VIVOBAREFOOT Journey: Aquiles Holladay

March 19, 2011 by Aquiles Holladay

My VIVOBAREFOOT journey started Fall of 2009. I had just finished a BA in dance and was in a moderately crispy state. I was in limbo, working odd jobs while looking for that next break, when my mother decided to go home to her birthplace to help care for my 93 year old grandmother.
I was not doing anything special so I decided to tag along for 3 months. I had not been to Suriname since 2002 so I didn't have to think too hard about it.
Suriname formerly called Dutch Guyana is a tiny tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It's mostly forest and it's inhabitants primarily live in the capital city Paramaribo. It's touted as an ethnically diverse homogeneous society, and for the most part, at least on the surface, it lives up to that notion. I find it amazing that Indonesians, Indians, Boslanders ("Maroon"), Creoles, and Chinese (to name a few) eat and prepare each others typical foods with each others spices, and all while listening and dancing to Kaseko and Jamaican Reggae music.
Upon arrival I was put to work in a dance studio and more opportunities arose. I performed in French Guyana three times and the group I was working with was invited to perform a piece at the World Expo in Shanghai. The three month family trip turned out to be a year long adventure. My VIVOBAREFOOT Dharma's were with me every step of the way.
My feet are my instrument. A dancer who cares for his feet is like a Violinist who maintains his instrument for optimum performance. His tool requires ideal temperature and climate for storage, a protective casing for transport, and fine tuning of its mechanics to achieve and maintain its ideal and unique sound. I was born with my instrument, they go with me wherever I go for they are part of my body. As a dancer, teacher, performer, choreographer and lifelong student, I have a big incentive in taking care of my feet and I know first hand that foot care is the first step in maintaining a structurally sound body.

Modern society ignores or even rejects so many sensations; we are experiencing the world in a muted, literally semi-numb state. This is not some esoteric metaphysical idea. Our feet are one of the more obvious places this occurs.
A lot of my training as a dancer stresses a proprioceptive approach to moving. I choose to bring that with me into my daily life and the VIVOBAREFOOT shoe line allows me to do that. The sole protects my feet from wear and tear, still allowing me to explore the textural details of the floor, while exercising my feet. It is a major treat when I find a gravel path or jagged rock floor. Rolling my foot slowly through the uneven surfaces is like the best massage anyone could ask for. With my travels I've experienced and danced on various terrains and surfaces. Barefoot sole technology allows me to experience that in a clear yet safe way.
A full year had passed in Suriname I still had not experienced real life in the jungle. My sister joined me on a 4 day tour, but that was simulated. Though we were deep in the jungle on an Indian Village, it was organised and by a tour company; we got served hot water and tea in our fancy rooms every morning! It was beautiful but I was still yearning for more adventure. I met a group of ex-pats who introduced me to an American Peace Corps volunteer. After some time me and another friend were invited to stay with him for 10 days. It was a dream!
After a 9 hour dugout ride upstream, we arrived to a world that was much simpler than I had ever experienced. Our camp Kon Sie (come see) was on an island on the Marowijne River next to Mofina an N'Juka village in French Guyana (good luck finding it on a map!). The N'Juka are a tribe descendant from escaped African slaves. The main mode of transport was paddle boat and my bed was a hammock. We had fresh acai with cassava meal for breakfast to keep us going but it was more of a relaxing time than it was an action adventure, and I found it to be just what I needed after my exciting city experience. We mainly stuck to the waters and met with villagers, but occasionally explored local paths where I got to experience my Dahrma's full on! The jungle floor is mostly fallen leaves so it is really soft with occasional patches of solid rock or sand. It was nice to feel every twig and seed snapping and popping with every step. Though the native population uses flip flops It was nice to know that my feet were protected.
Suriname is like a microcosm of the tropical world. With South Asian, African and Amerindian cultures represented it's a unique melting pot. Its natural wealth is currently threatened by its bounty of natural resources.

I grew up travelling the world; this has been my main source of inspiration in my art. I was born in Japan, and have lived in Turkey, Argentina, Venezuela, and Peru. Now I can add Suriname to that list. It is one of the most important, if not the most important move I've made in my life. My family is here and this will always be one of my homes. I cant wait to return. (with a pair of Aqueous as the rain can be a drag ;)

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