While I dance I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole. This is why I dance. -Hans Bos
Throughout human history, communities have joined together in rituals of music and dance for celebration, mourning, and healing. When Michael Jackson died in 2009, flash mob tributes erupted in malls and plazas across the world accompanied by some of his most popular tunes. Previously reserved and self-contained strangers spontaneously danced, momentarily unified with others who were also inspired by Jackson’s rhythms and his tragic demise. For the duration of the music, dissention, alienation, and greed receded, and the unification that tribal communities have known for centuries was known for a moment by the modern Westerner.
Moved by the news of Jackson’s death, another unlikely collaboration arose from the 1,500 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, a high-security prison in the Philippines. Practicing for nine grueling hours, the inmates joined together to honor Michael Jackson by performing a choreographed tribute that was later posted online and viewed across the globe. Byron Garcia, the prison supervisor who introduced dance to the prisoners’ poorly-attended exercise routines in 2007, believed his work with the prisoners “brought back their self esteem.” Marking an event of shared significance, the prisoners transcended their personal struggles in a way previously assumed impossible, perhaps even by them.
As a result of their accomplishment, were they able then to access hope for their own lives due to their connection to an improbable community? Does ritual dance hold the same potential for the rest of us who are in another kind of prison? Through connecting to the fundamental humanity dance offers us, can we begin healing the modern plague of rationalism in the Western mind? When we become suspended in the rhythm music and dance beckon us into, we experience a respite from the limitation of intellectual thought—a sensual journey into breath and creative, organic movement. Shifting out of affectation, we move into the sweetness of unapologetic presence.
Modern tribal cultures faithfully maintain the long-standing tradition of engaging in music and dance rituals for sacred, collective purpose. Malidoma Patrice Somé, in Ritual: Power, Healing and Community, writes of the Dagura tribe in Nigeria: “ritual is, above all else, the yardstick by which people measure their state of connection with the ancestral realm, with which the entire community is genetically connected.”
Danice Brown, in her article “Dancing the Darkness Away,” describes her feeling of connection through song during her time in Rwanda:
Dancille would start singing, and the others would gather around her and join in, singing and dancing in their own style. Later in the evening, we would sing together again, slower songs quietly spoken to the night sky while lying on the steps. Through this music we came to know each other. Bridging the language barrier was difficult at times, but through song we were able to convey more than I thought possible. The songs set the tone for each day, encompassed our daily actions, and defined us as a group, both to ourselves and to others.
In 2007 I joined Shiva Rea, a preeminent yoga teacher, and more than 100 others to train in Yoga Trance Dance™, a style that blends an ancient approach of ritualistic dance with the modern practice of asana, or yoga postures. Without exchanging names or stories, we slipped into the drum beat and danced together without ceasing for five hours. In losing our self-consciousness, we lost our egoism and therefore our need to distinguish our uniqueness. In a room with no spotlights, we all spoke the language of movement that music inspires from our very first steps as children.
In the spirit of connection and healing, True Self Wellness and Grassroots Yoga in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are joining together to create a Trancendent Yoga Dance benefit for the Rape Crisis Center and Crossroads, two organizations that tirelessly offer outreach programs for women. Globally, six out of ten women experience sexual and physical violence in their lifetime, while single women with children are the fastest-growing group of homeless people in the United States. As long as women are unsafe and uncared for, our global community is infected with domination and victimization, and hence lost promise for women who could be cast in the light of undiminished expression. In the midst of a troubled world, Trancendent Yoga Dance invites open expression born of our most basic yearning for joy and connection, accessible to people who have neither yoga nor dance experience. As we join together in awareness for the women in our lives who need our help, we have the potential to liberate ourselves.
Commemorating the Winter Solstice, the chill of the season will be warmed by our delight in our capacity to move, to feel and to utter the words of a body language we will suddenly remember how to speak.
Halli Bourne, owner of True Self Wellness, is a certified Yoga Trance Dance™ teacher, a Kripalu Yoga Teacher, a meditation teacher in the yogic tradition, and a spiritual life coach. She has inspired many to ask more of life through realizing your true purpose and expressing what brings you joy. With a B.A. in Theatre Arts and as a trained vocalist, Halli brings an infectious passion for music and expressive movement to discover your unique groove.