—"I will hold you up"—"I refuse to let you sink"—"I will hold you up."
We were born to praise, let go and move our body to the speed of trust.
Inside a two-step or a hip moving in new ways, or a chest connected to the pulse of the earth and a heart that finds new space to cry and feel. Let the dance take you back. The universe has a rhythm and a drum kick and a snare and a bass and it's yours now. A space that is all you own.
So much time lost and dancing to be done.
Dancing towards inclusion because we have experienced so much exclusion. But not today. Not now. Not here.
Let yourself be messy, let yourself be carried by your joy, by your grief, by your hurt, by your breath, by your love, by your freedom, by your touch.
Twerk, crunk, do the hustle, merengue, salsa, bachata, Harlem shake, booty poppin', Saturday Night Fever. Let's dance for our families, for our ancestors, brothers and sisters, who showed us how to let go. Let's dance for each other.
Get sweaty—because we had a sweat drought, and now the river must flow again.
Thank you. And stay hydrated.