people dancing in a circle

Cracking the circledancing code

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dancing in a circle

Circledancing is a wonderful way to exercise and socialise at the same time.

When I was first invited along to the local circledancing group I dubiously thought ‘country-and-western music, hmm’ and visualised jolly folks in jeans and akubras leaping about in a barn. I’d done square-dancing and possibly line-dancing (I’m still not sure of the difference) but circledancing was a new one on me.

I also thought ‘I can’t dance’ and ‘I’ll embarrass myself’.

Both of which were true.

But I went.

My legs and feet refused to cooperate with the general flow of events and my face ached from laughing. The evening was fabulous and I left high on endorphins and busting to go back the next week.

Dancing in circles

What unites all circle dances is simply their circle formation.

Circledances come from every corner of the globe and range from the gently spiritual to the lung-burstingly robust. Dances from Poland, Macedonia, Canada, Wales, Russia… this is multicultural dancing with multiple ethnic flavours. Its roots go deep. Its music is varied.

Because you’re in a circle, everyone faces inwards – its very communal. Usually no partners are involved. Mostly the dancers join hands – this can be a little alarming at first, but adds to the sense of warmth and it’s also useful when you’re new to a dance and need to be pulled in the right direction.

Between dances people talk.

Sometimes they sit out a dance. And talk.

No one cares much if your feet go wrong. It’s part of the fun.

Good for the brain

As we are always being told, learning new skills forges new neural networks and stops our brains from slumping into decline. And exercise oxygenates the brain and keeps it healthy. So besides cultivating balance, strength and lung capacity, circledancing helps you think.

After only a few weeks at circledancing my legs were marvelously coordinated and even timed with the music. I felt strong and light on my feet. I even garnered compliments, such as ‘a dancer, I see’. Who, me?

Sacred dancing

Circledancing done with a focused spiritual awareness is called sacred dancing.

Dancing is a meditative activity, and it’s easy to enter into the flow with circledancing because the dancers support and guide the movement by virtue of being a circle. The dances tend to be repetitive which allows one’s consciousness to relax. The music can be transportingly beautiful.

Sacred dancing is best done by candlelight or outdoors. Barefoot.

Pagan festivals

I particularly enjoy the pagan elements of circledancing – the celebration of seasons and festivals. My birthday falls on New Year’s Eve and one year I went up Mount Wellington with the circledancers. We walked at dusk to a hut overlooking the bush and in the distance, the city of Hobart.

In true Tasmanian fashion it was absolutely freezing and because it was (theoretically) summertime, fires were banned. No bonfires then to toast our tootsies on. Instead we warmed up by dancing. It was a surreal experience – dancing in circles under the moon and stars on the wild windswept mountainside. After midnight I returned home exhilarated and exhausted.

Find your local circledancers

If you’re keen to give this a try, google circledancing or multicultural folk dancing to find a group near you.

Author: Merridy Pugh
Merridy Pugh is an editor and writer based in Hobart. She loves books, sun and tropical fish.

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