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Dunyati Alembic at Kripalu

In its beauty and integrity, the Dunyati Alembic had the deserved honor of being the Wednesday evening event in the Main Hall at Kripalu Center for Yoga in the Berkshires.  The Main Hall is a high vaulted temple, dramatically lit, with soft carpeted floors, and Wednesday evening is usually a community kirtan with many attendees. February 10th, the Alembic conducted the meditation by leading the observing community of 75–80 people into a deepening interior world with our Dancemeditation.

Our program was an hour in length with all nine members remaining in the Witnessed Arena the entire time. The dancers, wearing pale, flowing clothing, sometimes moved in a specific practice and sometimes watched in witness practice. The goal was to stay relaxed and connected to breath during the sequence of practices and transitions while being observed — simple, but difficult.

The tone and stability was set by a long Opening Sequence. The Walking Meditation was particularly arresting in the pale silks, some dancers dragging veils or holding them bunched but quiet. It had a sense of women across many times and generations. The variety of ages and body types contributed to the sculptural beauty and was refreshing in meaning. The final line of dancers standing along the front of the space shimmying for a period of time gazing straight at the audience, then standing still  facing the audience, eyes closed in a minute of silent meditation was exquisite. There was no coercion, only a pure intimacy. Viewers eyes had time to breathe and see. To rest their eyes on each quiet face.

The responses were many and touching. One woman said she felt she was dreaming, and after only had to go to bed to sleep. Several people said after they couldn’t speak they were so moved and in a deep personal space; later they talked at length. Those of us who stayed for the remainder of the week were stopped in hallways with reflections from those who attended. As a life-long performer, I’ve never had such a warm and thoughtful response from an audience, which speaks to both the content of the Alembic’s work and the nature of the audience Kripalu attracts — a perfect location for this marriage of Art and Mysticism.

As choreographer for the evening, I have been wondering if observation of the practices arranged and carefully designed so the dancers could stay inside their focus would actually work within a theatrical context. To see that it does is thrilling for me. It inspires me to once again delve deeply into Art, a realm that had become dry, empty, ego-based, which I found uninteresting.  The Alembic evening was healing and beautiful. The dancers were very human, very spacious, and very sincere. Their beauty came from this and gave these qualities back to the audience.

The ensemble for this evening was:  Dunya McPherson with Elizabeth Abbene, Carleen Bevans, Anastasia Blaisdelle, Nisaa Christie, Ann Galkowski, Annabelle Keil, Gayla Reilly, Kate Russel, and Kate Temple-West.

The Dunyati Alembic is the performance wing of the Dervish Society of America, under the direction of Dunya Dianne McPherson. The performers share Dancemeditation™ as a dominant influence in their self-understanding. Performative presentations are a framing of group and personal practices, with a vision of absorption into Beauty and Mystery.

Its next evening is February 22, 2010, 7pm at the Metropolitan Building in NYC, a continuing working series made possible by Eleanor Ambos’ generous gift of space.

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    2 Comments
    1. Reading this brought chills to my skin and little pools of tears. Truly a gift to be able to share such a rich, deep Presence with a receptive community in the warmth and love of this practice. I am thrilled for you Dunya for your discovery that deep embodiment can work in a theatrical context. This awareness could change the nature of performance to the Truth we so seek.

      February 16, 2010
    2. I agree, Sandi. That’s what I felt as I watched. This is another world altogether and so so so needed. It was water in the desert, no doubt about it. The movement seemed both very accessible, yet we knew it came from such a different sense of being that it takes intense internal commitment to be able to do it. And a whole new strategy of being in the world to be that open and clear.

      For me as an artist, it brings to fruition a vision that initiated my spiritual quest 30 years ago. It also launches a new level of the vision. A quiet cataclysm.

      February 16, 2010

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