Sacred Ritual Dance is a dynamic healing modality for body, mind, and soul.
Even better, as members of the African Diaspora, we don’t really have to “learn” Sacred Ritual Dance. It’s in us. While it’s helpful to have a guide or a mentor as we peel back the layers that have blocked us from manifesting this ancient knowledge, really, it’s already ingrained in our DNA.
Our connection to dance, and profound creativity within that sphere, is some of the hardest evidence that even though you can forcibly steal a people from their culture and scatter them all across the globe, you can never really steal the culture from the people. (Just take a look at The Body Temple’s Facebook posts during Black History Month is you need proof… or just love watching fly dance videos of Black people literally getting their lives!)
So, as you begin or deepen your own Sacred Ritual Dance practice, trust yourself. You and your ancestors got this! The following guidelines will help you pull out what’s already inside of you and get the most out of your individual connection to melanated people’s legacy of Sacred Ritual Dance.
Basic Dos and Don’ts to Guide Your Dance Rituals
Do: Set an intention
This is the basis of ritual. Do the work to set an authentic intention beforehand, and weave that intention into your dance space. You can do this energetically, or place physical reminders of it around the area you use for your ritual. While you’re dancing, hold the intention in your mind for as long as you need to, but when it’s time to let it go, LET IT GO. Trust that you’ve been heard, and let the dance take over.
Do: Consider Nature
This is helpful when doing your intention setting work. What is nature doing where you are? What is the season? What has the weather been like? What phase is the moon in? Setting an intention that is in alignment with the energy of nature is usually a good rule when engaging in any ritual. With Sacred Ritual Dance, it can be especially helpful, as dancing engages the body, which tends to align itself with nature anyway.
Do: Check Your Energy
Also helpful for setting intentions: examining what your particular energy is doing, releasing, or preparing for at a given point in time. Analyzing your astrological chart is a good way to do this. You can also employ lots of other methods. Various types of readings and consultations (with people that you trust) will do the trick. You can also go into meditation or engage dream wisdom to get the information you need.
Don’t: Stress Technique
As a dancer, I am trained to emphasize correct technique. As a lover of beauty, I have to admit, well-executed technique is pleasing to watch. BUT, as a healing dance practitioner, I cannot stress this enough: YOUR SACRED DANCE RITUAL IS NOT THE TIME TO WORRY ABOUT HOW YOU LOOK! If you want to learn a particular style or technique, take a dance class. During your ritual dancing, fluidity and freedom are key.
Do: Warm Up and Cool Down
This one is really just practical. Know that even in ritual dance, you need to take care of your body. Warm up and stretch before you start, and cool down afterward, to make sure don’t injure yourself.
Don’t: Wear Shoes
Free the feet! They are the physical foundation of your dance ritual. Connecting the soles of your feet with the floor or ground increases your balance, engages healing reflexology points, and helps you to feel your dance in a whole different way. It’s also much more likely that your ancestors danced barefoot than with shoes on. Taking off your shoes is one way to honor their method of healing dance traditions.
Do: Make It a Family Affair (but DON’T depend more on the energy of the circle than you do on your own)
There is so much beauty in dancing solo – just you, your ancestors, and your intentions. But getting your family, friends, or spiritual community involved can definitely take things up a notch! It is tradition for many African cultures across the Diaspora to engage healing dance rituals within the context of community. Get a taste of the energy that a circle of your people can create when going into ritual together, and it’s easy to see why. Just remember, though the energy of the group is a powerful catalyst for change, nothing is a substitute for you doing your own work.
These tips are based on ancestral wisdom, spiritual foundations, and common sense. But the most important thing is that you do you! Let your intuition be your guide, and go all in during your Sacred Ritual Dance practice. The vibes that you draw into your life as a result amaze you!
Dance! It’s in us!
Featured image by Leslie Ryann McKellar
Other photos courtesy of CreateHerStock and Unsplash