In the film Field of Dreams one of the characters asks, “Is this heaven?” Another replies, “No it’s Iowa”. On a beautiful New England, September weekend I asked myself the same question, “Is this heaven?” The unspoken answer was “No, this is CultureFest!”
Dancers from Maine, Connecticut, Canada, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, Ohio, Cape Cod and over ten different Massachusetts towns gathered to celebrate and dance their divine diversity in Sacred Dance Guild’s first SD-GO Global Initiative. CultureFest weekend began with Skyloom http://www.skyloom.org hosting an evening of sacred circle dances from around the world at the Hancock Church in Lexington https://www.hancockchurch.org. The excitement was palpable as we held hands dancing our way from ancient times to the present in a lovely candle lit room. Even Fleur, the delicate dancing dog whimpered delight as she bounced to the changing rhythms in her owner’s backpack.
The Saturday workshops began with Sacred Dance Guild president JoyBeth Lufty leading us in a global warm up honoring traditions from the four corners of the earth. As we physically, spiritually and mentally prepared ourselves for an intense day of dance, a sunbeam streamed in from a skylight above and illuminated JoyBeth’s hair into a perfect halo. We knew from that moment that we were indeed dancing the divine connection. The day continued with multicultural workshops in Chinese, Armenian, and Classical Indian dance. We ended the day with a soothing movement meditation.
Sunday afternoon we gathered at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA http://www.NationalHeritageMuseum.org for our “Moving Mysteries” benefit concert. The lobby was elegantly decorated with Sacred Dance Guild banners, posters and information on SDG and COAF (Children of Armenia Fund) https://www.coafkids.org our collaborating organization. Over fifty dancers performed in a diverse program that included storytelling, Liturgical, Lyrical, Classical Indian, Chinese, Classical Ballet, Bulgarian Folk, Serbian Folk, Tap and Contemporary Jazz dances.
The concert began with Skyloom preparing the sacred space with a ritual dance to Sacred Dance Guild member Emmalyn Moreno’s “Moving Mysteries” our jubilee festival theme song. Performers seated in the theatre stood and joined Skyloom in gesture as we danced down the aisles. As I finished this dance, I noticed Mary Jane Wolbers seated in the back of the theater beaming a supportive smile. What a lovely surprise to have Mary Jane one of our Sacred Dance Guild founding members with us!
Dancers took turns on the stage and returned to their seats in the theatre to observe and applaud one another. It was inspiring to see so many dancers radiating intense joy all at the same time. The program closed with Skyloom leading everyone in song: “Go Now in Peace, go now in peace. May the love of dance surround you, everywhere, everywhere you may go.” As Skyloom played brass bells and sang, all the dancers came together on stage swaying and singing in peace and harmony. As the last tiny bell tolled its final note, the theater darkened and our sacred and spectacular concert was over. There was a momentary hush then more smiles and well-deserved applause as the lights came up. And thus our first, glorious SD-GO CultureFest weekend came to an end.
Elaine Sisler is an experienced dancer, classroom teacher, arts educator and advocate with a BS in Elementary Education and MA in Creative Arts and Learning, who has developed, coordinated and implemented a variety of integrated arts programs for students and teachers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York. She is the recipient of the 2006 Massachusetts Alliance for Arts Education’s Outstanding Arts Educator in Dance award and was a Creative Teaching Partner for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s “Creative Schools Program” and teaching artist for the Wang Center’s “Arts Can Teach Program”. Elaine joined the Sacred Dance Guild in 2001 and was first elected to the Board in 2007, serving as Development Co-Director in 2007 and Public Relations Co-director in 2008 and 2009.
She performs with Encore Dance Ensemble, and is a member of Skyloom Sacred Dance Group. Elaine directed and performed in two “CultureFest dance concerts (2009, 2012) as part of the Sacred Dance Guild”s Global Outreach program (SD-GO) an initiative to support dancers in need in Armenia and Croatia.