By Menkit Prince "Ocheyan"
In my early twenties I had a stark dream which I never
forgot. In the dream I found myself standing alone on
stage, the spotlight blinding my eyes, surrounded by large
audience whose gaze was totally focussed on me. I suddenly
realized I didn't have a clue what what was expected of
me. I had no story line, absolutely no ability to tell
jokes or sing. There was no time to vacillate and leaving
the stage wasn't an option. Instinctively I closed my
eyes and went right to the core of my being asking myself
;What do you feel? What do you feel? I began to move my
body, slowly and hypnotically as if in a trance. When
the feeling stopped, my body stopped and I waited till
the next feeling came. The dream ended and I woke up in
a cold sweat.
Then a few years later I participated in a Buddhist Vipassana
course with Long Pee (Christopher Titmus) in the Mullumbimby
area. One of the meditations was called Dance meditation.
We were instructed to close our eyes, get in touch with
our feelings and move our body to express without sound
what we were feeling. I found this a very powerful way
to move through emotional difficulties and continued to
use the technique in my private life but never showed
anyone. I was a closet dancer for almost twenty years.
Then in my early forties, driven by my secret love of
dance, I found the courage to dance in public. I was living
in Arizona at the time when I joined Winged Fire, a local
sacred theatre troupe. Even though I have never had a
formal dance lesson in my life I was given the freedom
to create anything I liked within the structure of the
play. My dance was totally free form. When I went on stage
I had no idea what I was going to do. It was then in a
moment of deja vu that I remembered the dream I had 20
The experience was absolutely exhilarating and terrifying
at the same time, but it brought great heights of joy
because I was surrendering completely to something bigger
than myself. It felt like a higher force take over me
leaving me super-conscious and totally blissful. There
was absolutely nothing else I enjoyed doing more than
being in this state. My performances had some people coming
to me with tears rolling down their faces. Something interesting
was happening here. I was communing on a core level with
myself and in so doing communing
with the psyche of others at the same time. This went
far beyond just dancing to
express beauty or ideas. This was indeed Sacred Dance.
Thinking it would be good to share the benefits I had
received with others I decided to work with children because
they are open and free of inhibitions. Some primary school
teachers invited me to teach dancing in their classrooms.
The children were about 7 or 8 years old. After putting
some nice music on, I demonstrated to the children how
I expressed anger, sadness, joy, fear etc through dance.
Then I invited them to stand up, close their eyes and
express their feelings while the music played. It was
a lot of fun.
The next week the teacher gave me a folder full of letters
from the children expressing how much they liked the class
and what benefits they got from it. One girl told me that
she was in her room expressing anger over something that
had happened. Her mother walked in and said "What
are you doing?" and the girl replied "I'm getting
my anger out". This young girl was beginning to understand
that dance can clear negative emotions.
Another boy said "When you were dancing I felt like
you and I were in a forest alone and you were dancing
specially for me." I was touched! Some years later
I got involved in a relationship with an intensely left
brained man and stopped dancing. The relationship had
other benefits but for the three years I was with him
and for nearly four years later I didn't and couldn't
dance. Now I find myself craving to get back into that
space but feel incredibly stuck.
As I wend my way back to my dancing self, I decided to jot down some
notes on what helps me find my way back. I see a lot of people at
dance venues who want to dance but are too afraid to try or people
who are trying but not fully surrendering to the process.
There are many benefits to dancing. For example:
1. It can enable you to get in touch with ecstasy.
2. It's fun.
3. It's good exercise
and keeps you flexible and fit.
4. It helps you
stay young because there's a playful component in it.
5. Easy and cheap form of artistic self-expression (this is a good one for
those of you who spend too much time in front of a computer and are
in danger of getting left brain cells overstimulated).
6. Helps release stagnant or negative emotions.
7. Can be a new way to bond with people especially if you are dancing
with friends or a partner.
Can you identify with any of these reasons why not to dance?
1. I'm too shy.
What if someone sees me and I look stupid? I don't want
people to not like me.
2. My body is ugly.
I'm too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too wrinkly,
too bald etc.
3. Guilt. How can I feel OK about having fun when there is so much
suffering in the world?
4. What if my sexuality
expresses through my movement? I'm not sure I can
handle my own passion and deep feelings. It's scary.
5. If I keep my eyes closed, as you suggest, I'm
afraid I will lose my
balance or fall over.
6. I feel no joy
in life. I don't even know what I feel. There's
nothing to express. My life sucks.
7. Dancing is for women. I'm a man. Someone might
think I'm gay if they see me dancing.
8. I don't have any suitable
If so, why not respond to the above objections with something like:-
1. So what? Who cares what people think? Close your eyes and
pretend you are completely and utterly alone - just you and the music.
2. It's more important
how you feel inside than how you look. In fact people
judge you more by how you feel about yourself more than
how you look. So get in touch with how you feel!
3. Having fun brings more light and joy into the world! From a fount of
joy inside you have more to give.
4. Sexuality and
passion is part of life - it is the life force itself.
It doesn't mean that if you start dancing you will become
promiscuous or, if you are celibate and without a partner,
sexually frustrated by letting your sexual energy get
activated through dance. If you block your own sexual/life
force/kundalini energy it stagnates and you become part
of the community of the living dead.
5. Always make your feet the point of contact with the ground. No matter
how wild, frenzied or carried away your upper body, head or arms are,
keep at least one of your feet planted on the ground with knees slightly
bent (as in martial arts stance), toes dug into ground slightly. Barefoot is
best for dancing.
6. Don't worry
- just move because it's good music and the exercise will
do you good. In time you will loosen up your blocked feelings.
7. Dancing is for men too. You can develop a masculine style of
dancing if you want. The point is to express yourself and find joy in the
8. Wear clothes
you like - choose colors, fabrics and styles that please
you. Tight jeans are not very comfortable to dance in.
Personally I like clothes that are loose and flowing.
It's fun to play with scarves especially when you are
twirling. If you don't have anything, make something yourself.
(I made all my dance costumes from scratch with no patterns
and no sewing ability whatsoever beyond threading a needle
and simple stitching).
Now you have established irrefutable reasons to dance and overcome
all your mental resistance and fears, you are ready to begin!
Stand with EYES CLOSED. This helps establish a state
which enables you to go deep within. If they are open
in the beginning it's too easy to be distracted by external
phenomena. After a while you can open your eyes but only
if you don't lose your low, your connectedness. If you
feel it leaving, close your eyes again. Choose interesting
music, preferably with a BEAT that you like.
Imagine you are completely alone.
Be in touch with how you FEEL.as intensely as you can.
Let the music move you.
Give yourself permission to move in any way you feel. Trust your body
to know how to move. Let it take over!
DON'T MOVE IF YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE IT. Be authentic to
yourself. It's OK to stop anytime no matter what pose
you are in.
Don't JUDGE any move - tell yourself whatever you do is
SURRENDER to whatever is happening - surrender to the music,
surrender to your body, surrender to your feelings, surrender to the
quiet space that comes and makes you feel utterly still even when
BE PRESENT in the moment, each moment. Don't think. If
you think you are off track.
If the music makes you feel a certain way and images arise
spontaneously that's OK because it's coming from your
right brain. Thinking is left brain and has no place in
dance. If you want to pursue dance, you might like to
consider doing additional exercises (yoga etc) to keep
your body strong, flexible and fit so you
can move your body in even more ways as the spirit of dance fills you.