Reflections on dance, poetry and the sacred

I recently read an article entitled “Show me in movement what you find sacred”. At least I read the heading several times and ended up in tears every reading. Around the same time I was indulging my love of dance by attending a variety of performances as part of the Tempo Auckland Dance Festival. I went on my own to “Angels with Dirty Feet” – a dance theatre production choreographed by Raewyn Hill. Raewyn is a Wellington based choreographer. Her company Soapbox Productions had produced this work based on Raewyn’s drive to say something about drug addiction. And say something she did to me. Tears again during the performance and then I sobbed my way home in the car. Not the safest way to get home! The next night I went again determined to watch with ‘detachment’, to see if I could work out what moved me so much and why yet more tears around dance and life and living.

I have no personal connection with drug addiction so why the deep response? As a dancer was pulled and flung between four others holding long stretches of fabric I could identify patterns of addictive behaviour in myself in the being pushed and pulled by the people and society around me. I could barely sit in my seat as I watched. As a woman in middle age wanting/needing to take a break I could feel the addiction to ‘keeping going’, ‘keeping working’, surfacing as the story unfolded. I have hungered to be cared for in the achingly beautiful way the dancers gathered each other up, school chairs and all.

I observed how addictions or addictive type behaviours can creep up on us – yet how powerfully the sacred pulls us too. What was sacred in the dance was demanding attention from the sacred within me.

I dance because I have to. I dance because I am danced through. I dance as a restorative when I have been stuck too long in my intellect. I dance whatever shows up in response to the music. And when I can’t dance for real I dance in my soul. I experience life and my living as a dance of being and becoming.

For me my spirituality needs to be embodied in action, in movement that expresses the sacred for me. In a way of living that is alive and in action aligned with the woman I experience myself to be. So to dance whether literally or within unsticks me when I feel grabbed by patterns of addictive behaviour or stuckness.

The final image for me from the dance is the dancers all coming toward the front of the stage. Each looks like an ungainly, stunted bird moving in this exquisite roll of movement; so ugly and so unutterably beautiful – the essence of sacredness as a human being.
In a recent song of the Finn Brothers “Gentle Hum”, the opening lines are, “this bird has to sing, my heart has to follow …” And so it was for me. Watching those birds come toward me, moving their song, my heart opened and followed.

As for all the crying – well I seem to have phases of needing to, as a softening influence, as a call to attention to my spiritual being. I feel reassured by these words from Rumi – “This rain weeping and sun-burning twine together to make us grow. Keep your intelligence white-hot and your grief glistening, so your life will stay fresh. Cry easily like a little child.”

My life feels fresher for the last few weeks of crying and singing and crying some more and dancing and of being in action in my way. So I show by the movement of my life that which I find sacred. “When I dance each step as it is, I join the symphony of life.” (Unknown)

Arohanui Kerry-Ann