STORY — Sacred Dance – To dance is to learn that everything passes

Words by Charlotte Boulton

An extract from the Findhorn Foundation’s magazine, One Earth, 4, 1977 on the history of Sacred Dance and how it was brought to the Foundation by Bernhard Wosien in 1976.

[Editor of One Earth Magazine]: In 1976, during the Findhorn conference on European spiritual renewal, Bernhard Wosien and his daughter, Maria Gabrielle Wosien shared with the community their living knowledge of the Sacred Dance traditions of the West. Bernhard learned many of the dances themselves in the countries where they originated and their meaning and significance, down to the smallest movement, from his teacher who embodied the tradition transmitted through a line of teachers tracing directly back to Pythagoras.

Bernhard gave subsequent workshops between 1976 and 1977 in which he shared his knowledge of the European dance traditions and was inspired to create three original dance rituals for the community.

From the workshops, the Sacred Dance group at Findhorn evolved.

Below is an extract from a study paper written by Berhard and Gabrielle and published in the Findhorn Foundation’s magazine, One Earth, 4, 1977.

Festival of Sacred Dance, in the Universal Hall

Dance is a silent art and yet it has a grammar; the grammar of movement. When we choose the first and most simple way of being together, we join in a circle, we can then see how many there are of us, someone is opposite, someone else on the right and the left; this is the beginning of having an awareness of each other.

Then there is the crescent formation, an open circle, and the travelling line or labyrinth. There can also be a straight line, or two lines facing each other, a square or double square of eight people, four couples. Through looking at the forms we can understand to which family the dance belongs to. A further characteristic is that each dance has a basis rhythm, time signature, and of course the line of melody.

The circular and Labyrinth dances go back to the mystery traditions of the ancient orient, for example, the Eleusinian mysteries. It has been discovered that such ritual dances have been handed down to us from the time of Alexandra the Great. With the ascent of Christianity things changed; the old dances were all dedicated to a divinity as a planet, but the people, the common folk of these regions in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean still danced them. Even today this tradition is still alive.

Sacred Dance Universal Hall Findhorn with Peter Vallance

The circular and semi-circular dance is very much a Mediterranean form. When you find a square dance, you have already moved West or North. It is a different way of orienting yourself in space, of dancing together.

The next stage in the development of the art of dancing is the chain bursts into sections of fours and twos, into couples. Some couples dances, like the nineteenth century still orientate themselves to the centre and maintain a cohesion. In the next stage, even couples separate and you are left with individuals dancing by themselves. These are dances where rhythm dominates, with its vertical beat, whereas melody connects horizontally in space.

If we consider our European dance tradition, we will be reminded of this model which we have lost and which we don’t remember how to do. When a Scientist wants to reconstruct something he has to find the root, the source.

We are concerned with finding our roots, our source, and when we do find it, we enrich our experience. We have to rediscover what it is like to practice these old traditions and in dancing these old forms, it is as though we are entering another time and are guiding this ancient knowledge into this present movement. It is like finding something again, you recognise it is something you have known, you have connected with the ancient stream of knowledge which flows through you.

The art of dancing is a symbol for the law that everything passes. When the dance is over, you have nothing to hold onto except what remains in your memory, in your body and mind. The thing is that during the dance the dancer has incarnated the essence of the movement and this understanding of the transitoriness of things. What we are creating through the dance in time and space is just there for the moment. As a medium of teaching, it is unsurpassed in training your consciousness, your awareness of yourself and in relation to space. It constitutes a school of knowledge that teaches the transcendent aspect of things, and what it means to know ourselves.


‘Dance brings together, it heals, it includes, it unifies, it teaches, it touches, it transcends. Its influence can move out from here and help change the world.’

– Sacred Dance participant

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