Called to the Dance

By Leslie Zehr

Sistrum. Seti I Temple, Abydos, Upper Egypt

I had been a lifelong dancer, but my introduction to sacred dance was entirely unexpected!

I did the usual in my childhood, started with tap-dancing, then ballet, then I ultimately went in another direction, figure skating—still dancing, but on ice. I did well at that and moved into becoming a competitive ice skater. Competing changed everything for me and somehow destroyed the beauty of the experience. At around the age of 13, I hung up my figure skates and returned to dance.

This time jazz and ballet and I began working in a semi-professional theatre doing mainly musical comedy. I was still in high school, and that was my escape. It was the only thing that made sense to me. I hated school, so this other world was where I was “alive”—far from indoctrination.

For some obscure reason, I left that all behind to go to university and study biochemistry and psychology. A surprise to everyone, including myself! I seemed to be following the Pied Piper somewhere on a very disjointed path. Looking back, it makes sense. The body fascinated me, how it worked on the microscopic level. And not only that but how the body-mind worked together. Back in the early 1980s, it was impossible to study body-mind therapy at a university in the USA, so I had created my way of doing that. It didn’t make sense at the time, but it makes perfect sense now.

I eventually landed in Egypt in 1986 and have been here ever since. I got married, had two children, and seemed to be going in yet another direction—but eventually, that also made sense. I studied alternative therapies and healing, mainly to have another option other than allopathic medicine to treat my children.

That is when things got interesting, and for the first time in my life, I felt I was on a “straight” path, somehow bringing together all the pieces of my past. In 1995 I opened a Centre for Health and Wellbeing to support my learning and allow others to expand theirs. “The Centre” later became the Centre for Sacred Arts when I had more clarity about what my path was—or perhaps more courage to say it out loud.

The door, or perhaps I should say the portal, opened, and the dance came in—the Sacred Dance, the dance of the Serpent Goddess.

The moment when my life truly made sense happened in 2002, in Upper Egypt in a temple. The door, or perhaps I should say the portal, opened, and the dance came in—the Sacred Dance, the dance of the Serpent Goddess.

When it happened, I didn’t call it that. I just thought I had to reconnect to the one thing that brought me joy throughout my life—dance. But it was so much more than that. This dance was something I had never experienced before, movements I had never experienced before, and with a depth that I didn’t even know existed.

The serpentine movements looked very much like modern belly-dance movements, but they were much older. Primordial is the only way to describe them. As I did the movements, I knew I was tapping into something profound and very ancient, the roots of my essence.

I danced every chance I was alone. I was communing with the Divine, the pure essence of creation, the all, my past, and my future. It isn’t easy to express in words, but anyone who has had the experience will know exactly what I am saying.

It continued to grow and unfold. Not only was I learning new dance movements and having a transcendent experience, but also within the movement was information, things I did not consciously know before. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I knew something profound was unfolding, so I surrendered to it.

I was dancing with the cosmic serpent (as Jeremy Narby1 calls it), the serpent goddess, Hat-hor/Sekhmet in ancient Egypt. I was tapping into all the wisdom contained in my DNA. I didn’t know that, and it would be a long time before science would even entertain the idea that there was something more than junk in our “junk DNA.” 

The dance was my ayahuasca; it put me in an altered state of consciousness and allowed me to tap into greater wisdom than I had access to in my normal waking state. The knowledge that the shamans have known how to access since time immemorial is all present right inside our cells. And the goddess was showing me how dance could activate that DNA.

First Hall. Hat-hor Temple, Dendera, Upper Egypt

Hat-hor is the primary energy that I was connecting to after that visit to Upper Egypt. She is the goddess of dance, vibration, birthing, and so many other things. Dendera is her temple. Her instrument is the sistrum “…things which exist should be shaken and should never stop moving…when decay confines and restricts nature, the power of creation sets her free, and restores her by means of movement”2

I understood from Hat-hor that “Movement is Life”3. It is the vibration that animates the universe from the smallest particles of matter to our dance. And she taught me how to invoke and use that energy in the process of transformation or the alchemy of dance, that cosmic dance of co-creation.

The dance continued to unfold, and I continued to take notes. Later, when putting it all together to teach it to others, I would look for external references to support what I had learned. I was, after all, trained as a scientist.

Most often, those references came to me spontaneously in an email or a comment from another person. Once you open the channel and intend to receive, the universe does conspire to help you.

The writing of my book, The Alchemy of Dance, came much later. I always swore I would never write a book about this dance because it is experiential and needs to be felt viscerally. Still, after teaching many classes in which the students were rapidly taking notes rather than being present in the experience, I knew it had to be documented somehow.

I have a great sense that this work, this alchemical dance form, will not be truly appreciated until after I am long gone. To create a legacy that would live on, I published it as a book.

The book wrote itself or had written itself during the experience. As I danced, I held a notebook in my hand to capture, and not forget, anything that was being downloaded. In the end, I see myself as more of a scribe than a writer. The medium I used was the written word, but those words are more than what is seen on that printed page.

For that reason, I would not let anyone else edit the book; I wanted to preserve the form it came in as. I believe there are layers of meaning that will unfold over several readings. My students have confirmed this. They have shared with me how every time they read the book; they had a completely different understanding.

So if you feel called to the dance, answer that call. The whole universe is within your reach.

[1] Narby, Jeremy. The Cosmic Serpent. New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1998.

[2] Roberts, Alison. Hathor Rising: the Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1997, 57

[3] Zehr, Leslie. The Alchemy of Dance: Sacred Dance as a Path to the Universal Dancer. New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2008, 1

Leslie Zehr

Writer Leslie Zehr teaches Sacred Dance, helping women reconnect to the sacred feminine. She is the host of The Universal Dancer Podcast, as well as being an aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, reiki master and astrologer. She has published two books, The Alchemy of Dance: Sacred Dance as a Path to the Universal Dancer and The Al-chemia Remedies: Vibrational Essences from Egyptian Flowers and Sacred Sites. Her workshops have been attended by hundreds of women of different nationalitiesand taken her from Cairo and ancient Egyptian temples along the Nile River to studios and centers in New York, Maine, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Puerto Rico and now to an online platform the Universal Dancer Temple of the Sacred Arts.  Through dance, Leslie retells the archetypal stories, taking women back through time to the essence of their being, initiating and unlocking the esoteric wisdom buried deep within their psyche.

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Posted in Dance, Sacred Dance, Sacred Dance Guild Journal, World Dance
One comment on “Called to the Dance
  1. Leslie Zehr says:

    Reblogged this on leslie zehr and commented:
    An article I wrote for the Sacred Dance Guild.


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