A circle of 16 women. A simple altar in the centre, with candles, fragrant red roses in jars, and precious stones. All laid down on an ochre silk scarf. The drummer lifts a frame drum to her chest. Slow and regular beats. The women pick up the pulse of the rhythm with their feet, and soon each moves, in her unique way. Minutes pass and some become back-up singers to the drummer, who is singing in a language no one understands. Her intonations sound indigenous to North America.
Shyness drops away, and four women break the circle and create another, closer to the altar. The drummer joins them. She cajoles with shining eyes, one woman at a time, to bring out what needs expression, in that moment, in the here and now. The women in the outer circle watch on, smiling as their more energetic companions in the centre rise to the challenge. Wild, sensuous, jerky, hopping, all with laughing eyes. Anything goes, here in the space where they’re unshackled from the ‘should’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of ordinary lives.
The rhythm shifts. Faster. The drummer follows one of the dancing woman in the inner circle. Both have anklets with bells, adding chimes to their pounding feet. The drummer sings with an urgency that only she and the dancer seem to understand. And yet, the dancer appears reluctant to do what is being asked of her. Even though she looks graceful, moving her hands like butterflies dancing in the summer sunshine, the other women sense she’s trying to stop her body from birthing something suppressed, all her life. But the drummer doesn’t give up. She pounds the frame drum, and some might say, appears to be chasing the fast- moving dancer.
Suddenly, the dancer gives in. She turns around and faces her chaser, tears in her eyes. She implores, ‘No, no… please, I can’t.’ The drummer’s eyes soften. She knows the dancer is not speaking to her. The dancer looks down at her feet. When she feels the rootedness of her feet, body stops shaking and the tears vanish. She closes her eyes, and her palms pressed together, rise slowly above her head.
When the dancer’s eyes open again, the drummer drops to her knees.
The other women see the drummer low down on the tiled floor, eyes brightened by awe. One glance at the petite dancing woman and they understand. She has transformed into a dancing Goddess. Her face has the lustre of a heroine from a 1930’s black and white movie. And her eyes! They’ve never seen such eyes. The radiance emits a fierceness that illuminates the whole room. The women dancing in the inner circle scatter and move back to the wider circle.
The drummer stands up quickly and starts singing.
‘Thig- daa- daa – digge –digge thig- daa daa…’
The dancing Goddess catches on and moves like a kathak dancer. And yet, nothing in the room feels like a dance recital. As her feet and hands flow gracefully and gently, her eyes reflect a wild, fearless presence which, paradoxically is compassionate and beautiful. Fearless Love, is how some of them might describe it.
The woman stops dancing and becomes an actress in theatre. She picks up a bow and arrow that appears to be lying in front of her. She lifts the bow and pulls the string, with the arrow aimed at the drummer. She pauses, eyes focussed, and then slowly moves the bow away from the drummer. Her target is the open door to the room, looking out onto ancient beech trees. She pulls the string with all her might and the arrow shoots out of the room.
In that moment, a different energy bursts through, like the sun escaping out of a total solar eclipse. The dancing Goddess smiles, delighted that her task is complete. The arrow she shot has taken with it, the stale, pointless emotions and feelings that 16 women have shed. All that no longer serves has transmuted to Light.
The wild, sensuous, jerky, and hopping dance moves return and the room is glowing with a new- found freedom. Some women barely move, eyes closed in deep meditation. Anything goes, because each woman understands, in her own way, the sacredness of the experience. As for the petite dancer who becomes the Goddess: This experience is life changing.
It’s always hard to return to the ordinariness of ‘normal life’ after a powerful retreat where the Divine Feminine is awakened. I always miss the other women I’ve forged deep connections with. I yearn to return to a time when women lived in villages, where they gathered in circles, and when their sacred work was done, they wove all that they learnt and experienced into the fabric of community living.
It’s been over a month since the retreat in Southern France where I shared this experience with 15 other women. This time, I’ve made a promise to myself. I’m not going to return to the suburbs and hide what I learned. By feeling the power of the Divine Feminine through dance, I know it’s time to share this with others. When we ‘Dance for Mother Earth,’ we remember our sacred duty: That our bodies carry the power of the Feminine. We know The Way back to Love. We know a way to stop the destruction that humanity has inflicted on Mother Earth.