Clearly, learning to lead the dances involves much more than just getting to know the movements and melodies of dances. This is may be the starting point but there is much more to be experienced and assimilated before one can masterfully lead the dances. There are a number of components necessary for study and I call these the foundation stones of the Dances which are: Breath; Sound and Voice; Body Awareness; Rhythm; Concentration; Attunement and Magnetism; the Unity of Religious Ideals; the various Walking Concentrations of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis; and the Spiritual Lineage of the Dances. The main focus of such a course will be to explore more deeply the foundation stones, their application to the dances and how they enhance the skills of dance leading.
There would be work with aspects of the various walking practices each weekend even though they are covered in more detail at certain times. Everything we do would be related to our work with the dances and the dances themselves will invariably play a prominent part in each session. The original dances of Murshid Samuel L. Lewis are essentially the cornerstone for the path of mastering the Dances and we will study these dances in some depth. We will also study primarily, though not entirely, the dances from the Dance Manual, Foundation Dances and Walks.
The path of dance leader is essentially a path of service, of self-development and self-mastery for the benefit of others. As prospective dance leaders we all begin with strengths and opportunities for growth. It requires great and sustained commitment. The more we put into things the more we get out. As we devote ourselves to the path and efface ourselves in the dances and their associated practices things happens to us and through us. Each of us has the opportunity to develop our own authentic style of leading dances. One does this by experiencing as much, as fully as one can; completely assimilating all that one has experienced, perfecting it and making it your own; and then it is an easy matter to turn all this around and become an effective instrument for the dances. As well as committing to learning to lead the dances we also have to make the commitment to work on ourselves and do what it takes to overcome our limitations.
A training course has recently been completed and at the moment there are no dates scheduled for another one. It is likely that another will begin in 2014. What follows gives an indication of what was studied in the previous course. Over the past 16 years I have held four two year dance leadership training courses. The previous course been based on a series of 8 weekend sessions. Subsequent courses may follow a different pattern so please consider the following as one possible way forward.
Session1 – Toward the One: Introduction to the Course and the Foundation Stones. Element breaths; basic element walks; basic sound practices. Dancing several of the basic foundation dances. Exploring some of the dances of Samuel Lewis. How best to approach dance leading; the beginning steps.
Session 2 – This is not my body: Body Awareness, Rhythm and the Walk.
Body Prayer. The body is the Temple of the Divine. Practices will be given for developing awareness of the whole body. Awareness of the whole body of the dance circle. Basic element walks and combinations. Wazifa walks. Sun and moon practices and walks. Various dances reflecting the qualities embodied in the walks. Dance leading sessions in small groups.
Session 3 – In the beginning was the Word: Sound and Voice.
The articulation of the Sacred Phrase with the voice is the primary component of the dances. Voice is breath amplified. Practices will be given to develop the awareness of sound and its effects and techniques to help you to discover and develop your own natural voice. Listening Skills. Developing awareness of the dynamics of the voice in the dance circle. Group dance leading sessions.
Session 4 – This breath is the one that counts: Breath, Heart and Magnetism.
Development of the flow of breath: techniques for developing awareness of the breath as energy. The breathing process and how it affects everything we do. Tuning in to the swirling and flow of the breath in the dance circle. Dances to reflect the breath. Practices for developing heart awareness and inner magnetism. Group dance leading sessions.
Session 5 – Planetary Walks and Spins.
Murshid Samuel Lewis developed walking concentrations based on the planets. He called this Astrological Yoga. Mastery of these and other walks aids development of the whole personality and creates the ability to shift between various energetic states. Dances to reflect at least some of these walks. Further group dance leading.
Session 6 – Concentration and the Dances.
Concentration practices. The use of Energy Centres in the walk and the dance. Centre Walks. Meditation and atmosphere in the dance. More on the development of Heart. Group dance leading sessions.
Session 7 – My House shall be a House of Prayer for all people: the Unity of Religious Ideals and Universality of Spiritual Experience.
Dances to reflect this unity. Group dance leading.
Session 8 – In the Footsteps of the Teacher: Tassawuri Walks and Embodiment.
Longer dance cycles and how to lead them. Dance creation. Additional components necessary for the Dance Leader
Conference Phone Calls. I have found that Group Conference Phone Calls a great way to have meetings, classes and discussions as well as keeping in touch with a group of people that are geographically dispersed. Meeting in this way will mean that participants can concentrate on the more practical, experiential aspects of the course like the dances and other practices. Though it is also possible to do work effectively with certain types of practices on the phone surprising as this may seem. It is possible to record the calls so that if you miss the call you can listen to it at a later date as an MP3 file.
DLTC Yahoo Group. Participants on the course will be subscribed to a Yahoo Group specifically for the Training Course. This will be one of the methods of keeping in touch, sharing information and accessing files relatin gto the course. Naturally all participants will need to have access to a computer.
Individual Study of Spiritual Traditions. Everyone on the course will be expected to explore in depth at least one spiritual tradition and share the essence of this with the whole group. Additionally participants will be required to study six to eight of the major spiritual traditions and in writing to describe the main tenets of each tradition.
If you are interested in participating in a future DLTC then please contact me so that we can discuss whether such a course would best suitable for you. The path of the dance leader is not for everyone. Many begin this journey and for any number of reasons do not see things through.