THE RETURN OF THE DANCING WOMAN
OR WHY A WOMAN SHOULD MOVE FREELY
“The dancer of the future will realize the mission of a woman’s bodies and the holiness of all its parts...She shall dance the freedom of women” Isadora Duncan
It takes a moment for the woman standing in the middle of our circle to begin moving, to dare taking space, to find a rhythm. After all, the first thing she had told herself and the rest of us women back on our first meeting was that she "was not a dancer, and who knows how long it’s been since i’ve really been in my body.” But each time, asked to move just how she needs to, her body has opened just a bit more, and her hips have found a strange freedom, her arms have woven sensual symmetry in the air, and she has astonished herself. This now is her ritual dance, the culmination of our group’s work that has intimidated every part of her, yet she’s standing here willing to be fully seen, deeply expressed. Her hips sway, her head tilts up, and a rhythm carries her onward, gently at first, then with charge, confidence. Without steps to follow, a sensual fluidity takes over her, and she moves. She moves freely, she swirls and curves, falls into a rhythm larger than her own, surrenders. An invisible knowing dances her. And the room is silenced, humbled, taken over by the recognition of a force at work: the Dancing Priestess is moving in this body, bringing her nurturing, sensual power back to this womb, to this life, to this moment, weaving with these arms an ancient tale of woman, earth, and healing.
This timeless spirit that animates each woman as she steps into the circle, pauses to listen, and begins to move, is the feminine legacy at work. It moves in a woman’s body. It’s written in her form; it wakes with her moving expression and the charge of her senses. In myth and scripture, among many names, it is referred to as Wild Woman, “She Who Knows”, or Wolf Woman, the instinctual feminine. Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls it the deepest soul psyche of women, “the place where mind and instincts mingle, where a woman’s deep life funds her mundane life….”
And it’s that deep life that a woman thrives on. Whether she finds herself caught in jeans and T-shirt, a suitjacket, or an office chair, in a culture that has caged her freedom or has taught her lessons of the “perfect body”, it is her real body that remains the keeper of untamed and wise selfhood. In reclaiming it lies a path to her liberation.
Tuned into the cycles of moon and earth, a woman’s body is inherently connected to the web of life. It stores a vast and timeless intelligence, a knowledge of how to gestate, nurture, and birth new forms of life and love, both physical and conceptual. This innate power, dormant in the female body, is, as Hilary Hart puts it, women’s “most direct link to the shared body of earth, and it is fundamental to the spiritual health and regeneration of the earth”*
But a woman’s way to reclaiming this power is through moving deeper into her own form, through relearning the sensory, sensual, and instinctual language of her own body through which the timeless feminine lives. It requires a woman to shake loose of societal prescription and expectation, and to call upon her native ways of being in the world. It begins with returning to feeling her body much more than thinking about it. As she wakes to the wisdom of her senses, she begins to presence herself inside and tend to her internal landscapes with soft attention; her inner eye sharpens to a new kind of vision. From this place of sensory connectedness to life and earth, to wind, ocean, and heartbeat, a woman’s body longs to move– free, undirected, sensual, wild as a shewolf’s. When she follows this primal impulse, an old and ageless part of her comes awake. She returns to her body in all ways– glorious, fierce, full of feeling, undulating, breathing belly breaths into her womb, in perfect symphony with the breathing earth. She dances, possessed by her own power, and remembers herself as the soft-hearted maiden, the dreaming grandmother, and the wild witch that live in her blood. Dancing on the edge between worlds, she discovers the true perfect body, in all fact. It’s the body able of becoming utterly attuned to the fabric and rhythms of life, the body capable of mothering the world at large. It’s her body. And as she moves deeper into her ancient, vital self, her dance brings healing deep in the tissue of women, children, and earth.
The embodied priestess has returned.
In the wake of one woman’s fire, other women begin responding– feeling, sensing, voicing the unspeakable with their bodies, longing to set free. Their dance together– as mysterious, secretive and as timeless as women themselves, births their own freedom. It is the destination of both past and future, the place where “in all spirit, women run with the wolves.”