A dance-based women’s wisdom tradition from indigenous Europe.
Weekly Classes and Seasonal Retreats and Celebrations
A joyful, rich sense of connection to community and place is the foundation for a creative, meaning-filled life lived in right relationship. Living Wisdom approaches music and dance as practices that can help us build this profound sense of belonging.
When we feel connected to our bodies and to the whole of life our bodies release all sorts of happy hormones. Our bodies are wonderful resources that can override our head-trips and open the door to intuitive wisdom. Feeling connected to history, culture, ancestors, and sacred story can give us a sense of meaning, courage, and hope. We come into our authentic power.
Our practice is guided by Laura Shannon’s pioneering research on the earth-based traditions from the Balkans and Asia Minor. The songs and dances are our guides and inspiration for finding a deepened sense of connection in community and for building an intimate relationship with the Minnesota landscape. There are so many old world songs about the cherished homeland. What would it be like to sing and dance with our home landscape with this same intimate love?
Newcomers are welcome any week. You can come with your aches and pains. People from any cultural background and all gender expressions are welcome. Please wear clothes that allow for freedom of movement and most importantly that you feel good in. Shoes are optional.
The Wisdom Dances practice has three branches: dance, song, and service – scroll down for more descriptions. Some people sing, some drum with the singers, some dance, some do everything, and some perform these songs and dances as ceremonies that bless the community.
Weekly Song and Dance Schedule
Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church,
Thursdays 6:30 – 8:00 p.m (Note special location for Water Blessing January 3)
Cost: $10 single class, $55 for 6 classes.
Thursdays 8:15-9:15 p.m.
Winter session, January 10 – March 28 (12 weeks), $75
Singing fee due at the beginning of the session. Payment plans can be arranged. You are welcome to come and test the waters any night for free to see if you want to join in.
Scroll down for additional descriptions of dance and singing practice.
Joining these classes and learning this practice of dancing has been one of the best gifts of my whole life. I’m so grateful for Emily and that I followed my heart to this!
Dancing into Belonging
The dance traditions from the Balkans and Asia Minor are like messages in a bottle offering us healing wisdom about community, sustainability, and connecting to place. This wisdom has been encoded in movement, and through movement we regain access to them as sacred texts.
You will learn how to “read” these dances and access their regenerative powers through an approach pioneered by the dancer, mythologist, and ethnographer Laura Shannon. With practice these powerful dance meditations generate a mix of mojo, life force, and passion that the Greeks call kefi (KEH-fee). We do this in a way that joyfully nourishes our bodies, affirms our relationship to each other, and honors our ancestors and the earth.
Outline of a typical evening of dancing
- Every class begins by collectively setting the intention to dance as a community-based sacred healing art.
- We begin with a gentle movement warm-up designed to integrate the body-mind and teach elemental movements from our dances.
- We use movement to do a community check-in
- We dance ancient ritual dances in a circle. Dancing in unison is so delicious for the body mind – check out this research.
- Our dancing generates warmth and vitality that is both physical and energetic. We practice attuning to this energy and the particular blessing it may bring our life each week by drawing Angel Cards.
- We use expressive movement to practice embodying the qualities of the angel from our card.
- We dance in celebration with each other, blending individual expression and the danced body-chant. This is usually the highlight of the class, where we draw out the best in each other.
- We conclude with a quiet meditative dance to harvest the energy of our dancing to send it as a blessing into the world.
Why dances from this part of the world?
It’s an East meets West experience. The Romani (Gypsy) people migrated out of India about 1,000 years ago and have spread around the world. Their dances reflect an Eastern world view of wholeness while also containing western influences. In the Eastern portions of Europe the Orthodox church was the dominant religion and, unlike the Roman Catholic Church and its witch hunts, the Orthodox church allowed village dancing to continue as a wisdom tradition. The Armenian dances featured in some classes also reflect an Eastern influence, especially with the arm gestures, because this region was part of the silk road.
