Posts Tagged ‘freedom’


Beautiful Dance Quote for Inspiration

February 2, 2011

What an amazing quote about dance! Had to share.

Dancing weekend at the Studio Maui Tribal Spirit 2011

I praise the dance, for it frees people
from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community.
I praise the dance, which demands everything:
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.
Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people,
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling.
Dancing demands a whole person,
one who is firmly anchored in the center of his life,
who is not obsessed by lust for people and things
and the demon of isolation in his own ego.
Dancing demands a freed person,
one who vibrates with the equipoise of all his powers.
I praise the dance.
O man, learn to dance,
or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you.
~ Saint Augustine

The fact that it was apparently penned around 400 AD by St. Augustine, considered the founder of Western Christianity, makes it all the more incredible. I looked him up on Wikipedia: ” He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman African Province ( part of Algeria) . His writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, and he framed the concepts of original sin and just war.”

Wow…. so the same man who promoted the idea of “original sin” writes that people need to learn to dance otherwise the angels in heaven won’t know what to do with you?! Pretty crazy. I wonder what sort of dance he was exposed to in Algeria that touched him so soulfully, Sufis perhaps… “Original sin” and “just war” are philosophical concepts… truth? Well, it can be disputed. The truth of dance is not conceptual; it is a living , breathing expression of truth and presence. It is undeniable. Hallelujah!



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


Freedom: Enter at Your Own Risk!

July 14, 2010

I’ve been contemplating the fear of freedom  lately. That seems to be the prImary stumbling block for people who have never attended an ecstatic dance. When I’ve attempted to explain the nature of the dance, and it’s challenging, I’ve had quite a number of responses like “I need to be drunk to dance,” “That’s scary,” “ There are no steps to learn?!” or silent looks of mistrust that say, “Danger… keep away!” It’s as if I am trying to seduce people with poison apples…not dance for heaven’s sake!

Has the world always been so frightened to step outside the box or is this a current issue? It deserves some exploration. Having grown up in California in the Sixties perhaps has warped my sense of the global Big Picture. Sausalito was full of artists, barefooted musicians hitchhiking, women rejecting their bras including my mom! The Seventies, coming into puberty, I witnessed crazy stories of swinging couples, wife-swapping and all manner of spiritual experimentation. Nude beaches were plentiful and have since disappeared. All this felt “normal” as I had nothing to compare it to as a youth. At the risk of sounding like an old fogie reminiscing about “the good ol’ days,” it felt like there was a more fertile atmosphere for encouraging risk-taking and freedom than I come across today.Especially in light of having encountered so many people terrorized by the idea of non-structured dance, yoga devotees in particular… go figure! After deeper analysis, it makes sense as yoga is linear, controlled, structured and ecstatic dance is non-linear, an open field, the chaos of creativity….hmmm…a wee epiphany… freedom = chaos or the possibility of it and that is part of the fear factor…. out of control. That belies a belief in a personal Pandora’s Box that would surely engulf one so better just keep a lid on it. How little we trust ourselves.

Having recently DJed a clothing optional dance journey for women, the revelation that it was a first-time experience for many to be even topless in public astonished me. Tears of gratitude poured down young faces. It was a totally healing and liberating event for all involved. Women of all ages and shapes celebrated themselves without inhibition, shedding clothing and self-repression. “Self” is the key word here. As adults, we can no longer blame family, religion, teachers or society for repression; it has been internalized and we are now our own jailers and judges.  Much easier to blame and not take responsibility for our liberation because that entails some deep soul-searching and work. And it might not feel great grappling with our self limiting behavior…I’ll deal with it next New Year’s resolution… yeah, right…

Who is afraid of freedom? The ego. The ego is afraid of looking like a fool, being shamed, embarrassed, not knowing, others’ opinions, being exposed. It is the internalized judge and jailer. The sad part is that the ego structure is a fiction and yet we constantly fall for it’s horse manure. It keeps us small. Tenderly bring awareness to judgement of self and others and investigate the truth of your beliefs. The Pandora’s Box is a mirage of our own making and we therefore also have the power to un-make it.

