Leading the Dances in Oxford

Four of us have been leading dances together in a local church for just over a year, and generally attract 8-12 dancers: a mix of interested locals, circle dancers, and those who’ve done DUP at Unicorn or Sacred Arts Camp.

Radha and I were leading this session, as both Clare and Susannah were away. Adrian, our regular guitarist, was being joined for the first time by Felix on viola and drum.

Lots of things were happening that Saturday, so we weren’t expecting a big turn-out: even so, just two people was a surprise… But both had been at SAC, so weren’t new to the dancing.

We began with Haida, and followed its upbeat mood with Kol Ha Na’Shama and Mother Earth is a Great Big Ship – and very soon something began to happen. We did less explaining than usual – of words, steps, tune, and general background – which meant we spent more time actually dancing. Adrian and Felix were able to be both playful and expansive in their accompaniment; with fewer of us it was easier to change tempo and dynamics. The last dance before the break was All My Relations, with a more inward and meditative energy, and by then we all seemed to be very finely tuned to each other.

We changed the order of dances to finish the session, and dropped the intended ending dance. I led with Fill Your Cup, and Radha finished with the Kalama (we were one week short of the actual 50th anniversary). For both of these we four danced in a line rather than a circle, and were completely in tune and in step with each other. I experienced again the feeling I first had doing DUP (in a small yurt on a Dorset field) – I was no longer sure where I ended and those around me began.

So, that’s why I wanted to write about this session! In terms of numbers, and raising money to pay for use of the church, it was our least successful. But what it clarified for me was the reason I love DUP. There was no sense of performer and follower: the six of us co-created the sessions. It reinforced that what we do is a practice, and numbers and payment are irrelevant to its success; and that when you are able to let go of too much conscious thought you open yourself to experiencing an amazing harmony with others. Don’t talk the talk, dance the dance!

– Vicky Linklater