Timor is the land of the waltz, a dance which involves two steps and a varying third step. Perhaps it sounds new and interesting to you. Well maybe it would be for about half the length of UB40’s “Red, red wine,” one of the most popular songs to dance to. And then you realize you will be waltzing til the sun comes up. Or maybe after. No change in rhythm, no change and steps. Just this crazy three step pattern, and the only variation is the sweaty grip of the stiff arm on one side, and the hopefully not wandering hand on your back.

Another Portuguese legacy, just like crumbling buildings or people with twelve last names. Dancing here has not progressed significantly, I can assume, in the last hundred years.

The Javanese are not exactly known for their disco or salsa steps. And I suppose for the most part, people wanted to keep their Timorese girls as far as possible from the roving eyes and hands of Indonesians.

For those who would like to attempt to break the mould, there is hope. If only in Dili. It is called “tripping.” Pronounced “trrr-eee-ping.”

Here is a step-by-step guide to tripping. Put on one of the following: Venga Boys, Baha Men (Who let the dogs out?), Bon Jovi or Las Ketchup. Giggle. Walk into the middle of the room. Start cautiously lifting your legs up and down. Perhaps add a little undulation of the arms. Giggle. Laugh at your friends. Run away if somebody of the opposite sex approaches.

Tripping, is what us zany westerners would call dancing. For example, at a house party, a disco, a bar, a concert. Just getting up and dancing by yourself, without being dragged or dragging somebody cross the floor in a hypnotic three step. Here “tripping” is not dancing, so much as acting like a malae, a foreigner. Daring few Timorese will admit they actually like it!

And even more daring yet, are those who venture out to the one or two nightspots here on weekends and “trip” together.

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