Mythology and Astrology –
Exploring the creative character of dance expression
- BA Art History
dance a ritual, a means of celebration, a form of entertainment,
or something more?
it be a mode of human expression that harnesses the secrets
of the universe?
of my favourite quotes is, “Everything in life is a symbol, and
astrology speaks the language of symbols. Translating our ordinary
experience into this language allows us to live life with more
grace.” Jessica Murray
an ex-architectural design student, geometry usually underlies
my dance teaching.
is created from shape, pattern, and body geometry articulated
through movement in a spirit of communication, expression, and,
often, celebration. There is a life force alive in dance - the
dancer - that expresses a dynamic link with life and ancient
cosmological principals (regularly occurring patterns of creation
in process) on a universal scale.
you don’t think your dance could possibly be that important in
universal terms? Think again.
is based on fractal geometry, and the first stellar geometry that
was studied in the ancient philosophical center of Alexandria,
Egypt, became known as astronomy – the mathematical study of the
revolution and pattern of the planets and constellations in our
solar system and how they affect the human, animal, and planetary
organisms. Euclidian geometry describes the basic shapes and spheres
that are consistent on a molecular and universal level, giving
birth to the idea that the macrocosm reflects the microcosm. The
Pythagorean theory of the “Music of the Spheres” draws vibrational
parallels with sound frequencies and colour-light wavelengths.
There is living, organic, scientific patterning around us. And
as we live it, we absorb it – we even dance it!
primitive cultures the links between heaven and earth, spirit
and matter, or human and god or nature was understood and celebrated
through ritual, song, and movement.
The movement that was used was created in response to rhythms,
which were basically primal patterns of time keeping, usually
based around the four-part revolution. Rhythm mimicked the cyclic
natures of birth and death, planetary regeneration, the lunar
phases, the female menstrual cycle, and the seasons. Myths were
even created to explain these phenomena – like Ishtar’s descent
into the underworld or Isis’s search for the dismembered body
parts of Osiris. The “sacred marriage,” or “heiros gamos,” was
featured in most fertility myths and, in Euclidian terms, represents
the “viscera pisces” (splitting of the whole into two parts).
In Asia Minor, Artemisian cults followed the lunar cycle and danced
the “chiftetelli” every full moon. In fact, ancient scholars began
mapping the astrological signs over 5,000 years ago because they
experienced a direct, perpetual correlation between the planetary
movement and the events that took place on our planet. Mythology
speaks this language and translates the basic cosmological dance
in a simple array of “characters” or planets ruled by the gods
in various incarnations, each with very specific attributes.
progressed in various ways throughout the Asian, European, Middle
Eastern, and African continents. Often the same mythology is rehashed
and cross-culturally explored through a character or deity with
remarkably similar characteristics and placement with other characters
in the story plot. These characterized themes are simply the human
way of understanding pattern, universal principals, and the cyclic
nature of our being.
however, in its primal state, bypasses many “mental analyses”
and seems to translate a type of elemental universal knowledge
directly through the body.
One can, I guess, say the same about music, which in its most
primal state is almost unconsciously drawn from the musician,
with a guidance that cannot be explained in terms of “literal
study” or “dissemination of learnt material.” It is sometimes
called “inspired,” but where does that really come from? In dance,
one of history’s oldest modes of communicating with divinity and
nature, the body becomes a vehicle for universal knowledge through
music. The two are inextricably linked; the audio becomes the
visual. When the two parts become one, the expression is complete.
And in its completion, we assume some message has been transposed
from the divine “inspiration” to the “vibrational” mode of music
to a “physical” understanding through the body. As simple as it
seems, this process harnesses various cosmological elements within
its progression; there is a clarity or awareness realized through
the act itself. Inspiration and instinct often guide both music
dance, the body becomes a vehicle for three things:
The establishment of a rhythmic pattern response through the
rhythm and tempo of percussion, thus creating a physiological
and psychological effect. Drums are primal and instant in
their effect with a core range of tempos from 60-180 beats per
minute (BPM) that affect our physiology (our entire endocrine
system noticeably speeds up simply by listening to 130 BPM, while
60 BPM is pacifying and is often used in hypnosis).
Creating a music-melody-movement response to the various instruments
played, thus tuning body movement with sound wavelength and frequencies.
Instruments are held by the player near the body area that harnesses
the frequency of the specific instrument. For example, drums are
approximately 50 MHz, as is the frequency of the pelvic area in
humans. Flutes are pitched at almost 4,000 MHz as is the frequency
of the head area in humans.
