Dance, movement and celebration happenings from the New Human observatory
Ecstatic Dance at Joshua Creek
by Shani MacArthur
The music softly begins. Soothing. Yet provoking. Slowly my prone body begins to move, following the rhythms of my heart. Small flowing movements, my arms following my hands, following my fingertips. I feel the cool ochre floor beneath me, supporting me, grounding me. I rise lithely, joints and muscles joining into the flow of the rising musical tones. Eyes closed at first, to feel every other sensation floating around me and within me. Then eyes open as I start to move through this magical space. The windows wide open to let in the warm summer air, as the flowers dance along with us in the breeze. I flit through this space, limbs flowing as they please, answering the call of this day’s musical journey. My fingers reach up to as if to touch the rustic wooden beams overhead, yet only my fingertips caress the flock of origami birds that fly from the ceiling’s natural beams. As the music heightens, so does my essence, and my heart starts to strengthen in its nature. The beat shifts, becomes staccato and my body matches in intensity, dipping, widening, deepening, becoming a drum. My arms dip down and I pull deep goddess energy from the earth to give freely to this rhythm. My body starts to shake, shifting old energy and inviting new. As the intensity builds to its peak, I flail, I pound, and jump, moving this energy around the space, making eye contact with others to build the intensity together in this shared experience of ecstatic union. The wave, along with my body, crescendos, then starts its downward slope and the music shifts to playful, fun and lyrical. My inner child surfaces and wants to play, moving this way and that across the floor, with a wide grin and youthful laughter. I run to the window and beckon to the flowers to join in this beautiful dance of freedom and natural movement. Twilight deepens the sky, as the night wants to join as well. The music flow slows, deepens, inviting my soul to dance now. I sway and watch as the sky displays a colourful palette of sunset hues. My eyes close as I feel a pull deep inside of me rising, rising, rising. My arms reach up to the evening gratitude of this deep spiritual movement and this cherished and magical space where we are drawn to dance. I come to silence and stillness with tears in my eyes as my heart blossoms open, vulnerable and raw and open to what is yet to come.
This is my humble attempt to capture in words my experience of ecstatic dance in the art gallery at a place called Joshua Creek Heritage Arts Centre in Oakville, Ontario. Both this dance and this incredible, diverse and magical space are beyond words. Both have brought so much into my life that I can only repay in deep gratitude.
Joshua Creek Heritage Arts Centre is a serene gem that is surrounded by city, although you would never know it. It is an 1827 heritage home with surrounding gardens, meadows and tree-lined paths, overseen by Sybil Rampen, who is a spitfire of a wonderful woman who inspires me every time I engage with her. She reminds me of how age does not matter when you are moving through life with soul and vision. I admire her deeply. She and I share an affinity for spirit drums and that bonds us in a lovely way.
Sybil and her husband raised five boys on this property. After they moved out and started their own lives, she wanted to give back to the local arts community she was so deeply engrained with. She had the dilapidated barn renovated into an art gallery and meeting space. There is an art studio on site where beautiful works are created using a medium called watercolour printmaking, which came from the deep mind and heart of Sybil and has been shared with many over the years. A grass labyrinth, stunning gardens, a lap pool with a fountain, and community gardens adorn this very spiritual land. Joshua Creek meanders through the property and a resident muskrat watches over all from the weathervane and the pond below.
I have the opportunity to volunteer here, gallery sitting once a month, which is an honour and a way to give back to this space that has given so much to me. I invite you to come to Joshua Creek to view the artwork on display while drinking a hot cup of tea, to wander the grounds, or to walk the labyrinth. Rent a spot in the community gardens. Join us and enjoy the many lessons, workshops and events that happen here. Or just be in this oasis away from everything.
Joshua Creek truly is a cherished place to be.
Please follow this link to learn more about Sybil and the Joshua Creek Heritage Arts Centre.
… or this link to learn more about Oakville Ecstatic Dance, organized by my dear friends Jamie and Colin.