January 31, 2011
The Power of Fire, Drumming, Chanting & Vortexes
I'm certainly not new to dancing, nor am I new to drumming and chanting. That said, I experienced a powerful ritual recently that merges exercise, expression, empowerment, psychology and spiritual worship all under one roof. (or the stars in some cases).
Imagine an event/ritual with this combination: the fun and creativity of Burning Man expression (face and body painting if that's what you want to do), the humanist element of spiritual worship (regardless of your religion -- gratitude and love is what holds court, not God), psychology (because your schtuff can all come out through movement not sitting on a couch talking to a PhD -- I'm not condemning this btw, just suggesting there are other ways for healing and growth), exercise and physical movement (to keep toxicity where it belongs, moving through you and not staying stagnant inside you), and lastly, empowerment through chants and language that elevates not reduces you.
I have chosen not to mention the place or name of this event for confidentiality purposes and to respect the space attendees consider sacred and private. Respecting the privacy of what comes up at these events is an essential part of what makes it all work, or purr as I like to say when something is really working.
A lot of preparation goes into the event itself, such as learning the guidelines of what certain words or noises mean, how to know when silence is more powerful than sharing something, or how to pay attention to the beautiful relationship between the drummers and the dancers. In most cases, you'll do both, so it's important to know what to 'give' the dancers when you're drumming and vice versa, in order to make the experience purr.
Once cleansed, you line up in two lines and face each other, and then slowly you fold into the middle of the circle and move up the middle to re-enter the building, almost in a wedding-like receiving line fashion.
There are some aspects to the early part of the ritual (the quiet, meditative part at the beginning) that is very similar in experience to the Labyrinth Walk, a non-denominational ritual that involves movement on a spiritual journey - towards and always in motion. Some of the earliest forms of labyrinths are found in Greece, dating back to 2500-2000 B.C.E. and early Christian labyrinths date back to 4th century, a basilica in Algeria.
With the fire circle ritual, there is often a fire in the middle of the circle and a border to the circle around it, where movement takes place inside the circle. In our case, since it was inside and there were fire regulations, we had a massive metal bowl propped up on an iron stand, filled with water and floating candles.
The circle itself was closed in by a glowing white chord that lit up in the dark, roughly an inch or so thick. When inside the circle, you are walking into your 'foundation' which is an area of focus.
It could be unconditional love, peace, or frankly, anything you choose. Outside the circle, you prepare yourself for that place so that when you walk into it, you are in that place, feeling it, breathing it, being your authentic self, whatever that is.
Movement felt forced to me in the beginning although over time, once I got out of my head, nothing but natural flowing energy moved me to do whatever I did inside the circle. Some people skip, others move in stride -- slowly, quickly, flowingly, energetically, happily, spiritually, all depending on where they are at any given time. Some people just walk. The key is to keep moving since movement is a symbol of life and how we live life. Have you ever noticed that how people do anything is how they do everything?
This is why constant movement inside the circle is so important just as it is inside any vortex. The ritual's guidelines/rules keeps you in motion even when you feel like you want to stop. When you stay in motion even when you're feeling stuck, things begin to open up and get clearer - both in your head and your heart.
We explored the energy of vortexes, where we looked into the early work of Viktor Schauberger, who was an inventor of what he called "implosion technology." Schauberger developed his own theories based on fluidic vortices and movement in nature. He coined Observe Nature and then Copy Nature and was known for observing fish and their behavior in rivers. In his work with vortexes, he realized that everything is affected by the 'vortex' and believed that all life IS a vortex.
The circle we moved in and around was a vortex just like tornadoes and water are vortexes as is our inner ear. When you change the pattern and direction of a vortex, interesting things happen. Sure, there's turbulence, but there is also an inner calm that occurs as has been evidenced by objects, such as a birthday cake, being swept up in a tornado and then being spit out unharmed and untouched.
Tornados breath everything in its track IN and then spits everything OUT. Refer to a great book called Sensitive Chaos, which explains the simple flowing phenomena of water and air, and how we can use that understanding to "read" the living meaning of water.
All of this comes back to the importance of keeping things moving inside the vortex, in this case, the humanity "fire" circle where the attendees' job was to keep everything flowing: our hearts, our minds and our bodies.
There are two directions you can move in the fire circle and you can choose what each direction means for you. For example, moving counterclockwise towards the inside rim of the circle could mean holding on whereas walking clockwise in the inner part of the circle could mean letting go and releasing.
