Pankhuri shares her experience of last year’s Festival and invites everybody to this year’s.
Dance reaches where words fail. The sound of the ankle bells of a dancer says a lot even where speech is ineffective. Dance is more articulate than anything else. A dancer can go from one end of the earth to another and will, more or less, make himself understood through his dance. No language will be needed to understand and appreciate him.
Osho, Krishna: The Man and His Philosophy, ch 9
When I attended last year’s Nataraj International Dance Festival, organised by Zorba the Buddha in New Delhi, I realised that dance is therapeutic and could help me transform. Reason why I will be there again this year (29th December 2015 to 4th January 2016) like many of the friends who were there last year!
This residential festival is a five-day gathering of people from around the world, and for these days they live together like a community to celebrate their love for dance. One does not need to be a dancer, suffice to enjoy dancing! There will be amateurs (housewives, bankers, spiritual seekers like me) and professional dancers. This year, we will have some of the best international dance teachers like Mike Skilbeck, Irene Sposetti, James Stevenson, Zanicca, and Yuko with their blend of spiritual and choreographic dance styles like Biodanza, Contemporary, Bollywood, Belly Dance, Tango, Rainbow Dance, 5 Rhythms, Contact Improvisation, Free Form Dance, Moving Breath and Chakra Dance.
Through a conversation with one of the staff members I came to understand that these dance forms have been carefully picked to give the participants a balance, in terms of physical activity, social interaction and mental stimulation. For those of us who love to perform, there is also the option to learn Bollywood, Belly Dance, Tango or Rainbow Dance and perform in the final evening’s Talent Show. But being here, I realised that dancing isn’t just about the steps and music. I was motivated to dance just for the joy of it, not for others but for myself.
To describe a typical day at the festival: we all wake up to exotic birds chirping away atop trees. Some of us get our morning dose of yoga or meditation to form a connection with ourselves and the surroundings, while others take a walk in the garden or sit by themselves or with a friend, under a tree somewhere. The lush-green landscape and tranquil water bodies of Zorba the Buddha add to the beauty of everything… Or, just to be in the energy-field of this place is therapeutic.
After breakfast, most of which is organic, we get together for our daily sharing. On our arrival we were separated into groups of five to six people; these groups then become like our family for the entire duration of the festival, maybe even after the festival is over (I am super-close to one dear family member I was lucky to meet!). In the family sharing circle each member gets a chance to share whatever feelings or emotions they have been or are experiencing, or simply sit silently, fully present and open. In this morning meeting the facilitators introduce themselves and talk about the workshops they will be leading that day. As two workshops are offered simultaneously, this helps us decide what dance form we would like to explore that day.
A typical session lasts around 90 minutes. We get to dance to world music through a series of dynamic movements, which reduces stress and allows for creative self-expression. While dancing, we enter a world beyond words, which integrates our emotional self and strengthens our capacity for being authentically us. (I know I don’t qualify for it, but dedicated to all dancers, there is a Scholarship Programme in place for them.)
All throughout the festival there is also a Healing Temple that pampers the participants with healing sessions and massages from renowned healers and therapists. If someone does not wish to go to a workshop, they can relax and rejuvenate themselves through these sessions and massages. I couldn’t resist going to the dance workshops, but a few of my friends took some sessions and they loved it!
Each evening is special and unique, with musicians and artists performing. For me, it was the evenings that I enjoyed the most! Having renowned artists perform for us in a such closed gathering… It was an experience I cherish to this day. After the high of the soulful performances the party moves on to Nataraj Lounge where we connect with each other over coffee and music.
This festival is also a space for people to bring in the New Year. There is a Sweat Lodge (spiritual sauna) on the last day of the year so that we can purify our body and mind; and after the evening concert there is a cacao ceremony (cacao, raw chocolate, is a powerful plant medicine that has been used ceremonially for thousands of years). We then celebrate the beginning of the New Year by dancing, singing and embracing each other.
On the last day of the festival there is a grand celebration with music, dancing, ceremonies and the Talent Show!
And for all that no better place could be chosen than Zorba the Buddha – a safe oasis in the green outskirts of Delhi, away from all the hustle and bustle. This three acre eco-village is made from mud, bamboo and thatch dwellings. I was completely mesmerised by its magic and mystery. Here I could meditate amid the green expanse, take a walk in its award-winning gardens, strike up a conversation with like-minded people, or just be.
And after the festival? I find that India is a magical place and well worth exploring. The organisers will arrange also this year for a beautiful trip to some really special places in Northern India like Pushkar, Jaipur and Agra.
If what you have read so far inspires you, come join us! Last year it was an absolute treat. The energy that was created was almost palpable! And the same it will be this year!
Forget the dancer, the center of the ego. Become the dance. That is the meditation. Dance so deeply that you forget completely that ‘you’ are dancing and begin to feel that you are the dance. The division must disappear. Then it becomes a meditation. If the division is there, then it is an exercise: good, healthy, but it cannot be said to be spiritual. It is just a simple dance. Dance is good in itself. As far as it goes, it is good. After it, you will feel fresh, young. But it is not meditation yet. The dancer must go, until only the dance remains.
Osho, The New Alchemy: To Turn You On, ch 6
Article by Pankhuri
Zorba the Buddha – Jivan writes about the Zorba the Buddha Centre in New Delhi