I write this to encourage us all to take the loving risk to question our own authority and be free. It doesn’t mean having to get naked necessarily but on a spiritual level it does… what have you got to lose? Only the ego that operates on fear. Burn the bra that binds you!

“You cannot control an ecstatic man; it is impossible. You can only control a miserable man. An ecstatic man is bound to be free. Ecstasy is freedom. He cannot be reduced to being a slave. You cannot destroy him so easily; you cannot persuade him to live in a prison. He would like to dance under the stars and he would like to walk with the wind and he would like to talk with the sun and the moon. He will need the vast, the infinite, the huge, the enormous. He cannot be seduced into living in a dark cell. You cannot make a slave out of him. He will live his own life and he will do his thing. This is very difficult for the society. If there are many ecstatic people, the society will feel it is falling apart, its structure will not hold anymore.” ~ Osho


Express Yourself: Dancing the Fifth Chakra

May 10, 2010

“I missed the freedom of expression,” a dancer answers when I ask how they feel about the fifth chakra dance session we’d just concluded. Hmmm… I was hoping to create a context where greater creativity of movement could be fostered. Suddenly the demons of creative insecurity raise their ugly heads wanting to engulf me… perfect. We had danced a piece on expanding self-expression: I had gone out on a creative limb with the structure of the evening’s session and this feedback touches the core of my own self-expression.

Many people have received very little positive feedback for their creative endeavors and experiments in their lives. We started the session sharing stories of the messages we’ve been given about our artistic abilities: being told we can’t sing, that we had poor fashion sense, that we couldn’t cook, and so forth. Scholastic achievement gets much more attention; art, writing, decorating is just that “cute” thing you do. My mother was always hoping that I’d grow out of my love of theater and become a business major… the prevailing idea being that you can’t make money with art. Granted, it’s challenging in a society that doesn’t value it highly. Never did make a living with it but I have never regretted the enriching experience of following my heart and doing what I loved.

The fifth chakra deals with expressing one’s truth, being authentic in communication, The idea with the dance session was to cycle through different body parts, letting them express their story in their own language. For example, I’d call out, “Feet,” and everyone would explore their feet, first on their own and then with other dancers.  My intention was to encourage everyone to break out of their patterns and expand their movement vocabulary. Ecstatic dance usually has very little structure so I was taking a big risk departing from the norm and what the dancers were used to. I came to the session excited to play with this creative experiment. I was going to draw outside the lines…

What was curious though, was that the structure I imposed on the dance seemed to get some people more in their heads than breaking barriers. Conversely, other dancers totally moved beyond their comfort zones into fresh new territory and expansion. What was the challenge here? Observing the participants, I really could see how differently people approach creativity. For some, the task of dancing a particular body part opened the door to adventure; they relished the problem-solving quality of the exercise. There was something specific to work with, just enough of a parameter to use as a foundation to jump into the unknown. Without the invitation to intimately delve into their feet, they would not have necessarily gone there on their own and missed this rich experience. For others, structure became a head-trip, a nuisance, and closed down their self-expression. These folks operate more fluidly with an empty canvas. The blank page terrorizes others….

“I missed the freedom of expression,” says the dancer. “Ah, but what might be interesting to see,” I answer, “is that the invitation is for feet AND freedom of expression, spine AND freedom, hands AND freedom. They don’t exclude each other. Just see how your resistance to structure  prevents your flow when it is there actually to help. ” I remember hearing Osho, the Indian spiritual master, give a talk about creativity and how we could approach and engage in the most mundane acts as artists…. things like washing the dishes, doing the laundry, shopping. It really is a question of being present to whatever act you are doing and enjoying it. You will never wipe the windows in the same manner again…. you are dancing over the pane with the cloth, swirling this way and that, zig-zagging, making wide sweeping gestures. Next time you do this same act, you will probably do it differently. The window becomes your blank canvas. Windows AND freedom. Creativity is that simple and we all are artists. Take a risk and draw outside the lines. Express yourself!