July 19, 2017
by Tess Howell, United Kingdom
Ideally, as dancers the altar can alter our experience on the dancefloor.
An altar/installation can provide us with a place to spend a moment reflecting and finding refuge when perhaps our inner world is twirling and swirling just a little too much. We can make a personal prayer there – spend a moment tangibly touching in to something greater than ourselves. I believe that altars can play a regulatory role when we’ve let reality really rock us.
It’s the creation of a sacred space at the side of the dance floor, a gathering of objects and images to inspire us, provide us with a focus for a pause point, perhaps even instill a sense of wonder within us.
We can frame it as an installation (rather than an altar) if need be – as “just art” so as to not make it too scary to those still somewhat stumped by the idea of sacred space or by letting holiness hold our common humanity.
After all, art murmurs to us in metaphors – so we’ll each have many different reactions and reflections to what we see in front of us.
This tradition has been happening for a long while within the 5Rhythms. It was the fabulous Martha Peabody who started this (he)art-form to accompany Gabrielle’s deep grooves and wilder workshops.
Now it’s a regular feature, with many folks generously gifting their skills to make a focus for the dance at the hundreds of weekly waves and workshops occurring around the world.
Altars can transform space – maybe making a functional gym into some kind of fully fledged chapel of consciousness! It’s a sort of practical poetry – both playful and prayerful. They can be stunningly simple or intricately immense.
When we create them, we need to listen in to what will best support the dancers and serve the space at each event.
Ideally, as altar makers we don’t really make the altar! We just happen to be here with hands, heart, head; a few materials and maybe some art skills; then, if we are wise, we let the muse mutter her wise wishes to us! We do our best to deliver her design brief!
Sometimes “I” make an altar, yet mostly the best ones just seem to take shape of their own accord with me very lightly touch tending to the materials along the way.
When all is going well, we get to listen to what life wants to co-create with us; as much as what we want to shape and create the sacred shapes of our lives into …
Much like the dance – we’re aiming to find and foster a sense of spaciousness; letting life flow through us, finding our creative calling and following our felt senses forwards …