Encircling the Land in Sacred Dance

The roots of sacred circle dance lie in our distant past when dancing in circles or lines was one of the earliest forms of religious expression. The circle is a very ancient universal symbol of wholeness, unity, community and the turning of the year. Throughout history people have met to express these values by dancing in circles, a living tradition that is still found in parts of Europe. The Sacred Circle Dance network has now spread throughout the world. Dances can take on many forms, styles and moods. The aim is to create a sense of well-being and communion with others, inviting a sense of wholeness and sacredness into our lives, moving together in unity, beyond words to that still, silent point within ourselves.

Our project, Encircling the Land with Sacred Dance, started in January 1998. During the year, at monthly intervals, we visit twelve special places forming a circular pilgrimage around England and Wales. We pilgrimage within each area in a creative way and then have a celebration and thanksgiving including dances which are considered to be appropriate to the place and time. Our route roughly coincides with an ancient pilgrimage route used by early Christians.

Circle dances come from traditions and cultures all over the world. Some are hundreds of years old, for example the Welcome Dance from the Greek island of Kos, made up by the Knights Templar in the 14th century. The music for the Pilgrimís Dance is fourteenth century Spanish composed for pilgrims to the Black Madonna at Montserrat where constant vigils were held. Several come from the Taizť community in France. Others are more recently choreographed. We choose dances that, we feel are appropriate to honour and celebrate the place and the time of year in a joyful and loving way. In mediaeval times people quite commonly danced in cathedrals and churches. Dance forms part of worship in other major world religions.

There is currently a revival in Christian-based liturgical dancing: it has been taking place for many years for example in York Minster, Winchester and Liverpool Cathedrals. In tune with this idea we look for beautiful and sanctified spaces in which to dance, where the atmosphere is harmonious. Since we began in 1998 and we have danced in the Cathedrals of St Paulís, Salisbury, Wells, Brecon, St Davidís, York Minster, Norwich and Bury St Edmunds. We also dance in St Johnís Church, Chester (the original cathedral of Chester), St Maryís Church, Shrewsbury and Gorton Monastery, Manchester. Musicians accompany us, whenever they are available and sometimes we accompany ourselves with singing. The dances themselves are simple and accessible to people who have never danced before. Each is fully explained. We also include a pilgrimage, making a deep connection with the place giving us a sense of where we are before we dance .

We see pilgrimage as manifesting our love on a place and expressing this primarily through dance, love being the most healing thing there is. Every pilgrim leaves footprints of light (love) that others might follow. Encircling the Land with Sacred Dance was Suzy Strawís vision and we are forever grateful for her energy and enthusiasm for this project. We rely on dedicated circle dance teachers and musicians to keep this wonderful wheel turning and evolving.

If you are interested and would like to participate or need more information, please do contact us. The project is an evolving process and your suggestions and advice are very welcome.

It is helpful but not essential to let us know that you intend to come to an event.

Links to related sites

Circle Dance
Arts Ecclesia
Dance in Worship