Dynamics of the group participating inside the circle change frequently, but it happens with respect for what others want to experience. Being in touch, listening and allowing silence creates the space to understand that dynamic.
You could be moving to a mid-tempo beat, then the drum energy may simmer down and someone may start to recite a piece from Shakespeare or Eckhart Tolle. Later, it may move into a chant or a silly song. Ultimately, this means that the entire fire circle is organic and its energy depends on the players in the circle at any given time.
When someone starts to sing a song, people often chime in. If someone begins a poem, people may just listen and respond to it through dance or movement, and a chant often takes on a life of its own. Example: I am the power and I honor you and I empower you to be who you are. The energy is almost always positive and from a place of love and gratitude.
Gratitude is a big part of the ritual. Whether you go into the process wanting to give gratitude or think about it or not, you can't help but leave the circle feeling grateful for the people around you and most importantly, for yourself.
Isn't self love, or rather lack thereof, a known factor, that holds us back from becoming our full potential? (by full potential, I don't mean becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a professional athlete), I mean stepping into your 'true' self, rather than holding back that gift and trying to replicate the "sameness" around us). Sometimes I think Sesame Street said it best. (aka, the most important person in the whole wide world is ......)
That brings me to other senses and modalities. In addition to verbal mantras and reinforcements, there's a visual component. Women typically dress in flowing clothes, often with clothes and hats, sometimes with decadent jewelry and face paint. There were other visual expression props you could add to your persona for the ritual such as angel's wings, funky and romantic hats and shawls. Some men dressed up in cultural clothing from other countries (Egypt, China, Japan, etc), others wore robes, and some just wore loose clothing.
The altar to the west is dedicated to image and reflection and on that altar were mirrors and candles. Remember that in ancient times, mirrors were believed to hold your reflection and if a mirror was shattered, it was said that your soul would be shattered. (that's where the 7 years of bad luck came from). Reflections represent why you 'showed up,' what you want to accomplish, what direction do you want to go and what is your intention along the way?
There are four altars in total and everyone pays respect to each -- north, south, east and west -- at the very beginning of the ritual. Typically two people say a few words about it and more candles are lit along the way.
The altar to the south is about experimentation and considered a laboratory of sorts. In this particular fire circle, laboratory coats were hung on a coat stand to symbolize exploration and experimentation in life.
The altar to the east is about play and there, hung hats, scarves, coats and shawls. Play sister play. Women tended to use the props here more than the men although all the men in my group had an aspect of play to their personalities. (note: our group was roughly 50 in size although fire circles can range from 20 to over 1,000 in size).
There was also a hoola hoop in this area which some used to play on their own while others used it as a prop in which to dance and play together.
And lastly, the altar to the east is about connection. This altar was the most cluttered of all and included flowers, candles, one tangerine, bones and necklaces. If you felt a particular connection to someone throughout the process, you could let them know by hanging one of the necklaces around their neck to symbolize that you shared something "kindrid" and meaningful with them.
The coolest part for me was the dynamic between the drummers and the dancers, and the mutual sharing of expression that came from a place of true authenticity and vulnerability. Even at Burning Man, albeit authentic and fabulous, it's more about art, expression and experience than it is about being vulnerable and showing your true interior -- sans drugs -- which could change by the moment, by the hour or simply not at all.
It's also about becoming more and more okay with silence but not having to do it through some form of formal or informal meditation, so it's great for people who are not naturals at meditation.
Lastly, the drumming circle itself. Dancing to it while respecting the organic nature of what is being created on the fly is as magical as drumming for the dancers is, with an intention of creating a magical experience for them along the way.
Since the drumming circle is lined up as an arch, there is a circular area in front of the drummers where a dancer can come in and show gratitude by dancing wildly or softly (typically there's more energy than less) in front of them. And this, my friends, is a very very cool experience, as a drummer and as a dancer.
A few links and resources to check out more information on fire dances and circles for those interested in learning more.
- Phoenix Fire – the West Coast's largest fire-circle gathering happens every August under the redwood trees in the Santa Cruz mountains
- Winter's Flame – weekend events held in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Fire Tribe Hawaii – circles every solstice and equinox on the island of Oahu
- Forestdance – circles in Massachusetts every August
- Vegas Vortex – hosts Mysterium, May Fire, and Fall Fest in and around Las Vegas
- Spirit Fire – circles in July in upstate New York
- Fires Rising – features a fire circle at this event every May in Pennsylvania
- Rites of Spring – a week long pagan festival with fire circle in every May in western Massachusetts
Photo credits: BoulderssResort, FireFamily, InventorSpot, FreeExtras, DrinkingDiaires, Celebratewomantoday, and VortexHouse.