These are Old Village Dances for Everybody, Including You
The most powerful dances for our spirits are also the simplest ones. They are a low to moderate intensity that activate the deeper intelligence of the body. These are dances that everybody in the village can join throughout their lives.
The dances are “speaking” to us about another way of being through another “language.” While the other world view is what we want to learn, that “otherness” can also tangle our feet and minds. This is part of learning and we all go through it. Beginners are always welcome. The repertoire of dances is purposefully limited so that you may become fluent as quickly as possible and by nourished by the wealth within these dances.
I’m having great fun attending your class and feel more energized in my life as a result! Just, thank you…!
Even when I am feeling so emotional about all the things happening in my life I can come to class and feel safe and I always leave feeling uplifted. I cherish the joy of being nurtured by the class.
The Song of Belonging
Singing begins by learning to make powerful sounds with your voice. In the Balkans they like to make all sorts of wild sounds that carry long distances and you too can learn to make these “force of nature” sounds.
Singing can be a journey towards resonating with the oneness as you learn how to make a group sound and to sing with the natural world. We sing both in unison and in harmony .
All of our songs celebrate the natural world – the rivers, harvest, stars, and plants that see us across thresholds. All of our songs are also for dancing.
Our songs are about our relationship to place – the water, plants and stars. Most of them are in Greek, Bulgarian or Turkish. Sometimes we write additional lyrics in English to sing in the same spirit to the specifics of our Minnesota home.
No experience necessary!
We are on a singing adventure of discovery together. Our group is made up of both people who don’t know how to read music and never sang before and professional musicians.
We also drum
Learning to accompany ourselves on frame drum gives us even more freedom to create our music wherever we go. We tapped into a long tradition of women drumming for themselves by receiving instruction in the frame drum in the summer of 2016. Incorporating drum accompaniment is part of the fabric of our song practice.
This is chocolate for your brain
I won’t lie: it is a challenge to learn a song in another language. But it’s so worth it. There are actually a couple learning curves: learning how to learn and the actual learning. When we sing in another language we almost always have someone record some pronunciation help for us. As a member of the group you have access to audio and PDF files that help. You are under no pressure to memorize anything (but it is more fun when you do).
We will be learning some new songs as a group and also continuing some songs that are in process. Don’t worry about not knowing everything – we wouldn’t expect that of you.
Outline of a typical evening of singing
- Warm-up of our body-mind
- Breathing exercises
- Vocal warm-ups
- Ensemble warm-up, exercises focused on attuning to our oneness of sound even when singing in harmony
- In depth song practice
- Review or quick practice of other songs
Consistent attendance makes a big difference for learning so I ask that you commit to the season from whenever you begin. Of course things come up and you might not be able to make every time.
Opportunities may arise for us to sing together in other settings (workshops, celebrations, or little festivals). It’s up to you if you feel like you’d like to join us for that.
From a participant in our summer of singing outside at sacred sites:
[This was} an incredible opportunity to connect – with nature, history, culture, creativity, and community. While the thought of singing outdoors in public gave me pause, I am so glad I joined this group. We met in a range of beautiful outdoor locations rich with history and the sights and sounds of nature, expanded our skills and knowledge by learning songs from a variety of cultures, cultivated fellowship, and celebrated the joy of being – all in one summer! Thank you Emily for guiding us on this joyous adventure.
Living in Service
I have found dancing and singing to be personally transformative, connecting me to life force that has steered me through health crisis and tough times. The many dance traditions for springtime, for bringing rain, or for healing point to the ability of dance and music to be transformative for the community.
Wisdom Dances performs ceremonies and dance in the community to restore our collective sense of belonging to each other. It is a form of sacred activism; how we experience belonging can help us reshape our neighborhoods, institutions and economy. We are transforming our world through collective joy.
Wisdom Dances currently performs BEE LOVE to reinvigorate our relationship with pollinators. Children of the River celebrates our relationship with water and water protectors. Look for future programs about community and hospitality.