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What is Sacred Dance

What is Sacred Dance?

by Anna Barton


Sacred Dance, as we know it in the Findhorn foundation, was born in 1976 when Peter Caddy, one of the Community’s founders, invited Professor Bernhard Wosien from Munich and his daughter Maria-Gabriele to share their knowledge of the western sacred dance traditions during the conference on European spiritual renewal.  Professor Wosien had been a dancer since his teens, beginning in classical ballet and becoming interested in traditional folk dance from European countries in his later years.  His interest in the various forms and symbolism of the movements led him all over Europe collecting dances and music from remote villages where dance was still very much a part of the life there, and learning the meaning and significance of the dances from his master who embodied the tradition transmitted through a line of teachers tracing directly back to Pythagoras.  He had been looking for a place where the spiritual essence of dance could be appreciated and where the traditions could be absorbed and used as the foundation for new creations.  At the Findhorn Foundation we were able to do that.


The Professor’s feeling was that traditional or folk dance was beginning to change and its roots were being forgotten.  Originally the whole village danced together for a purpose, to  celebrate a birth or marriage, to ask for rain for the crops, the give thanks for a good harvest, etc., but latterly the dances were being performed by young, beautiful dancers to demonstrate their culture to tourists and visitors to their countries.  One of Wosien’s wishes was to bring back a time when people realized the spiritual value of dancing together and for everyone to dance again, old and young alike.


He returned to the community nearly every year after that, bringing more dances, many of which he himself choreographed to classical music, for example Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Bohm’s Allemande and several Bach pieces.  He also created some dance rituals using traditional and newly created dances, poetry and prose, among which are : “Theseus and the Minotaur,”” the Hymn of Jesus” and “The Pentagon,” which were performed in the Universal Hall at the Findhorn Foundation.


He decided to call his dances “Sacred Dance” from the German “Helige Tanze,” but a few years later he was not sure whether sacred had been the right choice, as it has religious connotations and he had wanted to express the spirituality of the dances.  He suggested holistic healing but after so many years it was impossible to change the name and many people feel that the word “sacred” reminds them that the dances are not only a physical activity but an involvement of the mental and emotional bodies and help to bring about an alignment with the earth and spirit.


As Sacred Dance became more popular, many people decided to start teaching it in England changed the name to Circle Dance for various reasons.  The purpose also changed a little so if you ask twenty different Sacred/Circle dancers what it is, you would be quite likely to get twenty different definitions.


At the Findhorn Foundation, the purpose is to enjoy dancing together in a totally non-competitive way, to learn that it is possible for everyone to dance together, young and old alike, to feel self confident in a group that is supportive rather than critical and to be able to feel a contact with the earth, the spirit and each other through the different qualities of each dance.  It is also used as a tool to channel a healing energy for the dancers and for the rest of the planet.  We are not only learning dances as individuals, but joining together to create something extra on an emotional, mental and spiritual level.


Since its birth, Sacred Dance has touched thousands of people, and in spreading throughout the world has had different names, e.g., Circle Dance; it has also expanded into different purposes being used with children, with handicapped people, with the elderly, in hospitals and in churches, for celebration and for helping people find confidence in themselves with the support of their groups.


Written by Anna Barton.  An excerpt from her book “Circle Dance: Dancing the Sacred Way”