A Match Made in Heaven: What It’s Really Like to Be Paired with a Sacred Dance Pioneer as Your Mentor

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If you have ever taken a workshop with me (if you haven’t yet, check-out UPCOMING WORKSHOPS) then you may have heard me say this:

All dance is sacred as long as the intent is sacred.

This phrase was taken from a workshop that I took nearly three years ago with sacred dance pioneer Carla De Sola. This phrase along with many other words of wisdom resonated with me and have since helped shape my philosophy and approach to creating and teaching sacred dance. That summer I would go on to dance at World Youth Day in Brazil, and as you may know the story, my life has been changed ever since. Over the years I have kept Carla updated on my sacred dance journey, exchanging emails and sharing in the excitement over the path that I was carving out as a sacred dancer. But now, a new door has opened in our relationship – professional mentorship.

Earlier this year, I applied to Dance/USA’s Institute for Leadership Training, a program that pairs nine emerging leaders from across the country with experts in the dance field. This is a very competitive program, so it came as a shock to me when I found out I got in. In fact, I’m still in shock thinking about it, especially when reading up on all the other wonderful mentees (I’m in good company).  But looking back at my application, I can see why I make a strong candidate. I am very passionate about what I do. I understand my unique role as a sacred dancer, choreographer, and instructor, and I understand the impact my work could have on the dance field and on the world, in general. I really felt like I could make a difference through dance, but I needed help. A lot of help.

At first, I believed that the help I needed most was administrative help. I believed in order to do more, I need to work from the back-end. I needed to spend more time marketing, fundraising, fixing my website and social media, booking, writing newsletters, reconciling my accounts, etc etc. I felt like I needed to do more business to get my company going. So it was quite ironic when Carla e-mailed me introducing herself as my mentor and saying that what she has to offer isn’t administrative.

I froze.

But before I can go into any sort of panic I reread what she wrote about my administrative work – “… what you do so beautifully.”

It was then when I froze again. I did a mental recap of all the things that I’ve done that year, the year before, and the year before that. I thought about all that I’ve done in my entire life. I thought about the hours I put in doing business things. I also thought about what I really wanted to do with my time.

I wanted to do more, but not necessarily do more “work.” I wanted to be more creative. I wanted to work on my craft. I wanted to deepen my spiritual and artistic practice. I wanted to create new work and get back into dancing more.  And there were a million other things I wanted to do too- I wanted to study the history of sacred dance and its impact on the modern era, I wanted to meet and interview sacred dancers of all kinds, and I wanted to write.

I then realized that perhaps the pairing between Carla and me was what I needed. Maybe I wanted something else, but what I needed was this.

As I spoke with Carla about my thoughts on our pairing, she shared with me her very own sign. It was a few days after Pentecost and she spoke about how she always danced the closing hymn during the service. However, new leadership was resistant to the idea. She respected their wishes and sat back but something wonderful happened. The choir and congregation began to dance on their own. To Carla, it was very moving and she felt as if she were “passing down” what she had to offer. She was called the next day and offered to mentor me. She felt like this was a great opportunity to pass down her wisdom, knowledge, and experience to the next generation of sacred dance.

I am excited for what is to come and can only imagine what will come about from our growing relationship. I am also excited for this idea to not only move forward but to step back, look at all I’ve done and to take a pause before beginning some great new adventures.

Photos: Carol D’Angelo, SC (left). Omega Dance Company (right).

Dance/USA’s Institute for Leadership Training is a program that leverages connections between Dance/USA members and bolsters personal and professional development through one-on-one mentoring relationships. Based on the applicant pool, a limited number of pairs are matched based on experience, area of interest, personality, geography, and/or professional affiliations by a Dance/USA DILT Selection Committee. More updates on my Mentorship program will be posted on themovingprayer.com.

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