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The truth about dance

The shape of dance

Dance is created from shape, pattern and body geometry articulated through movement in a spirit of communication, expression and, often, celebration. There is a vital energy in dance. When the dancer expresses that energy, they are linked with life and ancient cosmological principles on a universal scale. These principles are regularly occurring patterns of creation in process. Are you thinking your dancing could not possibly be that important in universal terms? Think again.

To comprehend the power of dance, it helps to consider dance’s links to geometry. Perhaps the first study of geometry took place in the ancient philosophical centre of Alexandria, Egypt. There, they studied stellar geometry, examining the revolution and pattern of the planets and constellations in our solar system and how they affect the human, animal and planetary organism. Euclid was a Greek mathematician who lived in Alexandria and is considered the father of geometry. Euclidian geometry put forward that the basic shapes of all things are consistent on a molecular and universal level, giving birth to the idea that the bigger picture can be understood and reflected in the smaller parts.

Two centuries before Euclid, the mathematician Pythagoras’ theory of the Music of the Spheres held that the movement of celestial bodies produces a perfectly harmonious music that is inaudible on the earth. These geometric understandings reflect the truth that there is living, organic, scientific patterning all around us. As we live it, we absorb it and we even dance it.

There is a modern field of mathematics known as fractal geometry. As with holograms that store the entire image in each part of the image, any part of a fractal can be repeatedly magnified, with each magnification resembling all or part of the original fractal. This phenomenon can be seen in objects like snowflakes and tree bark. Fractals are objects in which the microcosm is identical to the macrocosm.

Dance can be an expression of fractal geometry in that the movements of the dancer tap into ancient universal rhythms expressed through music. In this sense, dance is a cosmic fractal, a microcosm of the universal energies.

Moving to rhythms

In primitive cultures, the links between heaven and earth, spirit and matter, or human and god nature were understood and celebrated through ritual, song and movement. Movement was created in response to rhythms, which in turn mimicked the rhythms of life. Dances would celebrate the cyclic nature of birth, planetary regeneration, the lunar phases, the female menstrual cycle and the seasons. In Asia Minor, Artemisian cults followed the lunar cycle and danced the chiftetelli, a form of belly dance employing round and sensuous movements, every full moon.

Dance, in its primal state, bypasses mental analysis and translates a type of elemental universal knowledge directly through the body. The same could be said about music, which in its essence is almost unconsciously drawn from the musician with a guidance that cannot be explained in terms of literal study or dissemination of learnt material. It’s sometimes called inspired, but where does that really come from?

In dance, one of history’s oldest modes of communicating with divinity and nature, the body becomes a vehicle for universal knowledge through music. The two are inextricably linked: the audio becomes the visual. When the two parts become one, the expression is complete.

When music is expressed as a dance, whether performed for others or just for self, some message is transposed from the divine inspiration to the vibrational mode of music to physical understanding through the body. As simple as it seems, this process of dancing to music harnesses various cosmological elements within its process. There is a clarity or awareness realised through the act of dancing itself. Inspiration and instinct often guide both music and dance.

The impact of dance

Dance, and the music that inspires it, creates both physical and psychological effects. According to sound engineer David Gibson in his book The Art of Mixing, drums are primal and instant in their effect, with a core range of tempos from 60 to 180 beats per minute (bpm) that affects your physiology. Your entire endocrine system noticeably speeds up simply by listening to 130bpm, whereas 60bpm is pacifying and often used in hypnosis.

When you dance, you are creating a music-melody-movement response to the various instruments played. You are tuning your body movement with sound wavelength and frequencies. According to Gibson, instruments tend to be played at the body area that harnesses these frequencies. Drums operate at a frequency of approximately 50MHz, which resonates with the pelvic area in humans. Flutes are pitched at almost 4000MHz and resonate with the head area in humans.

