Grief Dances

In my work with Erica, a lot of grief has come up.  It’s not all for my own broken life, it’s for all the suffering on our planet, all the beings being poisoned or driven out or raped, the gang members in LA who suffer from a “lethal absence of hope,” the women in the Congo who have had hideous things done to them…   I have to delete emails that show the gratuitous suffering of animals for some economic reason, I can’t bear it.  I had to find some way to move this grief.  I have heard that Malidoma Somé said of this country “your streets are full of unmourned dead,” and that Matthew Fox said if people did 15 minutes of grieving a day, it would liberate a lot of energy.  So I decided that I wanted to create a grief ritual.  I put together a sequence of Circle Dances that we do, some of them are traditional, some are modern choreographies.

Yeeftos Yeni Yol — Gypsy —those who keep being driven out. They were also sent to the ovens along with Jews, retarded people etc.

Dar Gorani — Armenian prayer for the lost homeland. The sadness of losing your home, its safety and beauty, and the hope of finding a new home.  It’s a contemporary piece of music, the dance was choreographed using traditional Armenian movements.

Vrlisko Kolo — Yugoslavian — women stepping over the dead bodies on the battlefield.

Goodnight Saigon — America — song by Billy Joel.  They weren’t allowed to play it on the radio during the Vietnam War.  We dance the suffering of soldiers, especially in a dirty war which wasn’t about saving their country at all.  The line that breaks my heart is “We were so gung-ho to lay down our lives.”

A little known fact about that war.  About 60,000 soldiers died in the war, and more than 150,000 veterans have died by suicide since the war ended.

Heartsongs — Corsica — Two people standing on the beach, looking out to sea.  The boat sailed away and hasn’t come back.  This is for the pain of the families of the disappeared, the missing in action, all the ones where you say “I never knew what happened to them.”

Goç — Armenian — leaving the homeland.  The steps are slow and reluctant, caressing the earth you love and are leaving behind.

Shoror — Armenian — lullaby to the future.  This is from the Oratorium in Memory of the Victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.  I see a woman, carrying her baby, on a death march: Armenian, Cherokee, Dakota, Navajo, …   The dance is a modern choreography using traditional Armenian steps.  There is a part which recalls the forced marches out into the desert, which is a more cruel way of killing people than shooting them.  I heard a horrifying thing which is that the Turks got the idea from the American Genocide of the Cherokee, the “trail of tears.”  At the end of the dance we walk into the center with our hands raised, representing the last movement of the Oratorium which is “Armenia with a Thousand Wings.”  Laura Shannon, the choreographer, says this “This beautiful music is a traditional lullaby melody arranged within a modern composition using traditional Armenian instruments, a beautiful example of the creativity with which Armenians have responded to the loss in this century of so much of their music, dance and other art, as well as the loss of so many lives.”

Omal Red Rain — the musicians are Greek, Turkish and Armenian.  We do it as a prayer for peace between ancient enemies.  The first time I heard this music I saw a bombed out town.  Buildings crumbling, small fires, cars overturned, dead bodies, a few people walking dazedly through the smoke.


Yeeftos Yeni Yol words.  Translation:
I have no country, I have no hope
No nation will miss me
And with my hands and my heart
I build tents in my dreams.
And our legs, when they dance
In the perfumes which enchant you
Make bodies move…
And enfold you in their embrace.

Shoror words:
‘Night, light of the moon falling on your face
My love is always for you
May no evil hand reach you
You are my only hope, you are my innocent, noble little one
I will rock you with this lullaby
So that you may grow older quickly
And quickly become the flame in the hearth of your own home
You are my dream, you are my sun…’

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