by Dominic Shamsuddin Ashmole
Charming house with elevated views overlooking a (frozen) pond and across the valley to Derbyshire hills. An ecumenical retreat centre. Kind hospitality from our host David. Late evenings of impromptu singing – devotional, personal – bringing in the languages of our French and Israeli guests. Fantastic voices, musicianship, inspiration and heartfulness. Experimenting with planetary walks, breathing and embodying qualities of Sun and Moon (with unexpected visitors from Mars, Venus and Neptune!) A “sack of potatoes” walk initiates the most rapid and embodied transition through Earth, Water, Fire and Air I’ve ever witnessed. More hugs than you could shake a stick at, but none requiring that kind of response, so far as I could tell…
Old connections deepened and friendships rekindled, and new meetings, most particularly with visiting leaders from abroad. A sense of newness and excitement – overspill from Arjun’s “caravan” which travelled through Turkey and elsewhere, sharing dances where perhaps they’d never yet been seen. Fresh, ardent sweetness.
A space where everyone who wished could share a dance. Diversity, tenderness, vulnerability, power, surprise. Conversations about shared and contrasting experiences as dancers and leaders. How is it to lead with children? With people who “stumbled upon” the dances rather than explicitly choosing to attend? With people from faith communities whose traditions have inspired our practices – or with people uncomfortable with those faiths? Noting a wide variety of experiences – some dancers upset by perceived “appropriation” and adaptation of their culture, others happy and moved, perceiving a recognition and embrace. To be careful to share only what we know, to be honest in expressing our limitations and to invite the sharing and insight of dancers in our circles who may more directly transmit a particular heritage. At the same time, acknowledging our own legitimate place within a silsila – a lineage and transmission with its own unique flavour.
Morning practices, before breakfast and coffee – perhaps a more inward space of quiet awakening.
A few notable and last-minute cancellations, each a friend whose presence was acknowledged and missed.
Throughout, though not exclusively, a focus on the original dances and other practices of Samuel Lewis. A wide variety of orientations to SAM, ranging from perhaps mild aversion through to committed practice and study and engagement with his still-living original disciples. Noticing the power and directness of his dances, not necessarily requiring musicality, but absolutely demanding alertness and concentration.
Returning home with renewed commitment to this path and its associated community – feeling connected, held and loved. So welcome in these cold and dark days of winter!