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by Natalie Southgate.
Dance as a spiritual discipline is an ancient practice that’s been explored by many cultures throughout the ages. CHAKRADANCE, a new healing dance practice, takes this tradition into the 21st century. There are no set steps and you dance as if no one is watching, to modern dance music in a sacred space. Creator, Natalie Southgate, describes it as ”dreaming with your feet”, and explains the experience and how it’s good for your soul....
"In recent years there has been an explosion of new age practices, many of which draw roots from ancient philosophies. One can find varying types of meditation, psychic development, spiritual development, and channelling, guide and angel workshops, to name but a few. The aim of many of these practices is to raise consciousness, connect with the spiritual world, and transcend the physical. Having personally explored many of these practices, I have achieved great rewards, and in the process have experienced a reality that often appears to be of 'another world'. My struggle, in hindsight, has been in bringing this 'other world' back in to the physical aspect of my self. I felt the time had come to embody some of these remarkable experiences.
Reflecting back on my life, the times when I have felt most alive and in touch with my 'true self' are the times when I have been moving my body, through dance. Not the times when my childhood dancing teacher was instructing me to move my body this way or that, but the times when I really let go, let the music enter my body and 'moved' in an authentic way. Donald Winnicott, a renowned psychoanalyst, describes the ‘true self’ as being the source of all spontaneity and creativity and it was this self that was calling for my attention.
Marian Woodman, a Jungian Analyst and Author, says, "matter without spirit is a corpse, spirit without matter is a ghost". I believe that when matter and spirit move together in a rhythmic dance, the experience is one of feeling truly alive. This merging of matter and spirit allows one to embody consciousness, embody spirit, and manifest some of the 'other worldliness' in a physical and concrete way.
In order to embody consciousness, we need a map to discover what it is exactly that we are trying to embody, and how. The map that I have been drawn to work with is the map of the chakra system; an ancient Indian yoga system discovered over 4000 years ago.
The chakra system contains within it seven major chakras, each acting as an energetic gateway allowing universal energy to flow in and out of our systems. Each chakra corresponds with particular body organs and reflects an aspect of consciousness on an emotional, psychological and spiritual level. Each chakra also has its own vibrational frequency as well as an attributed element, archetype, animal, planet etc. These can all be used as pathways into the chakras enabling us to connect more deeply with the energies existing within each one.
There are countless books and texts detailing the chakras, but it became my aim to take the basic map and connect with the chakras in a physical way, thereby experiencing the various aspects of consciousness reflected in each chakra, in the body. I wanted to bring the sacredness of ancient philosophies into a modern culture that appears to be crying out for healing of body, mind and spirit. This was the birth of CHAKRADANCE, a healing dance practice that uses specific music and spontaneous dance to balance the chakras.
CHAKRADANCE music is modern-world-music, which has been created with the intention of using sound as a healing force. Music has incredible therapeutic powers and is considered to be the oldest form of healing. In many ancient cultures music was both composed and performed with the intention of promoting physical health, freeing emotions, entering into altered states of consciousness, and ultimately, of healing the soul. Music was considered sacred and magical. Long before psychotherapy existed, music played the role of healer, doctor and therapist.
Music plays a major role in balancing the chakras. Musical vibrations can be tuned to the seven chakras, each of which has it’s own vibrational frequency. In CHAKRADANCE, we have woven the ancient techniques with the advanced technology available today. The pure tones of crystal bowls pulse throughout the music and release a vibrational sound field that is an essential ingredient of each dance.
The desire to dance is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. As a healing art form, dance can be traced back thousands of years. In ancient cultures dance was used in celebratory, ritualistic and spiritual ways. Primitive man danced the shifting of the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the transitional moments in life—birth, death and rites of passage. As a metaphor, dance symbolises the rhythm of the universe, divine ‘play’, the eternal dance of life. As one of the most evolved healing art forms, dance weaves together all aspects of human existence.
CHAKRADANCE is a healing dance practice. It is unique because it uses spontaneous dance for the purpose of healing. There is no right or wrong way to CHAKRADANCE. It’s a journey of self-discovery. Each chakra is explored through specific music, guided imagery and your own free, improvised dance, done with your eyes softly closed. This begins to activate inner experiences. It’s almost like entering into a waking dream. You may see images in your mind’s eye while you are dancing or gain insights. You may also experience feelings, emotions or physical sensations. Classes, comprised of a small group of people, are held in candle lit spaces. Although music and dance form the primary focus, sessions also include sensing, working with elements and colours, and short meditations.
CHAKRADANCE puts you in touch with the sacred, both within yourself and within the universe. It helps you connect with your soul. Dancing the seven chakras is like dancing into seven different worlds, each with their own lessons, meanings and stories. While everyone’s experiences are unique, it’s interesting to note some often-shared features of the dances of each chakra, which reflect the ancient roots of dance across cultures.
