Several days before Halloween, which is a delightful way to begin a story, I received a question. Onça’s message asked why I believed that we, as a subculture of dancers, have felt drawn to incorporating a womanly sacredness into our lives. And the question cut to the heart of the maze of words I’ve been walking lately.
When I approached the eleven women of The Enrichment Project to begin this whole crazy enterprise, ‘spirituality’ is the last topic I expected to learn about. Yet I heard the term ‘sacred’ used in so many contexts that it sent me flying to my dictionary. Many of the phrases– sacred time, sacred place or spaces, sacred bodies– I have used myself, thinking them to be just figures of speech. I’m so glad to be proven wrong. To be proven a perpetual novice at this mystery of life.
Through the Enrichment Women, I’ve witnessed how the time we spend creating becomes sacred, as are the times we circle together to share those creative pursuits. And it reminds me of driving with Majda Anwar under a coppery Harvest Moon, affirming the importance of gathering during the harvest time of the year to share what we’ve been learning.
I’ve witnessed how we can identify a spiritual home on so many levels: From a patch of earth to a spark in another. And it reminds me of “Temple,” the touchstone Teejei Brigham uses for her physical and mental home. And it reminds me of Amanda Mahde watching dancers, watching always for the flash that makes a part of her say “I know what that is. I know where that’s coming from. That’s home.”
I’ve witnessed how creating– through a variety of forms, but through belly dance in particular– is a locus of healing. Healing body image, depression, abuse . . . healing the myriad complications of being a woman. And it reminds me of Kate Sisson’s deepening studies into Chinese medicine, of Brandy White describing what it felt like to truly let go during a sound healing with Amel Tafsout. And it reminds me of my favorite circle-working tenet of Baraka Elihu’s, “We trust that each woman in our Circle tends towards healing & that healing may be miraculous & extensive. We trust that our personal healing, heals our community.” And across the years, as we become enmeshed in each other’s lives, at a certain point, it becomes inevitable that we recognize how each person tends towards healing. How they blossom, even after bending.
And I’ve watched these autumn leaves fall for hours, pondering whether there’s anything more sacred than healing, than promoting good in this world. It reminds me of how revelatory yoga’s ethical branch, a collection of observances called the Yamas and Niyamas, feels to DeAnna Padrón Freeman. It reminds me of my own studies of philosophy, of how each group of examples I’ve witnessed here creates a loose analogy to the ‘Ladder of Love,’ from Plato’s dialogue The Symposium. Socrates relates the story of how falling in love with the beautiful and good in one person shows you the beautiful and good in another person, and more until, rung by rung, perspective finally allows you to see the forest for the trees, the thread of beautiful and good that has been woven through them all. I love that Socrates notes this concept comes from Diotima, a woman he names priestess and philosopher.
I’ve witnessed how the Enrichment Women enact creative rituals, priestesses of their own practices. And it reminds me of how deeply art and life are intertwined as Natalie Brown travels across the stage, conversing with the spirit of her father, and as Jaia McClure awakens the divine feminine through performances that are more invocations than choreographies.
And I’ve witnessed how creativity becomes the best response to the mystery, of how swift and prevalent I found an undercurrent of faith. This reminds me of Nancy Neyhart, who trusts in gravity, her unseen aerial partner, and of Theresa grand life changes, who acceded, “I have faith that what’s next will reveal itself.”
Across the years of this project, I’ve begun to recognize the artistic blooms of these women as catalysts for personal healing. This delights me, this sharing of our particular stories in order to learn lessons broader than we could have imagined. The particular stories of the Enrichment Women, dancing the edge between fact and faith, keep revealing to me this thread of spirituality. And as November shades into the darker days of the year, there’s no question that their stories illumine my own path.