I know that visiting Damanhur for the first time can be intense. A catalyzing and transformative experience, full of synchronic meetings and events. I was reminded of this when my friend Swati came to visit after a month-long transformational dance intensive in Saas Fee, Switzerland. Seeing as how expressive arts therapy and movement is the focus of her current studies, Swati was particularly excited about doing Damanhurian Sacred Dance while she was here. Sacred Dance is a form of ritual dance that expresses words through precise movements and gestures. So, I checked out the possibilities and we crashed a course on Sacred Dance for the New Life citizens, which was led by my nucleo housemate Asinella Zafferano (Donkey Saffron).

When Asinella was giving the introduction to the class, she described how at first, she didn’t like Sacred Dance. I was really surprised to hear this, since she’s been doing Sacred Dance at Damanhur for about twenty-five years now, dancing at almost every Rite of the Oracle and in hundreds of other special rituals and performances. Asinella described how she loves dance, how she lives for it, how she was used to dancing freely and expressively, letting her emotions and energy flow on the dance floor all night long. Even though she comes from Italian origins, Asinella was born in Brazil, so the sensual and spontaneous nature of the Brazilian culture courses through her microlines.

Sacred DanceShe was determined though, and she continued to practice the fairly static and structured Sacred Dance moves, staying in it out of sheer will. Over, and over, and over again, she repeated the gestures one at a time until they became a part of her, etched into the structure of her being. And then, she got it. One time, she was dancing and it just clicked. She danced Sacred Dance, spelling out prayers and poetry through the body in motion, moving with grace, ease, joy! She understood –  finally – and ever since, she’s been a devoted Sacred Dancer. She’d rather communicate with Sacred Dance instead of spoken words in our community meetings. She leads us in dances for saluting the nature spirits of our land around the Tiglio (linden) tree before community work time Sunday morning.

So, Asinella warned us as we began the course, the first time you do Sacred Dance, you might not like it either. Though if you stay committed and keep practicing, letting it sink in and become a deeper part of your being, it can be a vehicle for contact with the divine; it can be liberating and healing: a lesson that can be applied to many situations in life that seem too foreign the first time.