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Articles

The entire Universe a dance?

Is not the Life of the entire Universe a dance?

 

Shakeh Major Tchilingirian


String of Pearls (40 Anniversary of Sacred Dance at Findhorn), July 2016

 

Komitas, the renowned Armenian musicologist and composer, asked this question a century ago.  Indeed, he would have possibly never imagined that there would be a Universal Hall in Findhorn in Scotland, which is celebrating its 40th Birthday this year, where people of all nationalities from all walks of life converge to share this Dance of Life.

 

I first heard about Findhorn when I met Laura Shannon in 1996 at an Armenian Cultural Festival held at the October Gallery in London, where I was demonstrating Armenian dances to the public. Laura expressed interest in Armenian dances and, after a brief chat, we arranged to meet again. Our meetings naturally led to dancing together and ever since our artistic journey has continued for over three decades.  Together we have continued to develop folk dancing passionately.  Most important, our friendship has flourished through a deeper understanding and respect for traditional and ritual dances and the wisdom they offer, especially when our hearts and minds are open to them.

 

In 2002 I was invited to Findhorn to create a performance of my production “Spirit and Passion” with Laura and the dancing community in Findhorn. It is difficult to describe in words the unique Findhorn Experience. One has to be here to experience it. I never imagined such a harmonious, attentive, deeply spiritual and meaningful, all encompassing experience, with such a large number of participants of all ages, and in such a short span of time! Laura had prepared everyone -- from the readers of poetry to the little girls dancing with their beautiful smiles and meticulously made headdresses -- for what lay ahead. I arrived to crowds of loving, smiling and enthusiastic people. Dancing Dzirani Dzar (The Apricot Tree) in the Universal Hall was, indeed, an unforgettable experience.  The Apricot Tree, a symbol of fertility, narrates the “anguish” of “the tree” as it bears witness to the hardship of the people of the land and goes on to lament: “I have an orchard but no fruit”.  As I pirouetted and stood still, face to face with the TREE in the Hall (my back to the audience), I experienced a deep connection with the TREE. It was as if the TREE was comforting and reenergising me. As I danced Leran Aghchig (Maiden from the Mountain) -- where the maiden is the “connection between Heaven and Earth”, and the mountains “an eternal witness to her belonging to that land” -- I felt somehow “lifted” and “floating”. There were many other points in the evening where I felt a very deep connection. 

 

Looking at my personal dancing journey, I can see the impact of the “epiphany” or “revelation” I felt at Findhorn. My dancing and performing have always instinctively and unconsciously been “sacred” to me and taken place in a “sacred” space -- and Findhorn has affirmed that sense and the connection with the Universal.

 

Dancing, performing and researching for many years continue to fuel my passion for discovering and sharing this connection and the wisdom that these traditions have to offer. This connection with the Cosmos and the message of Universal peace, harmony, respect, understanding and, most important of all, support for one another is vital to any future of humankind I can envisage. Happy Birthday Findhorn!  As we say in Armenian, “may your journey’s path be smooth always”.