(30 minutes with instructions and story)
A simple, beautiful practice has been spreading along with the Work That Reconnects. To celebrate their commitment to life and their solidarity with activists the world over, people join hands in a circle dance.
Set to the haunting strains of a Latvian song by Ieva Akuratere, and choreographed by Anastasia Geng, the Elm Dance took form in Germany in the 1980s. In 1992, having learned it from her friend Hannelore Witkowski, Joanna took the Elm Dance to workshops she was leading with a Russian-speaking team in areas poisoned by the Chernobyl disaster. There, and especially in Novozybkov, the most contaminated of still inhabited cities, the dance became an expression of the people’s will to live. It was here the dance evolved a distinctive form with the raising and swaying of arms, evoking their connection with the trees they so loved.
We share the Elm Dance in nearly every workshop and course we teach. The dance helps us feel more fully our gratitude and grief. It helps us feel the presence of our brother and sister activists around the world, and to know that we are many and that we are linked in ways we cannot see. When sharing this dance, you are invited to dedicate it to the people of Novozybkov, or to any other group you choose. (Here’s the link for the full story of Joanna and Fran’s work in Novozybkov; https://workthatreconnects.org/elm-dance/.
People love this dance, so in an extended workshop we may do it at the start of every day. Some people make a practice of doing it after the Truth Mandala. It can be used at any stage in the Spiral.
Instructions for the Elm Dance
(as evolved among environmental activists)
Song name: K? Man K?j?s?
Circle up with plenty of room to move, holding hands. If the numbers are too great to form a single circle, make concentric circles with about one large step of distance between them.
It does not matter when in the music you begin the dance, except to start on a beat. The dance consists of four beats of movement, alternating with four beats of swaying in place. When swaying in place, imagine that you can feel the energy from the heart of the Earth spiraling up through the floor into your body. When the energy reaches the heart chakra, send it out for the healing of the trees and all beings. This is an act of intention. Anastasia Geng, who created the dance from the Latvian song, said the purpose of the dance is for building strong intention, which in Bach Flower Remedies is the power of the elm.
The circle moves counter clockwise (to the right). Always begin with the right foot. Start by taking four steps backward (to the right). After four beats of swaying in place, the next four steps are facing forward, still moving counter clockwise. Then, after the next four beats of swaying in place, move four steps toward the center of the circle, raising your arms high and unlinking hands so they can wave like boughs of a tree. Remember to sway for four beats, and then move four steps back from the center, rejoin hands, and begin again. Continue in this fashion until the music breaks midway. In the silence before the music resumes, the guide reminds the dancers that throughout the second half of the dance they can call out by name those beings and places to which they send healing.