Yesterday I led my now annual Dance Meditation day for Holy week. While packing up I was often asked the question “What are you doing for Easter?”. I know what the kindly questioners meant, but I wanted to say, “I have just done it”!
My husband David once wrote a sensitive poem, called Flower Rota, thinking of a lady arranging flowers in church in memory of a loved one… he spoke of “the sweet time it took”, as she worked alone with the flowers and the memories.
It does take much time to plan such a day, but much of it is ‘sweet’. I like to select reasonably accessible poetry, and find images to use alongside the dances, as I try to be thematic. In advance I often email a poem to a dancer to absorb, before asking them to read it on the day.
How delighted I was to find such lovely iris for the Centrepiece, even though not ‘bearded’, as we were bracketing the day with two poems from Helen Dunmore’s final collection. Cancer took her last year, she wrote till very near the end, and the second of the extracts here is from her final poem.
My life’s stem was cut,
But quickly, lovingly
I was lifted up,
I heard the rush of the tap
And I was set in water
In the blue vase, beautiful
In lip and curve,…..
Death, hold out your arms for me
Give me your motherly caress,
Through all this suffering
You have not forgotten me.
You are the bearded iris that bakes its rhizomes
Beside the wall,
Your scent flushes with loveliness,
Sherbet, pure iris
Lovely and intricate. ….
After a very wet week of rain and flood, it was good to have a gathering of 17 dancers to enjoy a few of the dances choreographed by Nanni Kloke for her Creation Suite. I have had a very touching note today from one of them who is not so well.
Thank you for a lovely day of dance. I am so glad I managed it. It was just what I needed. It was very healing for me and invoked some beautiful prayer time. I loved the dances and I am very grateful for what you do and how you do it.
Such a note makes it all feel very worth while; and what great use of a very murky day... we had felt our way there through the fog.
This morning in church we had these resonant words from the Venite.
In his hand are the depths of the earth
and the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his for he made it,
and his hands have moulded the dry land.
Now we have a hurricane in our forecast, so I must master the dance 'Gone with the Wind' for my next class...
There is now a hope that Judy King will bring this suite north again, to be enjoyed in all its fullness.
This article came my way today as my Beloved suffers with Alzheimers. With Line and Square dancing mentioned, Circle dancing must be up there too, along with its unique emotional sensitivity.
New research shows that dancing can do more than keep you physically fit. It could also help you fight off dementia
It’s easy to see why dancing is good for your health; it keeps you fit and makes you feel good. But a growing amount of evidence also shows that dancing has another benefit. For dancing can improve brain power and even help ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia.
A new study by the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases reveals that certain dance styles are particularly beneficial for older people. The study involved people with an average age of 68 and found that those who regularly did line dancing, Latin American, jazz and square dancing had a larger hippocampus (the area of the brain associated with age-related decline) and were therefore better protected against dementia. Interestingly, researchers also compared dancing with other physical activities such as walking and cycling but found that dancing had the most powerful impact.
‘Dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age,’ explains Dr Kathrin Rehfield, lead author of the study which was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
20 dancers came together to enjoy this day.
Having had to turn back to collect this Centre Piece I was not starting in the necessary calm place, but it only took a few minutes of dance and 'attunement' to be able to settle in!
I have had some generous feedback about the beautiful dances and the lovely participants
Obviously we were starting from T S Eliot's "Four Quartets", whose inspiration came from Mother Julian of Norwich.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
but neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
It was the first time that I had taught Judy King's 'Solo in Dio', and Pablo Scornik's 'Oblivion', and both those dances, as well as Nanni Kloke's 'Verstilling", were very well received.
I shared Richard Hazlehurst's wonderful poem about the Touch Step. This has been printed in Grapevine, but was triggered by his dancing in Brigsteer last year!
I shared, and am trying to take to my feet, this excellent advice from Erik Bendix.
Timing is at the heart of the dance, as it is of music, and at the heart of timing is not just the onward rush of even the most furious bursts of expression, but also a sense of pause between each beat. Every movement needs time to ripen out of its own stillness and time to return to stillness when it is done, even in what seems to be a fast dance. Everyone I've taught tends to dance ahead of the beat, rushing past it instead of resting on it and being carried by it. Rushed movement looks tense and tired; paced movement looks alive and at home in its surroundings
One again I have offered a day of Meditative Dance, in the beautiful Meditation Centre in Dent.
This year I used both images and poetry as well, and we journeyed with Mary from the first visit by the Angel Gabriel through to her place at the foot of the Cross.
The intention was not to see this as looking back at History, but to connect with the emotions we feel, and situations that we, and others, face in the world today. For example here is a sonnet from Malcolm Guite's excellent "Sounding the Seasons"
We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,
or cosy in a crib beside the font,
but he is with a million displaced people
on the long road of weariness and want.
For even as we sing our final carol
His family is up and on that road,
fleeing the wrath of someone else's quarrel,
glancing behind and shouldering their load.
Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower,
Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled.
The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,
and death squads spread their curse across the world.
But every Herod dies, and comes alone
to stand before the Lamb upon the throne
“What a huge amount of planning and work you must have put into the special day you provided for all of us. Thank you very much indeed. I didn’t know what to expect although I had thought it likely to be an Easter event with a difference! I have often heard of the Meditation Centre but hadn’t expected it to be such a lovely venue. “
“It was such a lovely day yesterday. All the music and dances were so well chosen and balanced and I really enjoyed every moment. I know how much you have spent your preparation time before putting everything together and I am so grateful, especially that you did it during Holy Week. Dance really can be our prayer and meditation and with all poems you used, it was just perfect.”
"Thank you for giving us such a beautiful day's dancing in Dent (the best yet?). I hope you were pleased with how it went. Such a lovely bunch of people too, didn't you think?
I enjoyed all the dances old and new and particularly loved David's poems.
Thank you for all the soul-energy you put into it."
What worth piety now?
How much it’s lost its thrust,
its endless duty, its heave, its thuds.
So I came a long way round to find
the plangent, aching sorrow,
that only death can handle wisely.
As Mary held her baby in her arms;
so now, again, the mother holds the son;
in death, and wonder, both.
David Scott. February 2015