I began to focus my camera. Then, in a corner of the lens, I saw the old man moving toward the center of the circle. In the palace garden, he'd walked with a cane, his steps so small he'd seemed to be creeping forward. Now, the cane seemed no more than a decoration, a prop that added experience to his years. Instead of bending over in the turtle hump of the very elderly, he stood erect, and his step was smooth. He danced, that old man turned young. While the wind blowing off the basin ruffled the skirts of the young girls sitting on the edge of the rock, the old man beseeched the ancestors with a dance of lamentation and laughter from the living. He danced without regard to the precipice a few yards from his feet, or the girls who giggled behind their cupped hands, or the young men who kept time by clapping, or the children who imitated his steps from a safe distance. It was a dance of incantation, a dance of reverence, a dance that, for the Malagasy, was part of the natural order of life. I thought he danced without music until I realized that the music he listened to had been played years ago, on this very same spot, by those who were now called razana ["gone now" or "spiritual presence".] Off to one side, the old woman who had come to hear the wisdom of the dead was smiling. I began to think that I was the only one who found this incredible----the dance, the expanse of land, the old man who no longer seemed old. I had much to learn from an island of stone, an island of soil red as blood, an island of ancestors and stories that were told and retold through countless generations.

----From Over the Lip of the World: Among the Storytellers of Madagasacar by Colleen J. McElroy


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