I don't think our community (or society) understands the concept of sacred. I think it's something that even those of us who talk about it a lot, can lose touch with what it means - to ourselves, to others. Sacred dance is a topic that makes a lot of people squirm in their seats, recalling poorly-done "goddess" performances, or brushes with cult-like activity. Something of "the other", not related to our modern-day society, our daily lives.
When I put together the concept of Tapestry, I subtitled it "Weaving Together Dance Traditions and the Living Sacred." Thinking back, I did a lot of the organizing and descriptive parts of creating the event practically on autopilot. When I just went back to look at the website, wondering what I had said that included "sacred", I was rather surprised to see it leaping off the page in that particular way. I don't even remember writing this part from the about section "Our goal is give students an opportunity to expand not only their knowledge and practice of dance traditions, but to explore the sacred and spiritual concepts related to these traditions, and what they mean to us as modern, global citizens. The entire program is designed to give students a full-bodied experience with comparative instruction in dance movement, music, song, history, and ritual - as well as providing an enriching communal environment for the length of the program."
But write it, I did. And in retrospect, I believe we more than accomplished our goal, we hit it out of the park. But I digress....back to the sacred.
We worked with a multitude of cultures at Tapestry - all sorts of religious paths, pantheons and belief systems that these dances, practices, rituals emerged from - but what made it truly sacred is not a connection or dedication to some distant divine being, but the connection we made with ourselves and each other.
Sacred dance is not about being holier-than-thou, or being ungrounded - in fact, it's about getting to the roots of yourself - letting go of ego, and tapping into what makes you, you. Forget about being a "great" priestess, artist, dancer, shaman, performer, teacher - that all has to go out the window. In order to accomplish any sort of "great", you have to start from the ground up. Break down your own misconceptions about yourself, about others, and just let go of it all.
Our ancestors have been doing these dances and rituals for hundreds, if not thousands of years - every culture has them in some form. The reason they have been done for so long is not just tradition, but because THEY WORK, regardless of who or what you believe in. We get hung up in all of the trappings of modern society, all of our manufactured cures and medication - we think that just a pill will cure anything, without ever examining the underlying causes of our physical, emotional, and mental maladies. But humankind has been surviving through these things for thousands of years through the power of dance, music, ritual.
After this weekend, I am left wondering what impact sacred dance would have on the modern bellydance community, if more dancers actually tried it - oriental and tribal. I wonder how many egos would be left in the dance, how many more individuals vs. clones would emerge, how many would dance even better? How many would abandon the dance all together? How would how dancers treat each other change?
It's worth thinking about it I believe.