“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

As quoted in The Life and Work of Martha Graham (1991) by Agnes de Mille, p. 264




Elm Dance Weekly

Service 18 Oct 2009 - Elm DanceI enjoyed reading about this church in Australia where people dance the Elm Dance every Sunday after the worship service is over. We will start our Autumn Equinox ritual by doing this dance in the courtyard at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver at 12:10pm (or as soon as the worship service ends) on Sunday, September 17. And–who knows?–maybe we’ll keep doing it!


Here’s what their website says.

After the service, each Sunday, some join hands and for a circle for “The Elm Dance”. They gather in the circle dance area outside the church before going up to coffee in the hall; and all are invited to share in this simple movement.

A dance of remembrance and a dance for the blessing of peace.

St Pauls’ Elm Dance

We at St Pauls join in a circle dance, to pray the prayers of our hearts but especially for peace.

I thought what a great metaphor for our Christian community the Elm Dance is.

Firstly the dance, the slow measured step where we dance together to the same tune, guided by those who know it better, helped by those who know the steps and the sequence, and supporting each other when feet stumble out of step, or wander in a different direction.

Around us is God’s beautiful sky and warming light, the fragrance of rosemary, the delighted joyful music of the birds mingling with loving music composed by His children.

Wonderful too is the ever-widening circle as more and more join, effortlessly welcomed into the dance. Existing members are strong enough in loving support to let go and welcome in; new ones are brave enough to step forward and take the offered hands.

For those on the outside looking in, there is delight in watching the pattern and wholeness of the dance.

Our prayers seek to bless those from Novozybkov, that most contaminated of cities after Chernobyl and the spoken and unspoken prayers: the homeless down the street, the patient people of Zimbabwe and those with broken relationships around us; and the dance helps us bring the answers into being.

As we are swaying – Let’s Give Peace a Dance


I’m always interested in reading about the history of the music we dance to and the words, so also enjoyed their information on the “Notes of interpretation”.

Notes on Interpretation

Latvian is a language that was only written down when German missionaries spread the Christian faith in the 1700’s, being the last place in North Western Europe to maintain a pagan animistic worship of the land, the seasons and forces of nature. Hence many words in the song multiple meanings and connotations.

If you’re interested in languages, you’ll enjoy it if you scroll down and read what they have to say.

White Bird A Dance for September 2017

dancingdovesWhite Bird was the first dance that June Watts ever choreographed.

With this dance, we trace the figure of the White Bird of Peace, pointing to the head, tail, swaying on each wing. Then the bird takes off (cross steps) with our prayer of peace and alights where we send the prayer.

It’s done to music called Vasija de Barro created in 1950 by a group from Ecuador.

Marta always includes with Day of the Dead. Here are the words:

Yo quiero que a mi me entierren
Como a mis antepasados
En el vientro oscuro y fresco
De una vasija de barro

Quando la vida se perda
Tras una cortina de años
Viviran a todo el tiempo
Amores y desengaños

Arcilla cocida y dura,
alma de verdes collados,
luz y sangre de mis hombres,
sol de mis antepasados.

De ti nací y a ti vuelvo,
arcilla, vaso de barro,
con mis muertos yazgo en ti,
en tu polvo enamorado.

I want them to bury me
Like my ancestors
In the dark and cool belly
Of an earthenware pot.

When life loses itself
Behind a curtain of years
Loves and disenchantments
Will live forever.

Clay fired and hard,
soul of green meadows,
light and blood of my men,
sun of my ancestry.

From you I came and to you I return,
clay, earthen vessel,
with my dead I lay in you,
on your lovely dust.
Source; Grapevine magazine, early 1990’s (two verses only) and http://www.twinelmpublishing.com/trans22.html

Several of us locals decided it would be a dance for September and we’d all try to include it in our dance gatherings. But it sounds like if you miss it, it can work for October/November too!


Dance Palette

palette_layoutYou know what a palette is to a visual artist, right? Well this is what a palette for a circle dance session can look like. All the possibilities are there on the palette (flip chart paper) and the dance facilitator (or “weaver”) picks the ones that work as the session goes on.

Some will be ones the facilitator might teach; some are ones participants have offered to teach and some are requests from participants that they’d like someone else to teach.

