Yoga and the Sacred Dance


I was squandering time on Facebook the other day and I came across an article which was basically begging dancers to STOP posting youtube videos of themselves doing choreographed ‘Yoga’ as it’s narcissistic.. Well… Yes… I absolutely get that. And there is a culture of Lululemon clad carb avoiding Stepford Yoginis out there for sure.. I’ve relaxed my attitude to that of late. I have come to think that actually who cares what motivates someone? Is it up to any of us to judge? The only thing that really matters is that someones on that mat, getting into their breath, getting into their practice. If someones peachy little butt or washboard abs make you scream “THATS SO SHALLOW!!!!” then perhaps my friend, you have your own stuff to overcome… It’s all temporary anyway, abs and all…

However, sucking in stomachs, pouting at the camera and all that jazz aside there is another kind of dance. I have been attending Burlesque performances over the past couple of years. Not ‘Pussycat Dolls’ style stuff. Oh No. Shakti in action. Femininity unemcumbered. And I designed a workshop called ‘Burlesquasana’ purely for Burlesque performers. As the tradition of Burlesque arose from satire. From this glorious topsy turvydom of mocking the status quo that to me resonates with the teachings of Tantra. Of embracing opposites…

Yoga is a way of taking the power back. Yoga helps you see yourself as you really are and figure out what your true path is, whatever that is. Times have changed. People haven’t. And the revolution’s still happening.

It starts with acceptance. Accept where you are, how you feel, every bit of it, good or bad. No judging. No editing. No excuses. As liberation has its roots in acceptance. Yoga is one of the expressions of a philosophy known as non-duality. That is the simple idea that when what you have is the opposite of what you want, it creates misery. So although you may have heard stuff about Tantra being all about sex, actually a huge amount of Tantric practice is focused on overcoming aversions. Basically if you have ‘fear and loathing’ in your mind and your behaviour then you are never really free. Like the way you feel if you are bullied at work, or the sickness you go through when your ex parades his new partner around.

When events outside of you rule your feelings then you are like a little sea horse clinging desperately to seaweed, using up nearly all of your life force just trying not to get swept away. Ruled by fear. Especially fear of loss and fear of death And so tantric practitioners in India were known for sleeping in graveyards with corpses. Breaking taboos. Eating faeces. Facing their fears and breaking them down. You don’t have to go sleep in a graveyard to adopt this Tantric approach to your own problems. Try facing and accepting them – drawing them in not pushing them away. Not to indulge them but to understand them. As I write this I think of that saying ‘Keep Your friends close and your enemies closer’. And so you may be wondering what this has to do with dance, or performance art?

Well, in these teachings our mindsets, our thoughts, our experiences, expectations, beliefs and habits are NOT separate from our bodies. Our bodies are like a solidified reflection of everything we think and believe. Did you know your body can’t lie? That’s why customs officials have an uncanny knack of picking out drug smugglers in airports- its no coincidence. Police officers are often trained in reading body language too. We can only really lie with words as our bodies speak their truth all the time. And so, if you are a performance artist then the system of Yoga can work for you as a way of getting to know yourself better and then picking the right dance, the right mode of expression, that is unique to you, because when you live your own truth, express your own truth, no apologies, that truly is something worth watching. And that is not pouting for a youtube video its mesmerizing in its own right. And it is peculiarly inspiring to all that witness it.

On my first trip to India I took some dance classes with the Bharatnyam dancer Vasundhara Doraswamy. And the first thing we did was make an offering to the dancing aspect of Shiva, to Nataraja. I was sent out with a shopping list for incense, flowers and food for him. Because dance is not showing off. It is humility and letting something else enter in. It is becoming a vessel for letting the divine express itself through you. And when I watch Raven Noir perform I see that and I feel privilege to be a witness to it.

We can all dance. dance is beyond age, it is beyond flexibility, it is beyond judgement. It is Shakti in action, in the moment, nothing behind, nothing ahead but just sheer celebration of all that is now. Acceptance.

And that is beauty in it’s truest sense.

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