For thousands of years primitive people have used dance to celebrate events in their life. These included weddings, births, deaths, rites of passage for boys and girls, harvesting, the passing of seasons, the phases of the moon.
It was a natural way of being for them. They would often dance together naked, especially in the earlier periods of history. They came together as a tribe with a common desire to celebrate the sacredness of life. There was no competition or self-consciousness. There may have been some specific steps relevant to the event. But usually what mattered most was the feeling. The feeling of honoring the event. The dance was a tool, or vehicle, to express how profound the event was to the people.
Sometimes the dance would lead to a state of trance, and the ones who did not go into it would support those who did. The key here is support. Dance wasn’t merely a time of socializing or feeling good or getting physical, it was a shared holy event, where everybody supported each other in the celebration.
Another way this was done was when they decorated their body to symbolize the meaning of the dance and the event.
Body clay was especially common in Africa, and in a number of tribes, men would scratch designs on each other after the body clay was put on.
In many other cultures all around the world exquisite body paint may be used, often the designs came to them in dreams. Elaborate costumes were made, even the pieces used bore special spiritual significance. It was quite common for many members of the tribe to sit around together to do beading, etc.
The creativity expressed in this time was honoured, respected, encouraged.
Creativity was also combined with dance when men would return from a victorious hunt or battle, they would put on the skin of the prey and make the movements and sounds of the animal, everybody else helping to re-enact the scene. The same would be done for the battle. Here again support would be given by other members re-enacting various characters from the story.
Dance and Creativity was also good medicine. Often the Medicine Man of a tribe, connected with Spirit, would get messages from his observations of animals and/or the weather. Since language was not so developed then, they would Become the Animal through costume, body paint, movement, sounds. Each Animal and its depictions would represent different meanings. This would be a very powerful way of conveying messages as the theatrics would awe the viewers and the meanings would go directly into their subconscious.
This was greatly supported as the rest of the tribe knew to respect the Medicine Man and their ways, as they were their only link to the Mysterious Divine.
Present time: So much fear, shame, low self esteem, greed has distanced people from all of this. The terrifying fear of making ourselves vulnerable stops most people from dancing, unless its in structured classes or under the influence of something.
The expression of how we really feel has been replaced by expressing how we think we should be heard – fear of losing our job or partner, fear of looking like a fool and not being respected.
So now most people won’t just get up and dance. Yet its such an important thing to do. Especially in the spontaneous, authentic move-how-you-feel way. Because so much mental dis-ease has created so much physical dis-ease. There are an increasing number of reported back pains or injuries. Repressed expression leads to intense tension of the muscles, stiffness of the joints.
But when people dance as a way of release, in a raw, primal way, they really go deep into their body to access and free these built-up tensions and dis-eases.
They feel good about themselves and their body. Especially when they’ve learnt to dance in their own way, how they feel, not by rote step-by-step. This is Self Esteem from Self Expression.
When we dance the 5 Elements we are reminded of various aspects of ourselves.
Earth: Feeling grounded, stable, secure, solid foundation.
Fire: Healthy aggression, Chaos, Release.
Air: Light, Playful.
Water: Peaceful and Sensual
Spirit: Sense of Expansion and our Connection with the Divine.
To bring people back to the power, sacredness and innocence of the older days of creative celebration, we combine creativity with the dancing. This also helps to have a deeper feeling of that dance, a closer connection to that Element.
For example, to represent Earth we bend our knees low, stomp our feet, bend forwards and become the gorilla to feel our groundedness. We crawl silently, low to the ground, stalking our prey as the black panther, to feel our patience. But if we start with putting clay on our face and arms, scratch sacred designs into it, we enter into an ancient realm in which we feel the tribalness of Earth, we truly feel our primal self ready to dance.
This is an awesome experience for people as its unfamiliar to them so they experience it with a child’s wide-eyed sense of wonder, yet they must have a genetic memory of it because they respond to it so willingly.
The masculine force comes out so easily in men and women when they paint on red body paint warrior designs in fire, or splatter the paint everywhere to help express their aggression.
For Men Only: There’s an entirely different experience when just men dance together in the men’s only program. So many men feel intimidated by women’s easy ability to express themselves (talk about their feelings to their girlfriends, dance on the dance floor, etc). So, when they are in a group with them they tend to hold back. They also tend to hold back in the aggression part of it, because for a while now they lost their sense of masculinity, their identity as a man has become confused. Can they be strong, confident and take the lead, or do they need to be soft, gentle, considerate, ask first, be compassionate? Of course, its great to be able to do both in harmony, but the road to get there can be a confusing and difficult one. So, this confusion leads to the uncertainty of how much they can express themselves in a group with women.
But, get them with just other men, and all those tensions and uncertainties are gone! It is such a thrilling feeling to roar as loud and savagely as you can with other men, to let your rage fully out with your whole body and all the ferocious ways it can move, in a healthy way.
And I am supremely honored to bear witness to men who get into their sensuality, gentleness, with, for example, self-massage and flowing movements of the pelvis.
It’s a beautiful gift for me, as a man, becomes I feel like I’m truly coming home and experiencing a real tribal bonding. In this day and age, that level of raw honesty is rare indeed, and I am eager to share it as much as I can!
So, my hope for anybody reading this is that they may feel inspired to open themselves up to be even more authentic in their expression, to move their body, to let loose your creativity.