This explains why African warriors dance in low, grounded, aggressive movements to earthy drums, while the Sufi dervishes spin to flutes for enlightenment. Fiery guitars sit in the mid-body area, with qualities matching the solar plexus’ characteristics of pride and courage, apparent in Spanish flamenco. The emotive heart area tunes into a higher frequency again, so instruments such as accordion and violins create music that engages feeling and “pulls the heartstrings”.

In dance, you are tuning into cosmological principles. As you dance, the tempo of the rhythm, the emotive frequency of the music and melody are demonstrated through the organic body-mechanics of dance. Dance becomes the art representing the music. You fall into fractal patterning and “know” instinctively that when a drum pattern emerges you step and rock into it. You dance the shapes and patterns music creates, thus manifesting ancient patterns and wisdom in the physical, kinaesthetic dimension.

Bellydancing is particularly responsive to these energies. So are many other Eastern styles: the zaar dancers, for example, instinctively “swing” and shake their bodies into a moving meditation based on the rhythm of the music. Then there are the Sufi dervishes who step and whirl in response to music that takes them to psychological nirvana. Rhythm is a natural evolution of cosmological mathematics.

The astrology of dance

It’s not surprising then that we can relate different styles of dance to the four Western astrological elements of earth, fire, water and air as they manifest through rhythm, vibration of music and frequency of sound. As sound and colour are both energetic in nature, you can match the frequency of sound with the wavelengths of colour:

  • Red (earth) matches base frequencies such as drums.
  • Orange/yellow (fire) matches the string instruments (low-mid frequencies).
  • Green/blue (water) matches emotive, higher frequencies such as accordion and violin.
  • Indigo/violet/white (air) frequencies match the highest, lightest instruments such as flute.
  • When you dance to the drums, for example, you dance earth element energies. Assembled in this order of colours, elements and instruments, there are clear links to other philosophies. The first that becomes most apparent is that these are the alignments of the colours of the Hindu/Buddhist chakra system from root to crown chakra.

    The elements also carry planetary mathematics with them, which is seasonal, fractal and perpetual. In ancient times, this was expressed as the astrological system of 12 parts or signs: three water (Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio), three earth (Virgo, Taurus, Capricorn), three air (Aquarius, Libra, Gemini) and three fire (Leo, Aries, Sagittarius).

    Each sign is ruled by a planet and carries a set of characteristics that arise from one of the three aspects of each element. For instance, water is represented as Pisces (flowing water), Cancer (intuitive lunar-ruled maternal water) and Scorpio (deep, mysterious water). The signs also rule various parts of the body: Aries rules the head, Taurus the throat and so on with the last sign of Pisces ruling the feet.

    Each sign is additionally attributed a colour. The astrological colour wheel begins with red at Aries (passion, impulse from Mars, the red planet and god of war) and ends with violet at Pisces (enlightenment/spirituality — Neptune’s nebulous yet flowing compassion). These colour codes match up opposite and equal to the chakra system, from the traditional colour of the root chakra (red) at the base of the spine to the crown chakra (violet) at the top of the head.

    However, with the zodiac colour wheel, the fire signs are the three primary colours, the air signs the three secondary colours (created by mixing the primaries), Cancer and Capricorn white and black – and the rest tertiary colours. Imagine an artist’s palette of 12 mixed colours, all originating from a tube each of red, blue, yellow, black and white paint, with Aries being red, and the wheel makes sense.

    Moving wisdom

    Today, there’s a number of avenues available to those who seek enlightenment. Many of these cost the seeker a lot in monetary terms. Enlightenment has become a lucrative business in these days when people are looking for depth and meaning. This is one of the true powers of dance: you require only music. Exploring cultural style and technique may cost money, but the rewards are real and, once learnt, become tools for transformation.

    When dancing, you may keep in mind that if you explore the character of each astrological sign and the body part it rules, along with its element, you will open up a plethora of imaginative storytelling through dance expression. The universal character within ourselves (and each human being on the planet) is what we portray in dance. Bellydance particularly works with the archetypes of Venus, Aphrodite and Hathor — all goddesses of love, dance and music. Of course, the myriad other archetypes that reside in the human unconscious can also be manifested through dance.

