Honoring the Memory of Dances Past

Honoring the Memory of Dances Past October 23, 2019
Raven’s Night in DC

We are entering the season of the Dead, but does that only refer to those who once were housed in fleshly bodies? What about the flicker of memories from previous events, the reverberations of dances past? This year for me, the veil has been parting not only to reveal the drawing close of those who have passed on, but also the what of which has passed on.

I’ll cut it with the poetry and metaphors and get right to the core: for the last three weeks straight, Facebook has been serving up daily “memories” of dance events. There’s the flood of events where I taught and performed at: Rakkasah East in NJ, Beach Blanket Beledi in North Carolina, Raks Spooki in Massachusetts, Raven’s Night in DC, Ooky Spooky in Michigan, and several other one-night events over the course of the last decade that FB recorded.  Then there’s the last three years of the dance event I myself produced in Seattle that was the most near and dear to my heart: Waking Persephone.

Student Group Performance in Seattle

Post after post from other people about what the event meant to them, the experiences they had, photos of me with them from gatherings and shows. Not just one or two, but easily 6-10 every single day, sometimes even more on the exact dates of the event in past years.  Every morning this month, those memories have brushed in my face and danced in my mind. My heart feels like it’s looking down this long tube into the past, even though not much time has really passed at all.

Waking Persephone was a different kind of dance festival – focused on fostering education and community, giving master teachers the rare opportunity to teach material that other events wouldn’t hire them for, providing a solid space for lesser-known and newer folks a platform to teach and perform on the same stage, and covering culture, history, technique, and spirituality all under the same roof. It ran for two years in Providence, RI in April, and then three more years in Seattle, WA in October (so not to compete with other established local events.) It became a play on words that we had started with waking Persephone up in the Spring, but then we celebrated her with a wake in the Fall. After the last event in 2016 I announced it was going on hiatus largely so I could focus on my artwork and writing. There were other reasons too, but overall it was something I felt deeply in my gut that this was the right step.

Seattle this past July

And it truly was, as I have had 5 books published since 2016, an oracle deck on the way next Spring, and I’m working my way through book 6. My art has grown so much too. This year we moved across the country and bought our first home. All that energy that went into producing a dance event channeled into other areas of my life.

Yet I do enjoy producing events – in the sense that I love creating experiences, bringing people together, providing opportunities for learning and growth for everyone. Last year I started up a “little” event called Witches’ Night Out Market in Seattle – and well, it didn’t stay little for long.  And now I’ve brought WNOM to the east coast where it hit like wildfire…and I’ve got other things developing too. Event producing is a tough habit to quit – and well, I’ve been doing it for over 20 years.

Tribal Fest 15

But dance? Dance is a complicated thing for me. It’s been woven into so much of my life – half of it in fact. Some of the very worst moments of my life have been tied to the dance scene – as well as some of the best. When posts about goings-on now in the dance “community” come across my feed, I’m reminded of the things I tried to help correct and change 10+ years ago because I saw the shit coming (on top of what was already staining the walls and the floor…). Cassandra knows right? Over the last few years, every post would be like another salty finger in a wound I couldn’t see, but yet felt deeply regardless. I tried, I gave a lot, but none of that work seemed to matter or count – and I mourned.

All of that was part of the grieving process – and the road to the healing of wounds that were inflicted deeply years ago – by myself as much as by others. I’ve now learned to separate the rose – the beauty and power of dance – from the thorns of the past (and present).  I still perform dance and I still joyfully teach it.  I especially love teaching magical practitioners how to use their bodies (regardless of age, gender, background, ability) as a means of transformation and channeling their power. Dance and movement is a vital part of my work and my rituals. I’ve learned that it will always be mine, regardless of what other people may do or say – and I want others to experience that for themselves.

Waking Persephone’s Underworld Ball, photo by Carrie Meyer

Last week I actually bought new fabric for a dance costume.  It’s been years since I happily put energy into that kind of creation. I’m even looking forward to the process and the eventual performances that will happen along with it.

This Samhain season, I realize I no longer mourn the dances of the past. Instead I can hold them in my hands and my mind: honoring them for what they have brought me. I can remember the beauty of those past moments shared in classrooms, stages, and everywhere in-between. I can be thankful for what I learned from them without the pain of those wounds. What I did was all I could do back then, and it truly was enough.  And there are so many more dances waiting to be born.

Seattle, this past July

So if you find yourself in the mourning process for something you used to do, a thing you used to love, an event that no longer is, an era of your life that is a flash of dancing memories – may I suggest you find a place for it on your Samhain altar?  Just like the blood of your ancestors, the wisdom of the Mighty Dead, the memories of your loved ones who have passed on,  those no-longer-now things have brought you to today. They are a part of you still, whether you do the movements or not. In honoring that past, we can start to heal that part of ourselves. Then we are ready to learn a new dance.

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