October 07, 2010
Engaging & Heart Warming Stories & People at 140Conf in LA
Jeff Pulver's 140 Conference was held for the second year in Los Angeles, last year at the prestigious Kodak Theatre and this year at the Music Box on Hollywood Boulevard.
In 2010 alone, there have been #140conf events in: Barcelona,SXSW (Austin), New York City, Washington D.C., Tel Aviv and San Francisco, a #140conf Road Trip and #140conf Boston. And, the content is only getting better.
The conversations, the on-stage storytelling and the panels are authentic and heart warming. And, the range unlike most conferences that center around the use of social media as a tool to accelerate change, grow your brand and engage with customers, is diverse.
Pulver brought together speakers that discussed more traditional topics like the evolution of influence in the real-time web. Also on the stage was @DRG who talked about social media in neurotech and a panel of educators who talked about transformation in and out of the classroom,including @ApsatParentella @teachingwthsoul, @martinez and @reportertanya. Below Jeff introduces LA times teacher Steve Franklin (@SEF4PRES).
Because of its location, there was not only a lot of panels on entertainment, but a lot of performers throughout the two days, starting with a VIP private 'show' from Street Performers United, including the very 'hot and sculpted' Candyman, the NSK Dance Group, Haspop, Sammie Jay, Josh Ricketts and Amy May.
Below Amy May (left) and to the right: Won G and Amy May
The NSK Dance Crew
CandyMan and Hashpop
Josh Ricketts on saxophone and Julie Spira (@JulieSpira) and I with CandyMan
NSK Dancer and singer songwriter Sammie Jay
Street Performers United performers
Other great sessions included former showbiz guy @BruceSallan who now writes a dad's column, One Day one Earth @onedayoneearth's brandon Litman and Kyle Ruddick, sneakerheads @franalations and @colagrand and @carloshernandez who helped to break down age discrimination in the job search for people over the age of 50.
There was also a news gathering session with @jonlan from O.C. Register, @philhulett with LA's Morning News on KFWB and @webjournalist. Music artist @michellebranch did a solo piece and we had an on-stage conversation with actor @mattbennett. @fireresident talked about life in Haiti in the area of the real-time web and @angelashelton shared a new way to share love on and offline.
There were also an abundance of women attendees unlike so many geek conferences in Silicon Valley. Below, @carolhink @writeononline @LoriMoreno @AdventureGirl @JulieSpira @magicsaucemedia @weblogtheworld
Actor and Comedian @kevinpollack was very entertaining
The Social Media for Social Good Panel, which included @ashong @OKKenna @iamkhayyam @sarah_ross @adventuregirl @tmoorepr and @verolaza.
And of course we had to have a discussion about food....let's get our priorities right. On the panel was @datatv @gastronomyblog, @tendergreens, garden to sustainable cuisine and @manilamachine, LA's first Filipino food truck.
Below, Renee Blodgett, Captain Crunch at opening reception
Musician @andygrammar performed, @itsrishi from Google talked about the real-time web and Indie filmmaking and two farming and cattle ranching dudes came in from northern California, who I managed to talk to after hours about their work on and offline.
@JeffFowle is Owner/Operator and President of KK Bar Ranch and AgChat Foundation and @RayLinDairy runs a dairy, who wonders whether people's lack of tolerance with dairy in the 2000s isn't because we simply have been drinking less of it.
Jeff Pulver, Keyonna King and Bethany Nelson from Real Sovage
The W Hotel Lobby in Hollywood on the last night of the conference.
Several videos of 140Conf LA to follow this and next week. The below three shots were taken by Peter Weissenstein.
October 01, 2010
MC Hammer & Dancers HOT on Stage
Imagine you're into rap, hip hop and dance. Imagine you're into creativity, fabulous footwork and high energy. Imagine being able to move, jam and jive among a group who live and breathe this? I recently had an opportunity -- together with a few dozen others from the Silicon Valley technology community -- to jam with MC Hammer and his rivoting dancers on stage. (and I mean rivoting on top of being beautiful and perfectly sculpted!)
MC Hammer took the stage at the Google-sponsored Techcrunch Disrupt after party this past week in San Francisco. The shindig was partly to celebrate the AOL acquisition of Techcrunch (congrats to Mike, Heather & TC team) and partly, just to have fun and perhaps prove that techies know how to jam and more importantly like to. As a lover of dance and dancer myself, there is no better joy than to be what I refer to as "in-zone" -- on or off-stage.
