Ballet beyond boundaries, pirouettes and pointe shoes

JessicaSwann on March 18, 2013 10:50

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    Most ballerinas can say they have danced on stage to Tchaikovsky, which of course is a magical experience.

    The spirit of dance however is something that transcends time, space and is more powerful than music. It moves well beyond the stage. In fact, it's been a deep source of meditation and prayer across cultures, belief, religion, time and geography.

    Only last week, someone asked me how do I pray. I explained it's a ritual of a combination of prayer for the mind, the breath, recitation of sound and also prayer of the body.

    "Prayer of the body?" he asked.

    I'd never been asked that before. I had to think. I explained, "it is definitely a type of dance but it's not necessarily dancing to music. It's to the sound of silence even".

    I explained to him that there is music in the silence that tells the body what to do and you can hear it best when you switch the mind off and listen with an open heart.

    I was silent for a little while and contemplated the space we were in. I said, "there is music here, and it too tells the body what to do".

    He asked if I could show him. I've never been asked that. In fact, I've actually never told anyone about this 'music' that I tap into and dance.

    I said no, but explained that when you do this, you are far away from being self conscious, you are connected into a different space. It's very beautiful and very intimate. I explained you are not in control, and whoever is in the space with you becomes part of the dance. A remarkable space by yourself, God only knows what it would be like with someone else.

    I added, "there is music in nature too, very much so. In fact, when you connect into nature and listen to its music that is one of the most purifying of all dance meditations"

    "When you come out of it, if you do listen to music it's an intense experience. The best way I can explain this is when you do a detox for a while and when you start to eat food again you really feel what it's doing to your body".

    Not less that a week later I found out about a dance workshop in country Australia called the Four Elements Festival on the banks of Lake George. The dance teacher was one of Australia's dance pioneers with an order of Australia merit for her work in classical and contemporary dance. A beautiful woman of at least 75 years of age. At least.

    After being classically trained in Adelaide in the 1940's, Elizabeth travelled around the world for decades living and dancing in London, Italy, Holland, New York and Tokyo. Finally, settling at Mirramu in rural New South Wales in Australia where she built a mud house, a dance studio, a yoga yert and an artist space for writers and painters.

    I threw my dancing gear in the car and headed out Mirramu to visit this great matriarch of ballet.

    When I met Elizabeth I felt like I was looking at myself in many years to come. My intuition tells me she felt like she was looking at her as a younger dancer.

    I asked her what will we be dancing to. She said, "we will meditate, then we will listen to nature and then we will dance".

    For a dancer, who feels the spirit of movement, the sounds of nature can be described as a deeper, spiritual experience.

    The festival taking place at Mirramu in Bungendore is attracting dancers and other artists from across Australia and the world and it’s part of the Canberra Centenary celebrations.

    I spoke with Australian dance pioneer Elizabeth Cameron Dalmain, OAM, founder of the festival and owner of the Mirramu Dance Company.

    For more information on the Four Elements Festival taking place from the 14th - 24th March, visit

    Here's my interview with Elizabeth and her friend Kyoto, a beautiful Japanese dance teacher at least 50 years of age. Kyoto and Elizabeth met in the 1980's when they danced together in Japan. Kyoto who had flown in from Tokyo to share her work and experience combining dance and nature.

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