Dance Palette BEFORE

The Cobourg group uses a “dance palette” approach–all possible dances are put on a flip chart – way more than could possibly be danced!

Dance Palette AFTER

Then the ones that are danced are underlined and voted on. Someone stands near the flip chart at the break and end so that people less familiar with the dances can say, “I loved the one where we walked backwards” (or whatever) and they can learn what the name is. I’d love to try this at one of our circles. Maybe when Brigitte is here in Vancouver.

Recently I tried this when I was responsible for the first hour at one of our collaborative Tuesday night sessions. I had a playlist already to go, in the order I thought I’d do if we were mainly regulars. Then I had some extras at the bottom in case for whatever reason I felt some of those dances wouldn’t work. I lined up a helper to start the music so I could be free to pay attention to the group. As it happens we had three people brand new to circle dancing, and I changed things quite a lot to start with very simple dances so people could gain confidence as we went along and dropped some of the more difficult ones. I felt sure I’d like this approach, as it fits with my experience as a facilitator in other settings.

Some dances are “left on the palette” for another time. In other words they weren’t “used” this time around but might be in future.

In some circles at the break and end of the session, participants are invited to vote on which dances they’d like to do again and those “winners” are repeated in the following session.

Elm Dance Steps, Lyrics and Stories

After dancing the Elm Dance with our group recently, I searched around for more information.

I’ll start with the part most important for dancers. So far as I can see when we raise our arms like branches, we let go hands and move in the wind touching each others’ hands and arms a bit as we do. Continuing to just hold hands is clearly a popular village variation however.

The other thing I found of interest was that the original choreography has us “circling” when we sway, not just swaying back and forth. The reference I found said moving to the front when swaying to the right, and to the back when swaying left. But I could find no video showing this movement. If your group does this — share a video so we can all see. “The sways are circular and round, soft in the wind, well rooted in the earth.”

Shall we give that a try?

I started researching because none of us there knew the answer to what is the Bach Flower Remedy for “elm”. And that’s where I found this.

Elm Bach Flower Remedy


Elm …is the remedy for people suffering a temporary loss of confidence due to the overwhelming amount of responsibility they have taken on. Genuine Elm types are people who are successful and carrying out work they believe in, but at times the burden brings them down and they feel will not be able to cope.

The remedy helps to dispel these feelings so that we can resume our lives without thought of failure.

There’s a lot more about the Bach Flower Remedies and Music on this site: https://www.musicalremedies.com/

Then I was curious about the music and learned that the song mentions apple trees and oak trees, but not elm trees. But as is often the case, it’s a metaphor and (perhaps, to some people) it’s actually a song about resistance.

Perhaps around December, we could try to add a Holly dance to our repertoire:


The song is Kā Man Klājas and it was a popular song at the time it was choreographed. The choreographer Anastasia Geng (1922-2002) choreographed many songs to correspond with Bach flower remedies. Joanna Macy learned this dance from Hannelore, a friend in Hamburg.

Here’s the itunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/ieva-akuratere/id260647004

The words are these: (I haven’t included the repeated lines)

Ko man dosi mamulite, par muzigu dzivo anu

What will you give to me mother dear, for eternal life

Izplaukst zelta abelite un ka rita migla skan

The little golden apple tree blooms, and rings out like morning mist

Ko tas dos tev mamulite, ka tavs delin nenomirst

What does it give to you mother dear, that your little son doesn’t die

Atbildes nav

There is no reply

Tikai veja notric ozoliu birze

Only the grove of oak trees trembles in the wind

Tikai koki savikas uz rudeni

Only the trees put on their autumn leaves

Atbildes nav

There is no reply

Ko man dosi mamulite, par muzigu dzivo anu

What will you give to me mother dear, for eternal life


Izplaukst zelta abelite un ka rita migla skan

The little golden apple tree blooms, and rings out like morning mist

Izkid visi mani joki, Visi joki gludeni

All my humour dissolves, All jokes fall flat

Tikai kajas droak savu zemi min

Only our feet all the more surely trample our earth

Tapec draugi ka man klajas

Therefore, friends, how I am feeling

Itneviens lai neuzzin

let no one know

I also found a Christian church who dance it every Sunday, St Paul’s Anglican Church Beaconsfield, near Fremantle Western Australia. http://www.stpaulsbeaconsfield.org.au/prayers/elm.html

As they say, “As we are swaying.. give peace a chance.”

