Reflecting on the themes from the first ten years of Wisdom Dances has brought me a lot of joy. As this series of blog posts comes to a close, I want to share with you how the name Wisdom Dances itself has come to take on greater meaning for me. Wisdom Dances began with the desire to give life to women’s ritual dances from the Balkans, Greece, and Asia Minor. I sensed that these dances could teach me how to become a wise grandmother. These dances teach how to be in community and what sustainability really feels like. They cultivate an experience of felt understanding, a deep inner knowing. Because these dances had a special power to awaken wisdom within, the name Wisdom Dances felt right. I also liked that Wisdom Dances could have a double meaning, suggesting that Wisdom (n) dances (v).

I wasn’t sure what Wisdom was, but it rang true. Over time I’ve come to appreciate that Wisdom Dances is as much about wisdom as it is about dance.

Wisdom can mean many things. There is the wisdom of old age, or the wisdom of intellectual understanding becoming in-the-bones knowing. There is also a larger definition of Wisdom, which, in the words of Cynthia Bourgeault, is the “science of spiritual transformation.”

photo by Greg Rakozy

At first I was surprised by her use of the word “science,” which makes me think of physics, chemistry, and biology. But science more broadly, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines science as knowledge “based on observation, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of phenomena.”

There are patterns in spiritual practice that can be observed. In fact, Bourgeault writes that “no matter which spiritual path you pursue, the nuts and bolts of transformation wind up looking pretty much the same: surrender, detachment, compassion, forgiveness.”

Women’s Ritual Dances as a Wisdom Tradition

Laura Shannon observes that “for thousands of years, the patterns and movements of traditional ritual dances have encoded information in non-verbal, symbolic ways, passing on wisdom through the joyful experience of collective movement. For this reason, I see these dances as a kind of women’s mystery school.”

Photo by Heidi Mae Niska

I have dedicated the past ten years to making accessible the wisdom encoded in women’s ritual dances. This is not a dance fitness class! Each class becomes a sacred ground for engaging the body, mind and spirit. Because the dances contain wisdom for moving through both the seasons of the year and the seasons of life, we developed many seasonal dance celebrations.

Our annual dance cycle includes:

  • Mid-January water blessing
  • Baba Marta Day celebration at the beginning of March
  • Spring Equinox Celebration
  • Earth Day Celebration
  • Mid-Summer Celebration
  • All Soul’s Day Celebration of the Dark Mysteries
  • Winter Solstice Celebration

Newcomer students need to experience a cycle of the annual celebrations in order to get a full picture of the mysteries contained in the dances. It is necessary to dance through the entire dance cycle for two to three years before one can begin to internalize the teachings.

The Wisdom of Qigong

Qigong is an ancient science of transformation. Because of it’s focus on physical as well as spiritual healing, it has an extremely well developed metaphysical base of knowledge. Master Lin created Spring Forest Qigong to make that knowledge accessible, practical, and effective.

I didn’t set out to be a qigong healer or teacher when I began Wisdom Dances. But I find qigong’s healing power irresistible.

Healing Waters Qigong at Lake Hiawatha Park, 2018, photo by Emily Jarrett Hughes.
Offering water blessed by the Healing Waters Qigong Practice Group to Lake Hiawatha, 2017, photo by Sue Cochrane.

Qigong is my most intimate teacher of how Wisdom works. Laura Shannon taught me to approach women’s ritual dances as tools for healing and transformation. The more I know about how healing and transformation works from my study of qigong, the more I’m able to activate these qualities in the dances. Qigong has been an invaluable resources for “cracking the code” and accessing the information that has passed on entirely within symbols in the oral tradition.

Wisdom’s Nature is a Dance

Transformation is always a bit of a mystery – that’s why humans can’t stop studying it. Where we are stuck in life or most embroiled in conflict, that is often where we most long for transformation. Wisdom teaches that transformation does not happen by “winning” some battle of the will or on the battlefield. It comes through a mysterious presence of a third, reconciling force.

Embroidery representing the harmonization of opposites.

Wisdom teaches us how to neutralize the tension between our motivation and our resistance and find a way forward. This is a three way dance with Mystery.

Wisdom itself seems to dance through time. Bourgeault observes there are “mysterious gaps in the linear story of Wisdom. It seems to go underground for a while; one loses the thread. Then, in ways inexplicable to linear causality, it pops up again. It re-creates itself over and over, so it seems, in the hands and hearts of those who have been taught (or discovered on their own) how to listen and see. It never really goes away, and it always comes back in a fresh new form, customized to the conditions of the world.”

Wisdom Dances is a proclamation, “Wisdom dances!” Wisdom emerges through dancing with it. Theologian Nathan Mitchell wrote, “Wisdom is not something haves impart to have-nots. It arises from mutuality, from dialogue and exchange, from listening with the ear of the heart.

Photo by Kelechi Uchegbu

Let your life be a dance with Wisdom. It is a dance of joy, healing, and transformation.

Sunday July 17: Mid-Summer Anniversary Party

We will celebrate the height of summer with an evening of dancing, live music, feasting and working with plants. This year’s celebration will have extra zest as we also celebrate the ten year anniversary of Wisdom Dances. There will be special treats, a special program, additional musicians and merriment. The Mid-Summer Celebration is a relaxed, joyful day, concert and dance party open to all who want to participate or bask in the glow as an observer. Sunday July 17, 2022. Learn more.

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