I adopted circle dance as my spiritual practice in 2009 while going through some personal challenges as it was the quickest way to connect to my divine self. Turn on the music and I was transported to another dimension where the daily trials faded away into insignificance. “Dance is meditation in movement, a walking into silence, where every movement becomes prayer,” said Bernard Wosien, the classical dancer who formalized sacred circle dance in the late 1960s.
And moving that practice into a circle I am able to acknowledge the whole, how individuals are all jigsaw pieces of a bigger, magnificent tapestry receiving nourishment and inspiration from an equidistant centre or source.
I started leading dance circles in 2010. Of course, with that comes the planning to develop the dance list for the session depending on the time of year and events in the community and the world. I discovered that leading is not just about knowing the music and the dance steps.
While working with music from around the world, traditional and modern and varied tempo, it’s evident that the diversity is what makes the experience memorable. That we can let each flavour linger in our bodies for a few minutes, transporting us to a particular place or time. That diversity is needed to complete the whole.
I have often gone to a session with a dance list and had to change half the dances depending on who has shown up. I have become more flexible because of leading circle dance. Adjusting the complexity of the dances to the dancers present is key for all of us to have an enriching time.
I have developed more patience as some might need more instructions or different instructions or more time between dances to be ready for the next one. I have to pay attention to the needs of each one, more often the ones needing most time. With patience I am also learning to master inclusiveness.
We always have a pause between dances since each dance has a different energy and could bring up different emotions. This pause creates the space for each to reflect as we all process information differently and some need more time than others. I like waiting until the last person is ready to move on to the next dance.
I also learn about the power of support and encouragement to enhance everyone’s experience. Moving around the circle to dance beside someone needing more attention or help to get through the dances. And as I help them fall into sync with the rest of us, the circle becomes more harmonious as well.
Our sharing time during the mid-way break is precious. It is about honouring ourselves and each one. It is structured so that each one speaks to their experience or insight, one a time with no one permitted to comment on another’s observations. And we get to practice active listening to the person speaking.
I am also learning to delegate the different responsibilities for the evening. Like someone else sets up the centre of the circle we dance around, another looks after water or tea while another makes sure the space is clean and left in a good condition. That we can each take on an aspect of leadership to help the whole.
My circle dance experience is analogous to the flight of the geese. As each bird flaps its wings it creates an updraft for the bird following. Their V formation adds a lot more flying range than if each bird flew alone. They honk from behind to encourage those in front to keep up their speed. When the lead goose tires, it falls back in the V and another goose flies point. When a goose gets sick or is wounded, falling from formation, two other geese join their companion to lend help and protection.
Through our collective dance experience in silence, I conclude: Circle dance is simple … everything else is complicated.
By Rashmi Narayan
June 19, 2015