Ancestors Workshop

“What did you do on the weekend?”

Working in Corporate, the question colleagues ask on a Monday morning.

Standard answers are watching the rugby, playing golf, spending time with the family, walking the dog, swimming laps of Bondi, cycling to Brisbane and back, etc etc

“What did you do?”

“Oh, nothing much, just danced for fourteen hours at a 5Rhythms Ancestors workshop Friday night to Sunday afternoon”

“What…Danced????…Ancestors????…”

Now it’s time to do a tactical switch and talk about Ireland beating the All Blacks in Dublin on Saturday night. Much safer ground.

Writing this on Tuesday, the second day after the Workshop ended, I’m still coming to terms with the phenomenon which was the workshop, run by Sylvie Pinot of Syzygy Dance Project out of San Francisco, organised by Sue Anderson of Urban Waves Dance in Sydney and assisted by Michelle and team from Radiance.

Friday night commencement starts at 645pm on a balmy late Spring evening at Rushcutters Bay, Drill Hall. There’s about 75 dancers, including roughly half there for the night dance only and the rest who’ve signed on for the weekend workshop. I made the decision to come to the workshop at the 5R dance the previous Sunday but only actually booked a few hours before the start. Tail end charlie, battling with the demon of procrastination.

So glad I did though.

We are encouraged to bring some objects which remind us of our ancestors – photos, jewellery, pictures, talisman of all sorts. I bring a copy of my late mother’s obituary penned in the Meath Chronicle by my cousin Gerry, including a photo. I put this in a WW2 vintage leather gaitor worn by my grandfather James, my matrilineal grandfather,  above his army boots.

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Ancestral Talisman

I bring also a pale blue silk scarf belonging to my mother which I took from her wardrobe after her funeral in Ireland two months ago. I place these three objects on the installation/ altar prepared by Diana.

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Diana’s Installation

During the weekend I intermittently dance with the scarf. With the spirit of my mother Regina (Jean) who loved to dance. She asks me to. She wants to join the throng and dance.

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Jean, circa 1942

Sylvie lays down the music and soon we are swooning and gliding through Flow, then the beats picks up in Staccato and it’s mostly a blur after that, a jumble of images, sensations, movement, energy, connection, connection, connection.

Sylvie intersperses the dance with breaks to orientate us as to what the weekend is about. She asks us to invite our ancestors in to dance with us, to show us what needs to be done to break old patterns build up over centuries through the bloodlines, letting go those behaviours and shapes which no longer serve us, taking up new shapes to serve us and our families and communities for the better.

I like the concept of Shape which she emphasises over the course of the weekend. I’ve been exposed to it before during the course of my 5R journey, especially in the Stillness Rhythm. Sylvie really works the concept deeper, especially in the Shapeshifter work we do on Sunday.

My old Shapeshifting skills learned growing up haven’t always served me well, or those around me. They have been tools of disconnection, of camouflage and subterfuge.

Under Sylvie’s tutelage, these skills are turned around to connect more to others, opening and revealing the authentic, real  person behind the masks. This is an ancient magic come to the Drill Hall through the agency of a shamanic master.

She tells us to keep those spirits around who are going to help us in the process. The others, who may not help or who may hinder, tell them to go outside the hall. They will do so if you ask.

We finish sometime after 9pm. I have no idea of the time. I’m in a different place altogether.

Saturday is another glorious late Spring morning. The Jacaranda trees bloom purple-blue  in the streets around Rushcutters Bay. We start at 11. The day is broken up into focusing on the Matrilineal Line ancestors in the morning, the Patrilineal Line ancestors in the afternoon. We break up into groups to do various exercises, dancing all the while.

For the matrilineal, each group member takes a turn in the centre while the others circle around representing the ancestors. The person is reborn again in a Shape manifested through the exercise and the others interact with and help the Shape to change.

I do the maths afterwards – allowing for three mothers per century this gives three hundred mothers over the last ten thousand years. More if you allow for shorter life spans. And that’s only counting the maternal line. Double that if you add in the paternal line.

Six hundred mothers – Powerful medicine.

Stuff happens during the exercises. Deep shifts. What happens on the dance floor, stays on the dance floor. Or not.

In the afternoon, the Patrilineal exercise involves the group members forming a line and the lead member arranges the others in Shapes representing impressions from their Patrilineal line. As with the Matrilineal exercises, Shapes morph into other Shapes to represent a changing of damaging patterns from the past into ones conducive to living a more fulfilling life in the here and now.

Each group has a short session to debrief amongst it’s members. The consensus seems to be there’s more of a sense of heaviness around the Patrilineal energy, constrained, an edge, a hardness. Some of the women share how good it feels to be “back as a woman” after the exercises conclude, so potent is the male energy swirling about during these episodes.

Sunday is again a lovely sunny Spring day. We kickoff at 11 and conclude around 5. Today we go back from our direct ancestors to the Tribes, the four legged Animals and finally to the Land. Sylvie reminds us that the medicine works both ways. We get the medicine going backwards, we give it going forwards. Always the circle.

We dance through exercises for Tribal, Animal and Land.

The Tribal exercise opens up and reveals to me a childhood incident which still impacts how I work in groups fifty years later.

The Shapeshifter dance work, going from North-Animals of the Air, East-Animals of the Desert, South-Animals of the Earth, West-Animals of the Seas, is extraordinary.

The Land, like the Patrilineal of the day before, has a deep, heavy feel to it.

The last exercise before the workshop ends and the group splits up, each dancer to go  their own way, is a giant turning circle representing the movement of the earth.

One by one, each member goes into the middle to make a Shape which represents how they feel at the end of the workshop. Each Shape is supported by some circle members breaking off into the centre as they feel the urge or intuition to support the person doing the Shape. More magic happens.

This was truly a wonderful, moving, positive, life affirming workshop. As I walk away I feel the energy of the Ancestors hovering closer now than before, ever willing to join in to assist when they are called upon to do so.

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