School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: April 2007

2 Articles by Jo Evans and Wendy Quelch
Sanctuary was a beautiful and moving gift, to dance, celebrate and feel the prescence of my femininity was truly amazing. When I arrived on Wednesday into the amazing Rill Centre, my stomach was churning with nerves at the projected experiences that I was going to have and the realisation that I was on my own for the first time in my life!!!!  No children, partner, work hat on!!

Sanctuary was a beautiful and moving gift, to dance, celebrate and feel the prescence of my femininity was truly amazing. When I arrived on Wednesday into the amazing Rill Centre, my stomach was churning with nerves at the projected experiences that I was going to have and the realisation that I was on my own for the first time in my life!!!! No children, partner, work hat on!!

Once we started dancing that evening, my nerves calmed and I began, very slowly, to allow "nothing to do, no hat to wear" into my mind and body, an uncomfortable space initially.

Sanctuary was a space for me to be me, all that I am, and dance myself into being.

I have began to celebrate me; my strength, power, beauty, sexyness, vulnerability and giving heart and truly absorb what this means. My story will continue as I begin to bring this awareness into my life.

The ritual theatre was profound and certain images I feel will never leave me.

Many thanks Susannah, the experience for me too keeps on resonating into my life and my body.

Many thanks, I await the next date for Sanctuary with anticipation!!




I’ve been dancing the rhythms intensely for about 5 years now. I’ve always delighted in being able to share my dance with the wonderful goddesses and the extraordinary males I’ve encountered on the dancefloor.

Confessing to a sister, I mentioned how tired I was of a particular ‘story’: attending a workshop, entering the dance space, scanning the floor for the most appealing male, then spending some of the workshop,(between sweating and process), edging to dance with them. I just can’t help it!! Men are a wonderful distraction. The women laughed loudly, 'oh you do that too! ', she said.

On a more serious note, part of me, my psyche perhaps, feels strongly male, when I watch the men dancing their chaos circles I want to rush in and bask in it, to feed this feeling. Did my woman just yearn to be a ‘mangirl’?.

So when a friend advised me to attend Sanctuary, I was ready to be away from my distractions. A welcomed space where I wouldn’t have those previous agendas. Yet I felt reservations too. I knew it would be a deep swim, I hoped I was able to deal with the tide. Remembering also the harm I’d felt from other women's judgement and competitive drives, (not excluding myself from welding this) and remembering a particularly bitter feud with my female boss.

I was longing to held in a space where the exhausted ‘superwomen’ could curl up and lick her wounds.

My 'she-head' knew what she was about. My finest friends are women, for solace I turn to them, for reference and emotional mirrors. I'd concerned myself with gender issues at University, majoring in Women’s Studies, even writing on female perception and sexuality. I'd wept at the 'Vagina Monologues' and performed roles myself. Yet when I looked around the circle of women during our first sharing, I saw dispersed, deep and sad faces. Then I had to admit I didn’t have a clue what it was to be an actual woman. I was stuck being a girl and when I needed to take action I borrowed a man's shell.

The sense of isolation and dispersal that came from our shared stories was overwhelming, many spoke of being alone, struggling alone, isolation, parenting, loss; then we danced. Susannah played ‘This Women’s Work’, (by Kate Bush, my utterly favourite songstress) the distressed cry of the first note became us all. I really thought I was going to drown in all the sea of stories, not just my own.

This is where Susannah’s great understanding of the need for earth, as the prime carer, the support of the great mother, the need for the comfort of letting gravity take our sorrow. We rolled and gently pushed each other over the floor. The 'earth star role'. It was for me and the group just perfect guidance from Susannah, the earth can take it, our bodies seemed to be flaying under the emotion, the ground, She, can take it all...

After that, we were gently guided through group and partner work. The tears didn’t stop but were punctuated with wonderful gutsy laughter and shared understanding. I’ve worked with Susannah a few times, but more recently with male teachers. What a pleasure to be held by her gentle, courageous strength. She seemed to allow the spontaneous with a careful wisdom. It led us light footed threw dark forests, step by step, supported by the wonderful impish Kate Shela and the earthwise lady Caroline Carey.

Two exercises have stayed with me particularly. One I shudder when I think about it. We were asked to visualise a women from our ancestors and speak and receive a gift. Mine was startlingly clear, which is unusual for me, I won’t describe it here as is feels too intensely private. It was then we were asked to find a repeated action that described these women of our ancestors. The effect was incredible, the room began to fill up with the feet of female tribes, like a clan gathering in ‘Spartacus’, tribes of women marched and carried and cried and gathered storm in unison. Faces changed, bodies became many and histories of female strength and courage crossed the space, centuries of adversity danced threw the crowds.

Finally for me also it was the incredible ritual theatre we created at the end, beautiful. Stories, rituals, rites of passage, playful and majestic, the roles we play and celebrate in the many faces of Her. I cannot describe in detail, and it would feel wrong to expose the sacredness of the this performance. I’ve watched and studied a lot of theatre; it served to remind me that it is the intention behind the piece that creates its power. The work we women produced in only a short time was extraordinary.

On a very ordinary note, it was also the work and play outside of the dance floor that I adored. The mealtimes where gorgeous, not only the food at Rill farm, but the wonderful conversations, that would drift from humour to awesome wonder and honest sharing of struggle and challenge. The open fire and the hotub became easily gatherings. I saw a little of what it is to be like, and live many women’s lives. The atmosphere of separation, shifted to communion. I think I understood some of what it is to walk in my own woman’s body, in the way that I choose to.

Many heartfelt thanks to the guidance of Susannah and Kate and Catherine; this was an incredible and necessary communion for women. And one that needs to happen more often in a woman’s work.


Wendee Jane Quelch
Here is a link to an article Susannah wrote which is relevant to this workshop called Being a Woman
The next Sanctuary workshop will be held at the Rill Centre July 5-9th.
For full details please go to:
To book contact Susanne Fehr at  01803 762999

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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.