All life is a dance. There are many forms of dance. The movement of the atom is a dance. The universe is a dance. The entire cosmic manifestation is an extraordinary rhythm of dance. The divine rhythm has called the world into being. It is this rhythm that preserves the world and that guides it to the experience of perfection. The dance of Divinity is step by step an unfoldment of creation. -Paramahamsa Omkarananda Saraswati
Dance as Sacred Art
In ancient times dance was considered a sacred art. In India, this form of dance was performed by the temple dancers, with the aim of glorification of the Divine. These dances aimed to bring the experience of the Divine realisation to the performer and their audience. The dance was a form of prayer and offering to the divine. It was thought of as a Yoga, as it's ultimate aim was to bring union between the individual soul and the absolute, which is the aim of all Yoga.
Even today, the many forms of classical Indian dance still hold this ideal. It is not exclusive to Indian Classical dance, and examples of this form of movement is found throughout the world, in many cultures, religions, and indigenous tribal rituals.
Bringing this aspect of movement into conscious dance opens up the potential for dancers to explore their connection with the divine forces and find a repertoire of movements, gestures and attitudes in their dance that calls down the divine forces through the body and into ones life!
Moving the Creation
Invocatory movement offers the opportunity to dance a dance that springs from deep love and devotion. A way to experience our true nature and it's many forms and aspects. You may discover that you have been dancing like this already. Not necessarily knowing it was a form of movement. Many of us discover it intuitively through regular conscious dance practice.
Story, Mythology and Prayer
This style of movement includes the use of our imagination, body gestures, hand positions, attitudes, expression, enactment, and personal choreography. In this form we learn the art of story telling through movement. We allow our personal myths and prayers to come to life in a form of dance theatre. We invoke all the characters involved and embody their essence and energy in our movement. It is the closest conscious dance comes to performance. However the audience you are performing for is the Great Mystery.
3 ways to practice
Invoking something means to call upon something. To conjure it up. We use our dance as the tool of invocation in the same way people use prayer or sing devotional songs. There are three ways we can practice this form of movement.
The first way - Specific Invocation
The first way is to focus on the body, and consciously decide what our prayer is. What aspect of the creation do we wish to invoke in our dance?
It can be a prayer for peace or rain. An intention we are working with. A totem animal, a mountain, a tree, an ancestor, or an archetype. It could be an embodiment of an aspect of nature we wish to connect with or call into being. You can invoke anything you wish. Intention and feeling are key, along with focus and concentration.
Next we begin to choreograph movements of the body. Positions of the hands. Facial expressions. Specific repetitive steps and rhythms. Every little gesture and movement is imbued with deep meaning. Move and act as if you are the very thing your are invoking. Contained fully in these gestures. Some will come to you intuitively. You will know what they mean. Others you will create and put meaning to. The trick is for the gestures and phrases to carry meaning for you. We create invocatory gestures to open a metaphysical door, call the winds, bring protection, rewire our neural pathways, open the heart, etc. We build little phrases and begin to dance them. This then leads to choreographing a specific set of phrases together into a dance that completes the invocation.
If it was words it would be like this: I open the door...to my heart... and protect it ... as it steps towards... deep wisdom...Love.... and compassion. So seven little gestures or phrases put together to complete the invocation making a complete invocatory dance. It requires discipline to stick with a sequence of movement from beginning to end, once it has been worked out.
We also stay open to insight and slight variations and refinements that come into the sequence. Based on our intuition and feeling in each moment. Being choreographed, it has the additional effect of deepening our focus and concentration. Especially if the the sequence includes complicated foot work and hand gestures for example. Repetition of the dance regularly gives the invocation power. We embody this energy to the ultimate extent that when you dance a rain dance, it literally rains!
The Second Way - Spontaneous Invocation
The second way is the spontaneous way of quietening down. Being present and following the bodies movements and gestures. We pay attention to the positions of the hands. The way our feet are moving with the rhythms. We begin to listen into the dance. The aim is to understand what each gesture and movement is representing of our divine nature.
What are we praying or invoking when our fingers automatically take a certain shape or form? When our eyes look over to the left and we cock our head to the right? What happens when we become deeply entranced or concentrated by foot work that captivates our full attention and repeat it? So we begin to notice what part of our nature is expressing and therefore being invoked. What our movements are spontaneously invoking. This can be incredibly insightful.
The Third Way - Combining the two
The third way is to use a combination of the above two. Moving from specific choreographed steps into periods of wild abandon and back again. All the time we remain very conscious to the feelings and energies and intentions being invoked through our movement. Over time and with practice we build up a repertoire of invocatory movements and phrases. These can be then repeated with similar effect.
Dance as Spiritual Practice
All this talk about the Divine may seem like I'm propagating conscious dance as a religion, but I hope one can see conscious dance as a spiritual practice rather than a religion. Dancing is a universal birthright of all humans and complementary to all religions. It's aim is to provide tools for one to explore their own connection to spirit, God, the Divine, the higher self, the life force, the creation, the now, nature, or whatever you want to call it. Through ones own effort.
I consider conscious dance to be a Yoga, having the same ultimate aim as the temple dancers of ancient times, only more accessible to people of today. It just so happens that the journey to experiencing the ultimate union of the individual self with the absolute brings about many physical, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual benefits. Not to mention deeper awareness, compassion, empathy, and a more rounded education and development of the personality. People are free to use the practice for any of the above benefits without necessarily needing it to be to attain the ultimate. Lastly, if dancing helps, then by all means, dance!