On Friday, March 5, 2010, Skyloom participated in a World Day of Prayer service, written by the women of Cameroon, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Concord, Massachusetts. Wearing brightly colored West African cloths as skirts, and colored scarves wound around our heads, we processed in with maracas, jumping, waving our arms, and weaving to the energetic drum beat of the song. Later, our sermon dance recreated women at the market with baskets, or water jug on head, who put down their wares for a digging and sowing line dance interspersed with joyous praises to the Lord around the altar, all to a celebration song for the New Year. We processed out at the end of the service as we had come in, and were later told by a member of the congregation that we were “the sunshine of the service.”
On every first Friday in March, the World Day of Prayer, started by Church Women United with liturgies written by women from different countries, is now celebrated around the world in churches of different denominations. Over the years, Skyloom has felt honored to be invited to participate in these services in churches in Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts. It has given us an opportunity to research ethnic dance styles, and we have always tried to find appropriate music from the country or area represented to add vitality and color to the celebration. This year we found some Cameroonian dance on Nigerian television. While we do not attempt to copy actual dances, we hope to give a feeling of the style through our own choreographed pieces. One year we were particularly touched when two Cambodian ladies came up to us with tears in their eyes saying, “How did you know how to dance like Cambodians?”
We feel this event is a great opportunity for sacred dancers, and if you want to find out about next year’s program, check www.worlddayof prayer.net. Then you would need to persuade a church to hold this if you do not know of one that already does.
In our communities the churches take turns, and some have dropped out because of the morning week-day time, but we have danced this service in the evening too. Our knowledge that this celebration is being held around the world with the rotation of the sun brings home to us its unifying purpose in a very special way.
Shirley Blancke is an archaeologist engaged in identifying and computer cataloguing Native American artifacts in Concord, Massachusetts. She became interested in sacred dance through her friendship with a Wampanoag medicine man who saw sacred dance as fundamental to his efforts to rebuild the Native American community by sponsoring pow-wows in Massachusetts.
At that time she met the Skyloom group, and has been a member of it and the Sacred Dance Guild for over 25 years, coming back to dance in middle age after taking ballet as a child and winning a silver cup for ballroom dance as a teen.