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Issue: September Newsletter
“Roland, we need eight umbrellas!”

By Roland
An hour or so before I received this unusual request, I myself had been sending up my own frantic pleas to the universe for a miraculous delivery of 150 umbrellas.

It was Day 1 of the Long Dance ceremony – the day of the silent procession from EarthSpirit to the Long Dance site. I was standing on top of Lollover Hill. Spread out before me was the patchwork of the Somerset Levels, with the Bristol Channel a bluish-grey streak across the horizon. I felt a rumble of disquiet. Ominous rain clouds were racing towards me, and as I watched, the distant streak of blue began to bleed as if God had spilled water across the scene.

It was Day 1 of the Long Dance ceremony – the day of the silent procession from EarthSpirit to the Long Dance site. I was standing on top of Lollover Hill. Spread out before me was the green patchwork of the Somerset Levels, with the Bristol Channel a bluish-grey streak across the horizon. I felt a rumble of disquiet. Ominous rain clouds were racing towards me, and as I watched, the distant streak of blue began to bleed as if God had spilled water across the scene.

I had 150 people dressed in white to lead across the fields; this was not a good time for a downpour. But my powers of manifestation are limited and certainly not up to a spontaneous same-day delivery of umbrellas to the top of a Somerset hill. What other options did I have?

The list was very short:

  1. Tell everyone that I was abandoning the procession and that they could all run to the marquee.
  2. Quicken the pace of the procession ever so slightly, cut across a field, ignoring the path around the edge, and pray that we arrive before the rain.

Health and safety considerations dictated the second option.

Fortunately, my prayers were answered. As the last few dancers processed into the marquee, the first heavy drops began to fall.

This moment of arrival at the marquee is highly symbolic for me: it marks the culmination of months of preparation and waking in the early mornings with anxiety gnawing at my guts.

I savoured the moment over a very English cup of tea.

It was at that cup-meets-lips moment that along came the request for eight umbrellas.

Now, one of the things that I have noticed about people attending the Long Dance is that, although they are intentionally trying to access altered states of consciousness through dance and ceremony involving prolonged food and sleep deprivation, nearly everyone participating believes that when they are interacting with the normal world, they are behaving exactly as they normally would. However, the messages that come to us from inside the Long Dance marquee often tell a different story. And this request (from who or for what purpose remained unclear) that I magic up eight umbrellas on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of the Somerset levels was surely evidence that the ceremony had begun to take effect.

On this occasion, we managed to source two (not eight) umbrellas, and these were duly erected above the DJ’s desk to prevent condensation running onto the equipment from the marquee roof.

As the Long Dance gets underway, requests from the marquee often come in for more supplies: “We’ve run out of black bags and urgently need some more.”

How can that be? I wonder, knowing that we ordered an enormous quantity of bin bags in the weeks before the ceremony.

“Have you checked in the supply tent?”

“Yes of course.”

“Come with me.”

We go to the supply tent and sure enough, in a storage box clearly listing ‘BIN BAGS’ among its contents, we find two large rolls of bin bags. I pick up one of the rolls and hand it over.

Other conversations can be similarly bizarre and sometimes a little frustrating.

“This torch you gave me doesn’t work!”

“Have you tried turning it on?”

“How do I do that?”

“Let me show you.”

These anecdotes give you a flavour of some of the unique quirks and challenges of running an event such as the Long Dance, which I have been organising now for six years. In 2016, we will be taking a break from the Summer Long Dance. The next one will be held in 2017 and located at EarthSpirit. While I am thankful to be having a break from this mammoth feat of organisation and am looking forward to anxiety-free mornings next May/June, I also know I will feel the loss.

There are two main reasons for this.

The first concerns the very evident benefits that participants gain from taking part. It is difficult to put into words, but I have a sense that the benefits people derive from the Long Dance are somewhat different in kind from those experienced by people attending our conventional workshops. I attribute this difference to the fact that, at the Long Dance, people are dancing not just for themselves but for others: for their friends, their families, their communities and beyond to the entire human and more-than-human world.

This brings me to the second reason for my enthusiasm for the Long Dance: the amount of money that participants raise for charity through sponsorship. Several years ago we were impressed when more than £30,000 was raised. In subsequent years, we were even more impressed when this amount grew to £40,000 plus. This year (drum roll!) participants and their sponsors raised more than £73,000! This is an incredible sum, which will be distributed to a variety of charities around the world, including £22,000 for the Pachamama Alliance. To play a part in the process of allowing this to happen gives me immense satisfaction and pleasure.

Looking forward, I know that there will come a time when we must pass the Long Dance over to new hands so that it may continue to evolve and grow – hopefully in a country with more clement weather than we are able to offer here in the UK. To this end, we would like to start floating this idea among the community in case there is anyone (or a group of people) who would like to arrange the Long Dance in the summer of 2018. If there is, please be in touch.

To get an insight into the magic of this year’s Summer Long Dance, or to relive some of the memories if you were present, you can click on this link to watch a film about the event made by Ben Cole. 

On that note, I wish you all a fruitful month as the seasons shift and we begin the descent into winter for those in the Northern hemisphere, or the ascent into summer for those in the Southern hemisphere. Here at the School, September marks the beginning of a new academic year and we are in the midst of sending out our new 2015/16 brochure to countries near and far. Thank you to all of those who have agreed to distribute our brochures. We have a fabulous programme of more than 80 diverse workshops with Susannah, Ya’Acov and Faculty members coming up this year, and we are excited at the prospect of spreading the word to new participants as well as to existing ones.

Wishing you all a wonderful autumn or spring, depending on which hemisphere you're in.

Roland

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www. schoolofmovementmedicine.com