Older Than “Old School”: Dance as Healing is an Ancient Holistic Practice

I’m not making this up.

It’s not a gimmick.

It’s not a marketing ploy.

And it’s not just some free-floating, pseudo-spiritual, “wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-life-worked-this-way,” New Age experiment.

When I say that Sacred Ritual Dance is a dynamic healing methodology for the mind, body, and soul, I’m telling you what I know.

As a dancer, I’ve known this in my soul since birth, and in my mind for many years.

What’s more, scores of cultures across the continent of Africa, throughout the diaspora, and wherever you find melanated and/or Earth-loving peoples have practiced dance as sacred ritual for healing for thousands of years.

This is documented fact.

I have felt a strong urge to learn about these cultures and rituals for quite some time, and am grateful to be able to share the beginnings of my research with you.

In honor of Black History Month, I’m highlighting cultural and healing dance rituals from across the African Diaspora on The Body Temple Facebook page– a different one every day – as well as some of the Black dancers whose contributions have helped the descendants of Africans who were enslaved reclaim their embodied dance heritage.

Here’s a sample of the little-known information I’m sharing with our Facebook community:

Lila/Derdeba, danced by the Gnawa of Morocco

“The term “Gnawa” refers firstly to a North African ethnic minority that traces its origins to West African slaves and soldiers… Thus, like the term “African-American,” Gnawa refers to a group of people whose ancestors came from diverse regions of Africa but took on a collective identity in exile….

The second use of the term “Gnawa” refers to the people who participate in the musical and ritual tradition of the lila (Arabic “night”) or derdeba ceremony….

The lila is a rich ceremony of song, music, dance, costume, and incense that takes place over the course of an entire night, ending around dawn. An explicit goal of the lila is to allow participants to negotiate relationships with their melk (pl. mluk). The melk is an abstract entity that gathers a number of similar jnun (genie spirits). The ritual enables participants to enter the trance state of jadba, in which they may perform startling and sometimes spectacular dances. It is by means of these dances that participants negotiate their relationships with the mluk either placating them if they have been offended or strengthening an existing relationship….

The Gnawa… begin the lila by remembering, through song and dance, the Gnawa of times past, their lands of origin, the experiences of their slave ancestors, and their tales of abduction, sale, separation and loneliness, and ultimately redemption.”

excerpt from “The Gnawa and Their Lila,” by Timothy Fuson on sonispheric.net

Dance to heal. Dance to remember. Dance to redeem our history.

It’s in us.

Happy #BlackHistoyMonth ❤️🖤💚

I am so, so grateful to be doing this work. Every day, I am floored by how relevant these rituals are to a world that perpetually dismisses them. Even more, I am pulled forward on my path by the knowledge that reviving the essence of these dances, in a way that is authentic and relevant to the culture of us DAEUS folks ( DAEUS stands for Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States), could be… well, not to be dramatic about it… but it could be a game-changer.

Just check out the Facebook Page to see what I mean. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can embody the principles of these healing dances to better heal ourselves and our communities.

And if you’re looking to start doing this sort of embodied spiritual work in your own life right now, here’s the perfect way to start your journey: the #DanceEveryDay 21-Day Intentional Renewal Challenge.


Starting on February 15, 2018 (the New Moon), we will commit to 21 days of healing, releasing, manifesting, and forward progress, using dance as our primary energetic tool.

During the challenge, we’ll commit to dancing for 15 minutes a day, every day, in service of our holistic wellness. As extra incentive, I’ll also be sharing 7 technique tutorial videos from my archives, as well as and lots of other content to support you as you journey deeper into your body and spirit.

Consider it, sis.

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