    As you dance, you invite ancient knowledge. Your movement reflects simplified geometric elements that have expressed the vast array of mythology we have created over the centuries to better understand and express ourselves. Dance is an accessible way of reaching into that ancient wisdom.

    Astrology in dance

    Just as each sign has its own characteristics, so each will have its own dance expression. Try the dance style that suits your sign to unlock the timeless wisdom dance offers.

    Aries — bold & dynamic

    Express your charismatic essence through dynamic moves. Try Latin dance — feisty lambada or spicy salsa. Wear red. Allow raw emotions to show in your facial expression. Get loud!

    Taurus — sensual & earthy

    Show your earthy physicality through deep, grounded hip moves and slow shoulder rolls. Enjoy deep yoga poses and asanas as part of your dance ritual. Allow the pleasure you feel as you dance to show in your facial expression.

    Gemini — playful & lively

    Display your fun personality with playful gestures and flirtatious dance moves. Take ballroom dancing lessons with a partner; learn the quickstep and cha-cha-cha. Enjoy changes of theme in the music with different moods.

    Cancer — soft & feminine

    Unleash your artistic, emotive essence through refined moves. Dedicate your dance to the lunar goddess (Hathor of Egypt, Diana of Rome or Artemis of Greece). Enjoy beautiful temple dance styles such as the Indian sadir. Allow emotions to show as you dance. Soften your gaze and focus inwardly.

    Leo — grand & dramatic

    Reveal your flamboyant personality with grand gestures and open arms. Try flamenco and express the passion in the music with heartfelt emotion. Let the audience enjoy your radiance by dancing as though you know you’re the king or queen.

    Virgo — detailed & refined

    Show your earth-sign personality with various folkloric or traditional dance genres, from Mexican to Egyptian. Refine your dance technique with balletic elegance and modern, hybrid styles. Express nuance in the music with refined, classical movement.

    Libra — flirty & light

    Express your grace, charm and social personality with artistic movements and gestures – try tango. Allow sensuality and emotions to show in your facial expression. Flirt and be socially interactive with your dance partner and audience.

    Scorpio — magnetic and mysterious

    Display your magnetic allure through deep, hypnotic moves. Try seductive veil dancing. Maintain an intense, steady gaze while dancing or lead a powerful, ritualistic, group dance. Choose entrancing, hypnotic rhythms to cast a spell over your audience.

    Sagittarius — joyful & exuberant

    Unveil your dynamic personality with expansive moves and cultural dance styles. Try martial arts dance styles such as capoeira from Brazil or the Egyptian saiidi cane dance. Have fun with authentic, playful expression. Invite your audience or friends/family up to dance in a fun, playful way they can’t resist.

    Capricorn — robust & powerful

    Show your powerful dynamism through expressive moves. Try Moroccan and Berber tribal dances or the ritualistic zaar, tuareg or other trance dances. Allow the rhythm to fuel your dance and express raw emotions — ecstasy, bliss, vitality. Enjoy the drums.

    Aquarius — electric & surprising

    Reveal your unique personality through a variety of eclectic styles from samba to butoh. Enjoy your audience, articulate with gesture and surprise them with new moves. Invite people to get up and dance with you in a spirit of community.

    Pisces — flowing & elegant

    Express your artistic, emotive essence through refined moves. Try Indian temple dance or colourful Bollywood dance styles. Allow feeling and emotions show as you melt into the music. Dance in a dreamy, relaxed way and take the audience on a mystical journey with you as you experience the emotional mood of the music.

    Reference: Gibson, David, The Art of Mixing, 2004 (Artistpro.com)

    Keti Sharif lives in Egypt and organises cultural tours around the country. She is a bellydancer, has studied architectural design and has a BA in art history. W: www.ketisharif.com, www.oceana.net.au.

    The WellBeing Team

    The WellBeing Team

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