…the body is suffused with wild and vital divinity.
…the sensuous is sacred in the deepest sense.
~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara
I go to the side doors of the large room where we are to dance. These double doors are open to the park just across the way letting in the late-summer evening breeze. I lie down on the floor, face up, and gaze up and out the doors. All I see are the branches of the tall pine that stands across the way, branches that fall across the way between the tree and me.
The first music of the night is soft and slow, and I feel my body soften into the floor. I’ve been dancing long enough now that when the music begins my body begins to dance, even if that dance is simply breath meeting beat.
There is so much here in this moment that I love – truly love. Warm soft wind, music with melody and soul, trees, and others surrounding me who’ve come here to move, too.
As the stresses of the day fall away, I begin to feel my flesh and bones against the floor in places where my body meets wood well-worn from years of feet moving across it and bodies sweating over it.
Here in these moments between the heat of the late-summer day and the cool of evening, between the word-soaked moments of my busy life and the ripe silence of moving to music without conversation, I remember, then feel, the words John O’Donohue wrote before his body passed back into the earth:
Your body is in the soul, and the soul suffuses you completely.
Therefore, all around you there is a secret and beautiful soul-light.
Lying here, I feel this beautiful soul-light. Around me. Around the tree. Around the room. Around the others coming and dropping into silence.
As the music shifts and the tempo picks up, my body rises to meet it and I begin to dance.
I always love the first moments of the evening dance as I move into flow, relaxing into it like easing into a stream. Toes dip in, then legs, and then I slide the rest of my body down into the cool dark waters of the dance. Each time I dance, these waters cleanse me, washing through the layers of soul that suffuse this body. These waters cleanse me of everything I’ve brought in with me, and over the last few weeks each time I come I’ve brought memories and images of generations past.
My sister and I’ve been going through pictures my mother left behind after her passing, and we’ve come across images of great-great-greats. Moving my fingers across these portraits of faces from five generations prior, I touch more than paper and tin-type. I touch people who gave birth to those who would give birth to me. I touch joy and heartache. I touch youth and old age. I touch promise and defeat. I touch my own DNA.
As I dance, it comes to my mind that they are all gone now. Yet I, their offspring, still dance. My body moves with the wild and vital divinity of one who is alive, fully alive, with breath and beat, sweat and heart. I feel the radiance of life unfolding from deep within me, deep in the hidden places of the heart, deep in the dark of my belly.
I notice the soul-light because the music hits soul first, before it enters my ears. The soul suffuses my body, but the music suffuses my soul.
To be touched in this way by rhythm, to have it touch my soul even before it touches my cells, is to be touched by the sacred. Literally touched. Rhythm and beat to soul, and soul to skin. And when, in the heat of the dance, my skin brushes up against the skin of another, our souls have already met prior to skin meeting skin.
Perhaps this is why it is so hard-to-describe the experience of dance when flesh meets flesh. Perhaps this is why life is so sensuous. It isn’t flesh meeting flesh first. It is soul meeting soul.