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Inanna Reborn at Judy's School of Dance

From the first moment I entered the world of ancient, matrifocal times through myths and stories, statues and art, and archeological discoveries, I knew that I would have felt more at home had I lived 5,000 years ago. Something born in me in the 20th century breathed the same air that had been trapped in those underground temples; I belonged among those women who had nurtured the sacred female within themselves and their bodies and who had celebrated beauty, grace, joy, and pleasure.

My alienation from my own time was sealed when I was born with a dislocated hip. Perhaps significantly, it was first diagnosed by my mother's mother, my "motherline." I was unable to stand or walk and so ended up encased in plaster and steel until I was three. Once liberated, I learned to walk and, at about the same time, my mother enrolled me in "Judy's School of Dance." "Judy's School of Dance" was actually a basement where a tall, elegant woman with a blonde ponytail taught very young suburban girls the basics of ballet. Later, when I read about Sappho's school for girls and saw that the two institutions were not so different, I began to wonder if those thousands of modern schools where little girls learned to pirouette in tiny tutus were, in fact, remarkably subversive.

So, among my body's first true sensations were those that showed me that I was beautiful, that my body was made to express joy and to join with other girls as we danced in circles and entered worlds of imagination with our costumes and performances. Because my first steps included dance, I did not learn that movement was only for progressing slowly, steadily forward, like work. I never came to see my body as wicked, an object to be tolerated as long as it accomplished tasks. My body was never separate from myself, vile in contrast to the purity of spirit. I grew up knowing, though I was not actually very good at dancing, that I was, in the most essential way, a dancer. Therefore, my view of myself and of the world was forever different from other little girls I knew who had taken classes for a couple of years and moved on, unmarked by them.

Over the years, I have learned that dance is the language of Goddess, the way in which she declares Herself to us and shows us Herself inside of us. Dance reaches above and below to make one out of our earthly, heavenly, and deep selves. It is how we use the very stuff of which we are created to be a voice of the universe, reverberating far beyond ourselves. Now when I think of every moment I have danced — from those early kicks and jumps, to smoky rock and roll clubs, to rocking children, to participating in Goddess ceremonies with other women — I realize that each was a sacred activity worthy of those priestesses of so long ago.

More than that, thinking of myself as naturally embodied made me feel at home in the world, whether the city, the forest, or elsewhere. Wherever I lived, I was bonded to the land through my most essential being — by my relationship to the food I ate, the water I drank, the soil I walked on. As I grew older, I saw that most of those with whom I shared sidewalks, schools, and neighborhoods did not feel this connection, that they considered their true selves to be separate from their physical bodies. Suddenly, I knew who I was in two ways: what I was and what I wasn't. I gained my mission in life, to merge the two, to create a world in this time and for the future in which I could comfortably live as who I really am.

I've learned that there are more ways to dance than I had thought, that every action can become a kind of dance if done with intention and gratitude.

Now that arthritis caused by the dislocation means that I am not able to dance as I once did, I've learned that there are more ways to dance than I had thought, that every action can become a kind of dance if done with intention and gratitude. Combining elements of earth and sky to create nutritious bread, lighting incense and feeling awe as we watch its smoke rise, using our hands to heal or hold someone beloved as they weep, enjoying the geometry of the lines on our face as we look in a mirror, typing poetry on a computer — all can be dances if done in a way that celebrates ourselves as inextricable and essentially good parts of our physical universe. By doing these acts as dances I connect the wisdom of the past with a more viable, graceful, beautiful future. I do not believe that Goddess dislocated my hip in order to give me this gift, but that the time has come for each of us to find within herself that experience, that unique moment, that characteristic that is a chariot from that of our foremothers to that which we are creating together.

Graphics Credits

  • dancing, courtesy of Ana Celia.
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