The Dance of Life
The Dance of Life is a ritual dance to the 4 directions was taught to me at Camp Winnarainbow by Txi Whiz in 1984.
The essence of the dance is to face each direction, starting first with the East, then South, then West, then North, present oneself to each direction and transfer the energies of that direction through one’s heart to the opposite direction
In this dance, the dancer is aligning themselves with the archetypal energies of the directions, and flowing with those energies, in essence, becoming one with them.
The centering movements are methods to align body and spirit with the direction that you are facing, so that when you are ready to present yourself to the direction, which really means ready-fully open-ready to receive, and transfer that energy. You might ponder what are the metaphysics, what might be taking place when you transfer energies from one of the cardinal directions, feel the energies flow through your heart releasing said energies to the opposite direction. And what it might be to do this with all four cardinal directions as the dance involves transferring the energies of the 4 directions through one’s heart to the opposite direction, the east to the west, the south to the north and so forth until you return to your starting point, facing east.
The directions all have specific energies, and each culture has their own interpretations. I was taught that
-the East is where the sun rises, illumination, where life begins
-the South is Grandmother stories, seeds of good causes, planting and gathering.
-the West is where your life is headed, where the sun sets, where the ancestors live
-the North is where ancient spirits live
The mechanics of the dance:
These explanations will make much more sense if one watches the accompanying video so that you can see the motions.
-one presents oneself to that direction. step heart side foot/leg forward, soft lunging open and forward, arms outstretching, weight on the front foot, , torso /arms open to the sky
-one inhales the energy of that direction into one’s being as one reverses the lunge bringing in the arms and shifting weight towards the back foot
– weight even on both legs as one transfers the energy, through one’s heart while pivoting the body 180 degrees). The pivot starts before and ends after one’s weight is centered.
– offering it (exhaling) to the opposite direction. Heart side foot/leg steps forward, soft lunging open and forward, arms opening/outstretching, weight on the front foot, torso/arms open to the sky
-Then one brings the energy of that direction (inhaling) into one’s being, shifting weight towards back foot, straightening one’s body, pivoting feet naturally 90°, thus facing the next direction while exhaling the energy to the center of the earth as arms hands extend downwards towards the ground.
For example: to present oneself to the East, take (inhale) East’s energy into one’s heart and to offer it (exhaling) to the West, then taking (inhaling) the energy of the West into one’s heart, offering that energy (exhaling) to the ground facing the South.
Centering-Becoming present in the Moment- Movements.
When one faces each direction, one does a series of centering movements twice, first heart side (left) than repeating the movements starting with the other side (right). Then one presents oneself to that direction by stepping forwards with the heart side foot/leg creating a wide stance with one’s arms outstretched towards the direction. The centering motions are ways for you to bring your body into harmony with the energies of sky and earth, and all that lives in between.
There are 5 centering motions:
Wing: Long arm extended, sweeping forwards in a large circular motion going up over the zenith and back behind you then sweeping back past the leg
Over the big mountain (rock): Just as the arm finishes its’ sweep, one swings the opposite foot/leg up and over an imaginary mountain or big rock, planting it back on the ground in a now wider stance
Tree: One’s rounded arms form the shape of a tree trunk at upper chest level, then one lowers the arms as if sliding down the trunk of the tree until one transforms into a tree with arms outstretched downwards, legs quasi straight with hips high and torso leaning over and downwards.
Earth to Sky. One slowly moves hands and arms in an upwards motion as if drawing earth energy into one’s body, filling up the entire body with earth energy then as hands reach chest one rotating hands (thumbs moving inwards). Then as one continues the hands motion upwards, exhaling the earth energies towards the sky, hands keep going up. With arms extended, hands to the sky there is a moment of emptiness having exhaled all the earth energies.
Sky to Earth. One reverses the previous movement, inhaling the energy of sky into one’s body as one lowers hands/arms, filling up the entire body with sky energy as the arms reach chest level, then exhaling the energy of the sky into the earth as the arms/hands extend back towards the earth
Txi Whiz explained that she had learned it from an indigenous woman (whose name escapes me,) who may have been from the Cherokee Nation. 20 Years later, Txi said that she wasn’t so sure about the authenticity of the dance, or the story explaining it as a sacred dance for peace and harmony that the nation had chosen to share with the world as the world needed it. In between the initial teaching and the disclaiming, I had been taught a slightly different version of the dance from another person with a similar story. What was different between the two versions of the dance were the centering movements that one does before presenting oneself to the direction. The transferring of the energies of the 4 directions was the same in both versions of the dance.
Whether or not this dance is ‘authentic,’ there is no doubt that it is quite a wonderful dance that honors the 4 directions, and puts the body/mind/spirit in tune with the energies of our metaphysical world. As you step outside the thinking mind and tune into the intuitive energies flowing, you are tuning into and honor all the energies that flow through and around us.