Book Review: Dancing on the Earth: Women’s Stories of Healing Through Dance

Author: Edited by Johanna Leseho and Sandra McMaster
Publisher: Findhorn Press
Book Publication: 2011

I have always loved to dance, so naturally I looked forward to reading the stories in Dancing on the Earth. This collection of 15 essays about healing through dance, written by women dancers from around the world, did not disappoint. Each essay was enlightening and inspiring and reinforced my personal belief that to dance is to know joy.

The book details the rich global heritage of dance, including the ritual folk dances of Eastern Europe, the Tibetan 21 Praises of Tara, Belly Dancing, the Sun Dance of indigenous peoples in North America, and the sacred Kathak dance from India. The common theme throughout Dancing on the Earth is the transformative power of dance.

Each contributing author shares how she came to dance, how it influenced and enriched her life and enabled her to reconnect with others, her own body, or the spirits. While the women featured in this book all dance to express themselves artistically, many acknowledge that dance played a pivotal role in their private healing. Deepti Gupta, an accomplished Kathak dancer who was diagnosed with breast cancer, explains that “each aspect of dance has helped me to grow healthier, stronger, more aware and more fully alive.”

Another dancer, Karla, who suffers from extreme migraines, discovered that Oriental dance was the first therapy that really helped with her pain. She writes, “Pain makes me stiff, immobile, fearful and unfree. When I dance… I don’t feel the pain or just barely. I feel complete and whole.”

For Barbara Waterfall, dance is a spiritual journey. She practises the Sun Dance of the Anishnabec, which is offered as a prayer for the People. As a Sun Dancer, Waterfall believes that she works “to manifest in the physical realm Creator’s dream of our living in peace and harmony with Mother Earth and All Creation.”

In addition to using dance for their own creative expression, self-care and personal growth, many of the contributors to Dancing on the Earth have reached out to communicate their knowledge and experience. As dance teachers and therapists, they have taught thousands of girls and women about the power and beauty of dance, helping them to further their emotional and physical integration, as well as to honour and protect their cultural traditions.

This book is fascinating. The women all write with heartfelt honesty, some with such vivid prose that their passion for dance literally jumps from the page. Reading Deepti Gupta’s description of the Kathak dance, I could almost feel the vibrations of her foot stomping, and clearly envision the graceful flowing movement of her hands and arms. Movement is one of the oldest forms of communication and Dancing on the Earth reminds us of its incredible and invaluable contribution to the enhancement of life. As one dancer so aptly concludes, “I can’t imagine my life without dance. It has become my life energy and heals my soul and therefore also my body. It’s a process that… is never finished.”

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Susannah Kent is a Toronto area Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle Instructor.

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