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A Book Review: Iris Stewarts's
"Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance"

review by Rhonda

Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance: Awakening Spirituality Through Movement and Ritual by Iris J. Stewart. Published in 2000 by Inner Tradiations International.

For years, I've used dance and movement to commune with the Divine. I've used dance to celebrate the seasons and rhythms of the year, the rhythms of my life and I've used it as a healing tool to connect to body, mind and spirit. Therefore, I was thrilled to read Iris Stewart's book, Sacred Women, Sacred Dance, Awakening Spirituality Through Movement and Ritual because it confirmed, validated, and gave the historical background of women's dance as an expression of spirituality.

A wealth of research lies behind the text as Stewart explores myths, history, and symbolisms from ancient forms of dance in cultures around the world. She brings this treasure of women's ways of expressing the Divine into our own lives today by documenting how sacred dance has returned. Here is a list of a few of them:

  • European Circle Dances out of Findhorn,
  • Panurhythmy, revival of Classical Indian dance,
  • Sufism, and
  • liturgical dance in the churches,

The book is written in a very personal style, as Stewart shares with us her own personal journey in the dance. For several years, Stewart performed with her troupe whom she named "WomanDance". She tells how, during one of her performances while turning as part of her veil dance to Ravel's "Bolero", she had an out-of-body experience that set her on the road to exploring the mysterious connection between dance and spirituality.

The book, "Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance" is a work of art as it is beautifully designed and illustrated. It contains many photographs of women dancing alone and in groups, some modern and some taken from ancient paintings, sculptures and texts. The book is formatted into two parts.

Part One:
In the Beginning Was the Dance, with chapters entitled: The Goddess Danced, The Priestess Danced, Dancing Through Theology, The Dancer's Costume: Symbolic and Glorious, and WomanDance.

Part Two:
Modern Dance - the Sacred Dance of Eternity, Sacred Circle, the Serpent Dance, Lamentation, Universal Rhythms, Ecstatic and the Transcendental, Keys to Accessing Spirituality Through Sacred Dance, and more.

The result is a sense of continuity and of the link with our dancing grandmothers, whose stories can now, at last, be told. At the same time, it is, for me (and many others), a synthesis of my own journey in dance. Dance is essential to my life, and makes all those connections which I intuitively knew were there.

The author carefully documents her work with extensive footnotes and a bibliography. The book also has a resource section where dancers can find music, publications, schools, groups and organizations, that offer the study of sacred/liturgical dance, and more.

The author's website is www.SacredDancer.com.

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