School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: March 2011
Summer Long Dance

By Sarah Wearden
“Didn’t your mother do well to time your birth so that your 40th Birthday would coincide with this day!” These were Susannah’s thoughtful worlds to me as I stood a little shyly by the fire having had the amazing experience of 150 of my tribe sing Happy Birthday to me.

What incredible timing indeed, how lucky I was to be crossing this gateway into the 40’s, amongst my dancing family. And here we were, gathered by the fire, in the great unknown of what was to be the unfolding of the next few days. The only thing we knew was that we were all crazy enough to have signed up for it!

The following afternoon, as the sun began to set, the journey began. We walked in silence, one behind the other, across the land to the rather huge marquee where we were to spend the next 48 hrs in Ceremony. One of the requirements of the Long Dance was that we were all to be wearing white clothing.  I was somewhere in the middle of the line and the sight that lay before my eyes, of the golden sunlight blessing the white clothed bodies as they walked up a hedge rowed path and out into the expanse of a field on a hill… was a vision of beauty. I have always liked the idea of pilgrimages, of walking the land in silence with others. It resonates with something deep in me, like its something that I already know. Rowland too spoke of this, as we stood in a circle at the top of the hill and looked out at Glastonbury Tor. He spoke of his love of walking on the land and how possibly centuries ago this land would have once been walked, in pilgrimage, as we were doing now. What an honour, in our busy lives, to take the time for this. As we stood in the circle two butterflies weaved themselves amongst us and as we walked on down hill, towards our destination, I noticed two birds of prey circling overhead in the distance, no surprise the animal spirits were with us, this was to be a meeting of all worlds.

As I sit here now, writing this nearly 8 months later, I remember the feeling as I was warmly greeted into the space. It was a bit like landing on another planet! It instantly felt peaceful, safe and as I explored more I discovered alter rooms of unbelievable creativity and beauty.  I witness the delight in others as we explored the space together. I was excited and a little apprehensive of the journey ahead.

And what did unfold?  For me it felt like it was an experience of how life can be and experienced when we are all connected to ourselves, to each other and to spirit. The ease at which life does just unfold and where magic does happen. I was blessed with deep healings and I witnessed many incredibly dances. We cried, we smiled, we sang, we screamed with rage and danced with ecstatic joy. Yes I had moments of struggle, doubt and “what the …. Is this about!?” but I also knew that these moments were just another layer of resistance I was coming up against.  I remember incredible moments when it felt like the whole 150 of us were leaping in the air in dancing prayer, joined in our hearts longing for peace.

In our final moments of dance together I was held in my breaking. I felt like my whole body was breaking in grief and relief. That what had happened over the last 48 hrs of ceremony was an answer to a longing deep in me. Where people come together as community, in a space that is totally safe…were healing can happen, hearts can open and feel safe to love and be loved. It feels so simple but somewhere along the way, in the world we live in, it just feels that things went a little bit wrong…

And now is the time for change to happen. For those of us that know that another way is possible…I feel that the Long Dance is a great way to play a part in paving the way. From my own experience the whole  “operation” was masterfully held by Ya’acov and Susannah and their assistants.  The logistics of making this happen I imagine was no small feat! The apprentices did an amazing job of making sure that all was cared for. Speaking to friends who were apprentices they spoke of how their work became easier as the collective space dropped into deepening connection. How the person you needed to speak to just turned up…etc etc. That’s when it was all just unfolding and we were all just playing our part. Such a relief to not be in control!

Yes we did only sleep for a very few hours each night but I arrived exhausted and left recharged! As we know, time can do funny things in such connected spaces.  As I think of it now, its actually like being at a big sleep over party, after a couple of hours sleep in the same room as 150 others, you’re awoken by some great tune and Ya’cov whispering some hilarity into the microphone and the room erupting in laughter…and then the dance begins again…not a bad way to wake up to a new day!

I sadly can’t make it this year, due to work commitments. I had hoped that the Long Dance would be an annual pilgrimage for my partner and me. Hopefully next year.  But if you’re thinking of going, go! If you have doubts about the “Can I dance for 48 hrs?”  “What about not having enough sleep” whatever they are…still go. You are advised to rest when your body needs it and you will be extremely well looked after.

The date of the Long Dance this year coincides with our local Carnival that attracts 1000’s of people and is an important date in the diary as a shopkeeper on the street where it happens.  So as I join in our local celebrations of community, and celebrate my 41st Birthday dancing on the street outside my shop…  I will be having moments of loving knowing that there will be a community of crazy hearts that will be dancing in ceremony out in a huge marquee, in a field somewhere in Somerset.


This year's Long Dance is taking place from 8 - 12 July in Somerset.  Contact Roland at if you would like more information or would like an application form.  There is a short film about the 2010 Long Dance available HERE


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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.