The Rational Inquirer: Sacred Dance

by Bill Cantrell

Lately I have been checking out what’s happening around town in the arena of what I am going to call “Sacred Dance”. I use the term “Sacred Dance” to cover any form of dancing that is intended to have a spiritual, therapeutic, or meditative function. There are numerous other moving meditation practices available in town (such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong) but I am limiting this exploration to meditative forms involving dance.

Hippy Freestyle dancing has been around Bellingham since the 70’s, most notably at the long running “Un-Disco” venue at Fairhaven College Auditorium. Later, the Barefoot Boogie was a pretty big scene as a late-night, rave-like freestyle venue, usually held downtown. Richard Sands’ Purple Church is currently carrying the torch for Hippy Freestyle. On their Facebook page they list “weekly ecstatic dance” Fridays 8:30 – 10:00 pm at 1430 N. Garden. They have two guidelines 1) Dance however you wish and 2) No talking on the dance floor. Music played for the dances is presented as an eclectic mix of pop, African and world beat. The scene is very mellow and welcoming. By Donation.

Dances of Universal Peace (sometimes referred to as “sufi dancing”) have been held sporadically at various locations since the early 70‘s. The Center for Spiritual Living in Bellingham and Mount Vernon are hosting the Dances of Universal Peace these days.  The simple meditative group dances are accompanied by devotional songs and chants drawn from the word’s spiritual traditions. The dances were created by the American sufi mystic Ahmed Murad (Sufi Sam) in the 1960‘s. The dances are considered a form of contemplative prayer using movement, voice, rhythm and melody. Sitara (Suzanna) and Lowell (Jelaluddin) Lewis lead the Bellingham Dances on the 3rd Friday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the Center for Spiritual Living, 2224 Yew Street Road. No experience necessary, all abilities welcome. By donation. Dances are also held in Mount Vernon on the 1st Sunday of the month from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Center for Spiritual Living, 1508 N. 18th Street.

The evolution of group freestyle dancing these days seems to be going with Gabielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms® movement. The 5 Rhythms® is a facilitated “conscious dance“ practice based on the concept that everything (including us) is energy and moves in waves, rhythms and patterns. The five rhythms referred to in the title are: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. The 5 Rhythms® dance session proceeds through those five modes in the form of a wave starting with flowing, building in intensity to peak at chaos and closing with stillness. Roth presents the focus of the Wave as experiencing the body as a fluid entity and the outcome as discovering the feet and stopping holding the breath.

The venue for 5 Rhythms® in Bellingham is Presence Studio, 1412 Cornwall Avenue. Classes are Tuesdays with Scotty Lewis 7:30 – 9:30 pm, $12 at the door. Thursdays 7:15-9:15 pm with Jenny Macke. Sundays 10:30 am is a 5 Rhythms® based weekly community gathering to connect, practice and celebrate in dance. $10 drop-in. Presence Studio has a big and nice dance floor. Saturday sessions can have as many as 50 people. The dance floor is considered sacred space so no talking please. Jenny Macke also incorporates mindfulness movement as taught by the Open Floor school which is an evolution of Gabrielle’s work by her primary teacher trainers.

The Cherokee Dance of Life: Moving Meditation of the Four Directions is described as a Sacred Cherokee Dance for alignment, balance and prayer. The movement meditation is presented by Joe Asebedo on Tuesday mornings from 7:00 – 7:45 am at the Center for Spiritual Living, 2224 Yew Street Road. The class is held outside in fair weather.