Dance of Entanglement: Exploring Our Attachments Literally Tied Up

July 17, 2010

“I’m tying my students up tonight,” I toss off gleefully to my sweetheart as I leave to go dance. I am giddy with excitement to play with this new experiment. Was it OK to feel so elated about this? I wasn’t sure but oh well, I was! Felt like a mad scientist on the brink of discovery.

“I knew it was sexual,” he replies.

“No darling, we’re exploring our  addictions, bondages and attachments. I thought being literally tied to a corner in the room would help illustrate that point.” Somewhere in my memory was a Butoh performance I’d seen by the brilliant  Sankai Juku dancers where, bald and completely painted chalk white, tortured figures moved across the bare stage with huge red sashes around their waists. Intense.

Giddy and anxious… never having done a dance like this, the outcome was a wildcard…. could be a disaster. Creative risk compelled me; I have been trying to listen to my guts and go for it, especially when it scares me  a bit. Encouraged by watching the making of the HBO series “Queer as Folk,” a very edgy and ground-breaking show about gay life, the directors talked about how they chose to do scenes because the material made them nervous so they knew they had to go there. I admire the courage in that attitude and am grateful that they embraced risk as the show goes to brave new territory, refreshingly honest and real. Undoubtedly, the dancers would initially be less than enthusiastic to be attached to a leash as they come to dance freely. Here goes nothing!

To start, we shared about potent addictions and attachments we have and how we react when we find ourselves caught up in one. Sugar, computer, people-pleasing, self-doubt, stress, shopping, alcohol, fear. Reactions varied from indulgence, denial, anger, self-criticism to enjoyment. What I hoped to achieve in the session was a graphic and visceral exploration of attachment ultimately to foster a sense of humor and greater consciousness with regards to our entanglements. Mission accomplished…phew! It seemed pretty chaotic at times. It was only after the dance, when everyone shared their experience, that I understood it had indeed, served everyone more open.

All of the participants were tied by a long colorful rope from their wrists to ballet bars around the room. The instructions were to dance feeling the connection to their ropes and also to engage with others’ ropes and investigate relationship. At first, all seemed to be enjoying their new toys, wrapping themselves up in cocoons, engaging in sensual tangos,  playing tug of war. As the music got faster, ropes began to intertwine and turn into enormous knots; people got stuck attached to this big mess and frustration ensued.

“Oh no,” I thought. “People are stopping to dance and are simply trying to untangle themselves.” I inserted myself into the knot and encouraged those imprisoned to dance with their current limitations. It was an “Aha!” moment and a new dance emerged.  So easy to get sucked into wanting to be free at all costs, becoming locked into the problem and freezing into anxiety and seriousness; creativity and joy disappear. Tugs of war became more heated… the leash became shorter… no more Mr. Nice Guy. Towards the end, bodies were on the floor seemingly defeated by the rope, exhausted.

And then they were set free….Susheela Raman was singing “I’m set free,” and everyone was invited to undo their bonds and dance. Arms reached for the sky and the whole room began to twirl. The atmosphere instantaneously lit up like a blazing comet… it was that radical.

Individual experiences were shared when we concluded. For most, the graphic imagery of many ropes intersecting and feeling the bodies attached to them clearly illustrated this web of connection, how we get caught up in it, the stickiness of it, the frustration. Liberation felt so joyous but one person was surprised by their sadness to lose their rope and longed to keep a piece. Interesting to observe even our attachments to wanting certain results and I was certainly no exception as I wanted the session to be a “success.” A big discovery was how we forget to dance when we are stuck in a mess instead of dancing creatively with it and continuing to have fun. Really something to remember… how to stay fluid and creative given the limitations you may find yourself in…and really “limitations” are simply your attitude about the situation. Your rope is simply shorter…only a problem if you make it one.

Someone also could not physically remove their wrist tie and I had to cut them loose; they saw this as a metaphor for asking help from friends when we were too deep in the quagmire… you can ask for help when you cannot liberate yourself. Someone may have the golden scissors…

May all beings be free.

“Attachment increases desire, without producing any satisfaction. There are two types of desire, unreasonable and reasonable. The first is an affliction founded on ignorance, but the second is not. To live, you need resources; therefore, desire for sufficient material things is appropriate. Such feelings as, “This is good; I want this. This is useful,” are not afflictions. It is also desirable to achieve altruism, wisdom, and liberation. This kind of desire is suitable; indeed, all human development comes out of desire, and these aspirations do not have to be an affliction.

…when you have attachment to material things, it is best to desist from those very activities that promote more attachment. Satisfaction is helpful when it comes to material things, but not with respect to spiritual practice. Objects to which we become attached are something to be discarded, whereas spiritual progress is something to be adopted–it can be developed limitlessly, even in old age.” ~ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama



  1. Heeraa, Thanks so much for sharing this. This is such a creative idea and such a great metaphor. I love that just reading your post I can *feel* the dance.

    It makes me wonder, is there a difference between being free of attachment (dancing without strings) and choosing to focus on freedom even when we are attached (dancing fully regardless of the strings)?

  2. Heeraa,
    Again… Pure alchemical dance-sacred theatre genius you are.
    Thank you too for ‘taking me there’–esp ‘it was an ‘aha’ moment and a new dance emerged’–I want that kind of grace in my life every day. Would have been there if we’d gotten the trans-pacific portal open in time. Sending my love to the Oahu Ecstatic Dance tribe from Cali.
    love, Erzsi

  3. Hey sweetness…loved the creation of this dance. I have all kinds of ideas buzzing through me and it always feels great when I can physically be involved in the birth of it vs. being the channel for someoneelse. I love how you are getting to become a great writer too! Love ya

  4. Thanks for sharing – I appreciate not only your taking the risk of trying this but also the care and thought you put into telling us about it. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • I have so been enjoying experimenting and sharing that, hoping that it will serve as inspiration to all. Thanks Zach!

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