This explains why African warriors dance using low, grounded aggressive
movements to earthy drums, while the Sufi dervishes spin to flutes
for enlightenment. Fiery guitars sit in the mid-body area, with
qualities matching the solar plexus’ characteristics of pride
and courage apparent in Spanish flamenco. The emotive heart area
tunes into a higher frequency again, so instruments like the accordion
and violin create music that engage feeling and “pull the heartstrings.”
Tuning into cosmological principals based on the body’s ability
to create SPACE, WEIGHT and SHAPE in unchanging elemental fractal
geometry. We dance the shapes and patterns that music creates,
thus replicating the pattern in a physical, kinesthetic dimension.
as we dance, the tempo of the rhythm and the emotive frequency
of the music and melody are demonstrated through the organic body-mechanics
of dance. Dance becomes the art representing the music - “The
Music of the Spheres”. We fall into fractal patterning and “know”
instinctively that when a certain drum pattern emerges, we step
and rock into it. Like the zaar
dancers who instinctively swing and shake their bodies into trance
states through moving meditation on the rhythm. Or Sufi dervishes
who step and whirl in tune to the rhythm that takes them to psychological
nirvana. Rhythm is a natural evolution of cosmological mathematics
and this is possibly best portrayed in Islamic art.
art is based on art that expresses god through pattern – the
cosmological patterns of the universe, as god creates it – an
unchanging, unyielding force to be respected and revered. These
fractal images are repeated in Arabic rhythms and music, even
We dance the four elements of earth, fire, water, and air as they
manifest through rhythm, vibration of music, and frequency of
sound. Frequency of sound matches up with colour wavelengths –
red (earth) for base frequencies like drums, orange and yellow
(fire) for the string instruments (low-mid frequencies), green
and blue (water) for emotive higher frequencies, accordion and
violin, and lastly indigo, violet, and white (air) frequencies
for the highest, lightest instruments like flute and sagat. Elements
can be colour-coded and respond to vibrational frequencies.
in this order, what can this tell us about other philosophies?
first correlation that becomes apparent is that these are the
EXACT alignments of the colours of the Hindu-Buddhist chakra system
from root to crown chakra. The physical placement of the instruments
are also in harmony with the assembly; instruments are played
on the part of the body that harnesses the four elemental qualities
and the same body area responds to the instrument, expressing
its attributes along with element, sound frequency, and colour
elements carry a planetary mathematics with them, which is seasonal,
fractal, and perpetual. This, in ancient times, was expressed
as the astrological system of twelve parts or signs: three water
signs (Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio), three earth signs (Virgo, Taurus,
Capricorn), three air (Aquarius, Libra, Gemini) and three fire
signs (Leo, Aries, Sagittarius). Each sign is ruled by a planet
and carries a set of characteristics that portray the “trinity”
or “three aspects” of each element. For example, water is represented
as Pisces (flowing water), Cancer (intuitive, lunar-ruled maternal
water), Scorpio (deep mysteries of water). The signs then begin
to speak a language that tie them back to the elements, to shape,
to character and frequency of body expression. In fact, the signs
rule various parts of the body – Aries rules the head, Taurus
the throat, and so on, with the last sign of Pisces ruling the
Each sign is also attributed a specific colour – the astrological
colour wheel begins with red at Aries (passion and impulse from
Mars, the red planet, god of war) and ends with violet at Pisces
(enlightenment and spirituality – Neptune’s nebulous yet flowing
compassion). Exactly opposite and equal to the chakra system,
these colour-codes match up from the traditional colour of the
root chakra (red) at the base of the spine to the crown chakra
(violet) at the top of the head. The array of colours takes its
order from the wavelengths of the colour spectrum, seen in crystals
and rainbows (images often arbitrarily used to promote a variety
of “new age” gimmicks, from quit-smoking hypnosis to organic weight
loss tablets). Recent media has loosely linked the ancient sacred
cosmological references of mandalas, colour wheels, and zodiac
symbolism to a wide range of products. Some certainly reflect
deeper principals, but most are designed as a nouveau pop-culture
emblem to lure the “new ager” to seek enlightenment through their
on the other hand requires only music. Exploring cultural style
and technique may cost money, but the rewards are real, and
once learnt, become tools for transformation.
dancing, you may keep in mind that when you explore the “character”
of each sign and the body part it rules, along with its element,
you open up a plethora of imaginative storytelling through dance
expression! The universal character within ourselves (and each
human being on the planet) is what we portray in dance. Bellydance
particularly works with the archetypes of Venus, Aphrodite, and
Hathor – the human-created goddesses of love, dance, and music.
But there are many archetypes that become a beautiful interpretation
of the many parts that make up the whole.
we dance, we bring in ancient knowledge that lies at the core
of our “humanness” – the conglomerate of the most simplified geometric
elements, the characteristics of the persona, and vast array of
mythology we have created over the centuries to better understand
and express ourselves.
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