When the music and energy takes over, nothing else exists except you and the music.....you and the beat. I was so caught up in the beat at one point that I didn't even realize MC Hammer was rapping and dancing right next to me until I saw video clips of it later.
MC Hammer hasn't lost his edge and both his female and male dancers are so impressive, so engaging and so passionate about their art, that you can't help but tap, move, clap and shout. You'll see what I mean by taking a look at the random shots of MC and group in action I took from front-row center below:
July 03, 2010
Fillmore Jazz FestivalFillmore's Jazz Festival is in full play this weekend in San Francisco. A few random shots below including a bunch of swing dancers who showed up to dance up a storm to The Lost Cats.
Also performing was Dave Rocha Quintet, Art Khu, Marcus Shelby Orchestra, Calvin Keys Trio, Brent Kimbrough Band, Pamela Joy Quintet, Bobbie Webb, Native Elements, Bartron Tyler Group and more.
June 21, 2010
World Cup Soccer & Brazilian Samba
A reasonably thorough inspection of soccer pubs and restaurants in San Francisco and Berkeley over the past ten days reveals that while there may be more people supporting the English and Mexican soccer teams in the Bay Area there is nobody having as much fun as the Brazilians.
On Sunday the Brazilian World Cup team once again gave its fans a reason to dance (as if they need an excuse) with a 3-1 trouncing of Cote d'Ivoire. Of the several places in the Bay Area which are hosts for Brazilian fans this time we chose Martin Macks on Haight St. in San Francisco. You might ask yourself how an Irish pub has become a place to samba....
So we have Thierry Henry and FIFA to thank. What a way to convert the Irish mourning and outrage at being cheated out of the World Cup into something positive that we all get to share. In addition, the pub burned down less than two years ago so we're lucky it's here at all. This is a review shortly after it re-opened.
On this perfect San Francisco Sunday the seats were gone 30 minutes before the match and most of the standing room taken by the national anthem, as you can see.
The kitchen and floor staff did an excellent job of getting food and drink to the mob, no easy task. There were plenty of TV screens, flags everywhere, and even a samba band at halftime and after the match. There is nothing like a room full of happy people doing the samba to make you want to move and to remind you to make sure that at least part of life be a party.
Brazil's next match is Friday against Portugal, the match soccer fans have been waiting for since the first round groupings were announced. Brazil is ranked first in the world and Portugal is third - it's unusual for two highly-ranked teams to be in the same group so expect a great match. Play hooky.
May 27, 2010
Oh PR2, Shall We Dance?Last night, I had the pleasure (and it was a pleasure) of dancing with a PR2 robot at Willow Garage, the same PR2 that will go off to UPENN next week with the UPENN recipient winners of the PR2 beta program. Until we meet again.
May 27, 2010 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Client Media Kudos, Magic Sauce Media, On Dance, On Innovation, On Robotics, On Technology, On the Future | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 20, 2010
U.S. Premier of HarlekinSan Francisco's Cowell Theatre at the Fort Mason Center is presenting the U.S. Premier of Harlekin starting today and playing through this Saturday, May 22, 2010. Tickets can be purchased online.
Since its founding, DEREVO has toured throughout Europe and overseas performing in more than 30 countries on three continents. The cast has lived and worked in Prague, Amsterdam and Florence before they chose Dresden as their new working location in 1996. They have been based at Festspielhaus Hellerau Dresden since 2003.
From the very beginning DEREVO refused to characterize the style of its work. The press creates definitions such as "silent theatre," "new dance," "Russian Butoh" and others. A common feature of all pieces is the fact that there is not a word uttered on stage.
February 20, 2010
Dancers POP to ETHEL in Long BeachThe energy to this joyous night of musical and dance exploration in Long Beach last week was magical. Join us on the journey below.
December 14, 2009
Dancers at Paris Web Event Make an Impact #leweb
Loic and Geraldine brought in some magical, multicultural dancing talent for this year's LeWebhttp://www.typepad.com/site/blogs/6a00d83451c79e69e200d8341c665653ef/post/compose#'s speaker dinner. I could have watched all night.(Parts I and II)
March 21, 2009
Buddha With Thousand Hands
Check out this very moving video of 21 Chinese deaf dancers from the China Disabled Peoples Performance Art Troupe, shown on German TV last year, now available for viewing on YouTube for the rest of the world to see.
The dancers receive queues from guides/conductors from the sidelines. For more, try Googling the title and/or Tai Lihua.