The Elm Dance: Story and Actual Dance Exeter New Hampshire Unitarian Universalist Church

First Unitarian Universalist Society of Exeter (FUUSE) Minister Kendra Ford introduces Coleen O’Connell, treasured colleague of Joanna Macy’s from Lesley University, Director and founder of the Ecological Teaching and Learning Program. Coleen shares the story behind the Elm Dance, a remembrance of what was lost in many Russian villages and surrounds as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. FUUSE is celebrating “The Great Turning and the Work that Reconnects”…people concerned with and considering taking action to deal with preserving life on the earth. “The Great Turning” is a name for the essential adventure of our time: shifting from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.

And here’s a talk by Joanna Macy on the Dharmaseed website about this story of how she first shared this dance. (She starts about 8 minutes into the audio file.)


October Dance Poll

Which dance should we select for October’s dance?

This is a new idea to select a dance each month that will be danced at several lower mainland circles. If you’d like a dance added that’s not there, just let me know. circledanceucv@gmail.com

Here’s the complete list from the Bears’ list at circledancing

(Death, End Of Shedding,
Without Illusion, Thinning of
Veils, Rest)
**Old Woman
All Soul’s Night
An Diran
Between the Worlds
By a Quiet Stream
Crossing (The) (Osiyeza) –
intense, pagan
Dance The Mystic Spiral
Dar Gorani
Dark Spiral
Death Ronde (Return Again)
Deep Peace
Dimna Juda
Dreaming – Samhain to
Spring equinox
E Ho Hi
Earth, Air, Fire, Water
Elm Dance
Embrace the Shadow
Eno Sagrado (Sacred Ground)
Enso – Japanese sign for
emptiness (all possibilties)
Four Elements Dances (1)
Insider, The
Kangueleftos (The Gate)
Karev Yom
Lam Lam
Le Bezu
Moroccan Exile
Namah Shivaya
Old Woman
Sacred Hoop
Shift, The
Shiva Shambo – intense
Still Point
Swimming to the Other Side
Take Me to The River
The Crossing (Osiyeza)
The Shift
Vrlisko Kolo
Weaver and the Web
Whisper, The
Who By Fire
Yianni Mou (Dark Miserlou)
You Have Loved Enough

Autumn Equinox

Here are some of the dances that “the Bears” suggest for the Autumn Equinox.
Which would you like to dance in September?
Fall Equinox: (Balance, Rejoicing In The Harvest And Summer, Anticipating Winter)
An Diran
Banish Misfortune
Dimna Juda
Fields Of Gold
Harvest Moon
Hava Avar Babanot
Hora Mare
Inside Water
John Barleycorn
Many Rivers
Maze Maize
Od Lo Ahatvi Dai
Old Woman
Seasons Green And Gold
Shiva Namo
Stag Dance
Suo Gan
Swimming To The Other Side
Take Me Down To The River
Wash Your Spirit Clean
We Have Not Loved Enough
Zaken Metayel (Old Man Walking)
Zeleneye Zhito

I’ve made bold the dances that I know for sure we have danced.

Vote for which of these familiar ones you’d like to dance during September!

Dancing for Peace

We will participate in this worldwide Dancing for Peace event on Thursday, September 21, 2017.

Following is from Friedel Kloke-Eibl

Setting out – Together

For an open world of tolerance

that won’t be dictated by fear

but by the good in every man.


Being on a journey together

in a multicultural world

that moves people of different religions

to venture on a joint path of peace.


Daring to resist together

for a hospitable world

in which xenophobia

has no breeding ground.

 Pierre Stutz  from “Breathing Space for the Soul”

Dear dancers,

It is a matter of heart to engage myself for peace. As every year I invite dancers worldwide to dance for peace at the UN-world-peace-day 21st September. Last year I organized 3 big Peace events in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. Saskia, Nanni and I danced and Joanne Shenandoah, the Grammy-Award winner and peace-activist, gave an evening-concert in each place.

Should you wish to join this initiative, we would very much appreciate a short notice about where and when you plan to dance with your groups (or alone), and be happy to announce it on our website.

 In anticipation of our dance circle spanning the globe, I am sending you lots of love.