'Opening our hearts through Armenian dance' (2018)
On feminismandreligion.com, 3 February 2018.
Here is an excerpt:
'In these challenging times, one of the hardest things to do is to keep our hearts open. Grief and despair tend to shut them down. And even among close friends, colleagues, family members, and people with whom we share worship, when we clash over differing political opinions, trust can swiftly erode. These kinds of losses and sorrows can make us just want to close the doors to our hearts.
Yet hardened hearts and minds are not going to help us overcome conflicts and affirm connections. Only if we can open our hearts to one another, holding the fullness of our (and others’) feelings in a compassionate way, can we weather the storms which threaten to divide us further. And only if we are united can we find our way together through those storms.
One of the best ways I know to connect with others and to open my heart is through the joyful experience of traditional circle dance, particularly Armenian dances. I have written previously on this blog (The Dance of Memory, The Wishing Tree) about Armenian dances and their ancient roots, their links to the pre-Christian Goddess, and how they affirm survival throughout the traumas of history. I have also written about my friend and colleague Shakeh Major Tchilingirian and her inspiring Circle of Life project, which brings Armenians, Turks, Kurds, Assyrians, and other survivors of atrocities and genocide to dance together for reconciliation.
Of course, any time people join hands in a circle to dance together, we open our hearts, but Armenian dances are particularly suited to bring us together in this way. In the Armenian dance handhold, we join hands by linking little fingers, which traditional Chinese medicine teaches is where the heart meridian runs. As we dance, this sensitive contact with our neighbors on either side, whose little fingers are gently linked with our own, stimulates the chi, or energy, of the heart meridian to flow. We hold our arms at heart level, slightly forward of the body, creating a space in front of the heart chakra like a chalice which we can sense slowly filling with the energy of the dance. This energy is often expressed, literally and symbolically, through the candles we hold in the ‘mom’ (candle) dances common in Armenia. As each dancer connects to this energy, the whole circle becomes a chalice, full to overflowing with this sacred life force.....'
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