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. After a series of centering movements, you present yourself to the direction, then inhale the energies of that direction into your being, transfers them through your heart and exhales them to the opposite direction, before re-centering as you face the next 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 the energies of the directions.
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 transfers energies from one of the cardinal direction, to flow through yourself, through your heart, and to release 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, take a step forward with the heart side foot/leg , 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 ones being, bringing in the arms as reverse the lunge and shifting weight towards the back foot
– transfers the energy, through one’s heart while pivoting the body 180 degrees), weight even on both legs
– 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 as arms hands extend downwards to the earth.
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, and standing in place, facing the South offering that energy (exhaling) to the ground.
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 placing the heart side foot/leg forward creating a wide stance and outstretching one’s arms. The centering motions are ways for you to bring your body into harmony with the energies of sky and earth, and all that lives inbetween.
There are 5 centering motions:
Wing: Long arm extends forward, then up over and behind and sweeping back past the leg in a large circular motion
Over the big mountain (rock): One swings the opposite foot/leg up and over an imaginary mountain or big rock
Tree: One’s rounded arms form the shape of a tree trunk and one lowers the arms as if sliding down the trunk of the tree until one becomes the 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 ones body, filling up the entire body with earth energy then as hands reach chest one rotates hands (thumbs moving inwards) before beginning to stretch/extend ones arms upwards until they are fully extended to the sky. One inhales the energy of the earth as one brings the arms up to chest level, straightening the body at the same time, then as one extends arms/hands upwards, one exhales the earth energy to the sky.
Sky to Earth. One reverses the previous movement, inhaling the energy of sky into one’s body as one lowers 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 transfering 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 steps outside the thinking mind to tune into the intuitive energies flowing through you, I have no doubt that it is tuning into and honoring all the energies that flow through and around us.