What Is Sacred Dance Essay

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Sacred Dance and Spirituality

by Lynn Frances

Dance has been used over the ages as an expression of the deepest aspects of life, of the dancer's relationship with the Earth, the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and, perhaps most importantly, the connection with the Divine. In tribal societies dance is a natural means of communication: it expresses joy, sadness, love and hate; it instils power in the invading tribe; it pleads with the gods to provide food, rain, sun; it celebrates all the meaningful stages of life - birth, puberty, initiation, marriage, death.

What has happened to dance in our modern society? Over the last few decades we have seen the gradual separation of the people dancing. We have a heritage of British Folk Dance, yet few young people know any of these dances (except possibly in Scotland which seems to have retained its dancing tradition). There is occasionally a barn dance or ceilidh, which provides the opportunity for community dancing, yet it often disintegrates into a muddle of uncoordinated movement.

Ballroom dancing is a delightful means of communication, the gliding steps and the closeness of the partners giving a feeling of flowing with life. Yet how often do people dance like that these days? Even a `dinner dance' turns out to be bopping to a disco. There is no band and no dance rhythms are apparent. Disco music and the dances that accompany it are hardly likely to create a community atmosphere: much of the sound seems to be more aggressive than harmonising and the dancing is done individually with little or no contact either physically or mentally with other people.

There is a form of dance that is becoming more and more popular in this country, which recaptures some of the spirituality of dance. It is Sacred/Circle Dance. The basis of this is international folk dances from countries, such as Greece, Israel, Romania and Bulgaria, with a much greater sense of community and heritage than we have here. They are all danced in a circle holding hands, so that the intention is for everyone to do the same steps. My experience is that this brings a harmony to the people in the circle both as a group and within themselves which is rare in our present separated and selfish society. This surely is an expression of spirituality, acknowledging our inter-connectedness with each other and the Divine.

Experiencing connection

There is no separation in the circle. All participants are equal. The circle depends on the contribution of each of its members: each is important and each is necessary to the working of the whole. So, while there is connection, there is also individual movement and personal expression of the steps. The atmosphere of the dance is experienced differently by everyone. Thus we find that there is unanimity but not uniformity; we are all expressing the same dance but in our own unique way.

Similarly the goal in life is not uniformity but unanimity. In any group, to achieve a common spirit with one another and a sense of unity is a powerful experience. We have all touched the same place within us, a common place, and from each of us that flows through the coloured glass of our own personality. This is the dance of life. In Sacred Dance we experience this unanimity and know that it is possible in a more global sense. We all move towards the centre of the circle - symbolising the spiritual goal - we each approach differently but the intention is the same.

The circle gains a momentum of its own. It becomes a single entity and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The essence of Sacred Dance is felt when as individuals we can allow ourselves to be danced. The head no longer tries to remember the steps or the pattern; the memory is in the body and the dance becomes a meditation. It flows and weaves in a kaleidoscope of movement and energy. We all move together in harmony and the simplest dance becomes a powerful expression of that greater unity.

In the dance we are