My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Humans are diverse creatures. We live in many different places, and our history spans thousands of years, across thousands of cultures. Throughout this there are a few universal things which have appeared in all known cultures: language, spirituality, music, and DANCE. The details vary, but these things are part of what it means to be human.
Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance explores the intersection between two of these: Dance and Spirituality. Part One, “In the Beginning Was the Dance,” goes back in time to the birth of dance. It covers dancing goddesses, dancing priestesses, dance as a form of theology, the role of dance in women’s culture, and the symbolism in dancers’ garb. Dancing is inherently female in its origins, many dances were meant to be seen by women only as initiation into womanhood rites and childbirth. Just as men used initiation ceremonies to welcome a new male into the community, women have always used dance to celebrate the feminine.
Part Two presents “Modern Sacred Dance Today.” It begins by showcasing modern sacred dancers like Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis and sacred dance forms. Special purpose dances include the Moon Dance, Sacred Circle, Serpent Dance, Lamentation Dance, and Drum Dance, each is covered in its own chapter.
Following comes the chapters on immanence and transcendence, followed by a discussion of elemental dances. The mirror dance promotes understanding between two people. The book concludes with keys for accessing spirituality through dance.
The supporting material really makes this book come alive. There are many exquisite full-color photographs of dancers, along with historical images like cave paintings and carvings. At the back you’ll find generous resources on sacred dance, extensive chapter notes, a fascinating bibliography, and a handy index. The result is something of a coffee-table book, something of a reference text, something of a dance manual, and altogether a great read.
Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance delves into an area that touches many religions. It’s a wonderful addition to any personal library, or for the cultural scholar. Dancers will find it especially interesting, but it’s delightful for everyone else as well.