The first centre to explore on the Chakra map is the base chakra. The spontaneous movements that emerge while dancing the base chakra tend to draw inspiration from tribal dancing, as found in the indigenous cultures of Africa, Australia and North America. These tribal dances are linked to the issues of the base, including our roots, survival and grounding. In CHAKRADANCE, emphasised movements of the legs and feet connect us to the solid earth. Many envisage dancing around an ancient campfire, bringing the primitive tribal dance to life. These ancient cultures also had imitative dances, emulating the movements of animals. Again, we can draw inspiration from these roots and dance in an animal-like way. In this wild and raw animal dance, our innate instinctual self is reclaimed.
The dance of the sacral chakra can be inspired by the feminine dances found in the Middle East, South America and Hawaii. Dances from these regions celebrated many of the qualities associated with the sacral chakra, including feelings, emotions and sexuality. This sacral dance can be slow and sensual, or flirtatious and erotic, with fluid movements of the hips and lower belly. Throughout this dance one transforms into a gypsy, a belly dancer, an ancient goddess, as we surrender to the serpentine movements of the feminine.
To dance the solar plexus chakra is to call on the warrior dances of ancient Greece, Morocco, Spain, Mexico and Brazil. These warrior dances were masculine, powerful, athletic and virile, as they rhythmically mimicked the art of the fight. In CHAKRADANCE, we enter this dance with dramatic movements, strong, purposeful and clearly defined. As the energy builds, movements can become more complex, even frenzied. Through this dynamic movement, the solar energy ignites, and our inner warrior emerges.
Dancing the heart chakra is being moved to dance with joy and compassion. In ancient Egypt dances using exaggerated arm movements would gently whirl participants into deep states of joyful harmony. Dancing the heart chakra mirrors this. Also reflected are dances from China, in which mimetic movements expressed the union of heaven and earth, symbolised balance—one of the chief operating qualities of the heart chakra,. In CHAKRADANCE, we draw inspiration from these dances, and move the arms to feel uplifted, light and free. Inspired by the ancient ones, we dance a soaring journey of love, compassion and joy.
The dance of the throat chakra can be inspired by many ancient dances, where the voice and dance were woven together. In Ancient Egypt, performers often danced while reciting poetry, while in Hawaii, chant and dance were combined to communicate the story. In Tibetan culture, mystical rituals performed by monks would combine chanting and sound, with delicate movements of the body. In CHAKRADANCE, we weave sound and movement to intensify self-expression and creativity.
At the third eye chakra, we can lift up into ecstatic and altered states of consciousness through trance dance. This practice is still common throughout the world, and existed in many of the ancient cultures of South East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas. There were numerous reasons, ritualistic and medicinal, for entering into trance. In CHAKRADANCE, trance dance is used to open the third eye chakra. Each dancer drifts into his or her own visual universe … images, colours, insights … the third eye has no boundaries.
The dance of the crown chakra is a devotional dance. Cultures from every continent have embraced some form of religious or spiritual dancing. In ancient Shamanic practice, dance was used to commune with the Spirits, whilst in Ancient Egypt there were certain ritual dances that were crucial to the successful outcome of religious rites. The Tantric Buddhists of Nepal have an ancient dance tradition known as Charya Nritya, a Sanskrit term meaning 'dance as a spiritual discipline'. In CHAKRADANCE we open the gateway to the soul through a meditative sacred dance. This is the most paradoxical of dances: it is the dance of stillness. Often there will be little physical movement visible to any observer. The dance is internal, for now it is the soul that dances, dancing with the divine.
Dancing through the ancient chakra system awakens not only our bodies, but expands the mind, and calls out to the soul. The chakra system provides us with a model for integrating body, mind and spirit. This model encompasses the whole of human experience and provides an opportunity to find harmony and balance within our lives. Carl Jung, the pioneer of analytical psychology, was one of the first westerners to draw inspiration from this model in relation to his work on what he called the ‘individuation process’, meaning the journey towards wholeness.
The chakra system forms an energetic ladder that bridges our material world with our spiritual world. We can use this ladder as a way of reaching higher realms of consciousness, and as we climb back down, we are able to integrate new levels of awareness into our daily lives. Working with the chakras through dance connects us to the core of our physical beings. Once this connection is achieved, other less tangible experiences of the mind and spirit can be contained, embodied and finally integrated."
About the author
Natalie Southgate has been passionate about dance since she was a child, and about healing for most of her adult life. She holds certificates from Australia's ‘Federal Association of Teachers of Dance’ in Tap Dancing and Modern Dance. Trained and accredited as an energy healer with both the ‘College of Psychic Studies’ (London) and ‘The National Federation of Spiritual Healers’ (UK), Natalie also has accreditation as a Healing Therapist with ‘The National Federation of Healers Inc.’ (Australia). She also has a Diploma in Jungian Psychology and Healing (The Society of Psychology and Healing, London) and is a Member of the International Institute for Complementary Therapists.
She founded Chakradance in London in 1998 before moving back to Australia in 2001. She's led Chakradance classes at The Chopra Center in California, been published by Hay House, and featured in Tami Simon's "Insights at the Edge" podcasts. The Chakradance "7 Keys to Freedom" CD and DVD are distributed by Sounds True.