Live Circle Dance with Brian Steere

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Akrovatis

I have been exploring Greek singers and found the music as a track by Miltos Pashalidis called 'O Akrovatis' - (originally created by the Cretan band Chainides but I dont feel resonant with their singer). In searching for more info I found Giannis Haroulis - one of the most lovely singers I have ever heard. His version of this song was 'as trumpets to my walls of Jericho' - it spoke something of my life so clearly that I was called present. Giannis Haroulis has not a release of this yet so I use the music from the youtube: Akrovatis (Nea Smirni 2009). In some ways the sound of the rather noisy audience fit the theme I feel in the dance (more info here). I didnt try and do anything about anything for a while - but I knew I wanted to bring this song into my life with a dance also. My first effort was whilst humming to myself in the park and my humming didnt actually match the pace of music when I got home! But a few days later, something fell into place and the dance came through. I have a sense of the balance of awareness above the polarities or duality of the world. An intimate embrace of the Infinitude of being. The willingness to travel in the world but not of it and the sharing of this embrace amidst the journey. The Pashalidis version also works but has an extra beat. Another live Haroulis version Megare 2009) is a much more polished musical recording but he sings acapella for the first time and doesnt keep time exactly - making it less useful unless you know the dance well enough. See a video of this dance at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evioPG9NrkE


Honeybee - (Denis Quinn's 'Days of Honey')

This was my first dance choreography - made sometime in the 90's. I felt to start in the centre - in a hug - the hive - the oneness - and move out into individual experience and return - then move together around a common center and return. I can find it a busy bee now, it is a fairly fast waltz. It is demanding of the dancers to anticipate their movement and all go for it as one - (to move from hug to travelling). My groups then enjoyed it. The first time I wondered whether to share was it at a weekend at Wood Norton Hall, I hesitated - but then a bee came in the room, a big bee, a bumble bee. This also is the sequence of parts AB ABB ABBB. (I went ahead and shared it!)


Deep Peace - (Chant by Lisa Thiel)

This could more accurately be called my variation, as I cannot recall the exact process of its coming forth. Flowing arms grapevine for 'running wave', a slow side close with opening arms behold for the whole of 'silent stars', a travelling turn in 3 and a step for 'flowing air' (Traveling on a step rather than 3 and close), into two side closes for 'quiet earth' with hands palm down gesture of earth. For chorus we rock in and back and then slip step into a hug (loose) then reverse only sway each way and then slip step back. We do not have to hug - but can come in with raising arms as option. I Have had occasion to do this dynamically expansively rather than in gentle containment. Peace is the unconflicted original essence or nature of Creation. It is our willingness and receptivity to this that may seem frail and weak and esily lost to the mind of private self interest - for the still small Voice is only small relative to a diluted and distracted attention.


Drive the cold winter away - (Trad Carol of the same name)

Made for Christmas in 2007, this is a merry and convivial carol with references more to the warmth of forgiving, restful and celebratory hearts than direct references to Jesus’ birth - and I wanted a simple but fitting movement that flowed in the manner of the 6/8 music.
It has a pattern that naturally invites looking up in greeting - with a ‘Condor’ moment at the centre.
The Horslips instrumental recorded version is fine for when 'driving the winter away' is appropriate but the seasonal celebrations are not. I haven't news of a good recording of the sung version that fits yet - but it is fun and hearty to sing and I enjoy doing so. See full notes and steps


Farewell Shalabiye - (track/album of the same name by No Blues)

This is an exercise in Arabicana - a fusion of a US blues track and an Arabic song. I feel that to join these cultures in shared joy is itself a prayer that heals. It is feelgood and upbeat with exotic Arabian threads through what otherwise could pass as a JJ Cale track. I danced a very simple intro dance to it at an IFD workshop that was like a congo and quite unsatisfying to me - but I got a copy of the music and found it lovely - and desired from time to time to dance something more congruent to it. The whole dance came to me while my partner Cathi went to post some parcels at the local Post Office - almost ready made and effortlessly - (Whereas heaven today had required concerted persistence and been crafted over many sessions).
 
There is an instrumental theme that is very catchy and occurs between each other part of the music and this found a simple crossing step with a slight lean and a lift of hand and foot as one. Totally brainless and immediate as well as easy to gain orientation without need to count anything. The blues part found a series of step, slipstep and sway that just fits the flow of the delivery. When the Arabic singing comes in I felt to let it be an expression primarily of the hands - so I let the feet have a sort of grapevine where the latter two beats were more expansive - like the singing - and the hands were free to move to the arabesque singing. This is an area of growth and awakening for most circle dancers - and with appropriate permissions and encouragement is enjoyed greatly. So much of our expression as dancers is forfeit when we hold hands all the time. The second time the Arabian part comes round it is much shorter and subtler. I invite this to focus more on the energetic of presence expressed through subtly held gesture - and scarcity makes it precious as there is no time to take it for granted! At the final part there is blues and Arabic singing in fusion - and I hold this as an opportunity to do the blues part of the dance in the hands free and expressive style. This is not accessible at first for most so I leave it as the standard ‘blues’ part of the dance until the dancers have found the dance in their bodies and their own freedom in hand gesturing - but again is an opportunity for growth as a dancer.

See full notes and steps


Halellujah (To the original Leonard Cohen song)

This was prompted by discovering last Christmas that two other versions of this song were occupying no1 and no2 slots in the 'charts'. I am touched that something of Leonard's has a mainstream exposure and felt like 'joining this 'wave'. However I relate to Leonard's original and it is this that I used. With all the dances I create I seek to honour and align with the story I feel it expresses. To be interesting as a dance and perhaps grow the dancers in some measure and yet also be accessible. I gave a few nods in it to Peter Briabers' version which I tried over the years with various groups but it didn't really take. It has a rising dramatic tension with a release into a joining chorus. See full notes and steps


Heaven Today? - (to trad Spiritual by Be Good Tanya's)

Heaven Today?- as I have called the dance - is already a song I enjoy singing and in a simple way holds some deep truths that are supported in the lilt and yearnings of the song - which lends itself to harmonies and a heartful expression. I have also long held a sense of wanting to dance more of the songs I sing - and to add more English songs to our dance repertoire.
At various times, unborn dances nudge or prompt me. Some attempt to be born and have many hours and moments spent that yield only a dance in pending but not really through. It isn't a matter of finding or deciding steps but of feeling the qualities in the song and music and honouring these in the dance. Heaven Today? has a lazy lilt where the singing lags the waltz just a little - and hold the theme of human loss, suffering and courage - and asks a question that cannot really be framed in worldly terms which in broadest terms holds a sense of life beyond the world we seem to know and struggle within.
When I choreograph, it is a form of playing. I allow movements to occur and explore those which feel alive. But often many possible variations arise and it can become quite maddening - so there can be a need to establish some basic sense of the way of it - as a sort of skeleton structure or idea in which to focus. But always the head has to serve the heart or else the dance becomes a sterile imposition. Of course the experience of this is more about trusting myself than it is about rules of any kind - but there is a rule of asking within as to how it feels - and what it speaks of or teaches. I often find lovely movements that nevertheless do not have a home in the particular dance I am working with.
It is often the case that some of the movements evoke or symbolise aspects of the dance - and where these fit without force they are welcome. In the parts of this song where hardship is sung, I found the dance moving closer to centre but turned away from it - and for the part that approaches ‘heaven’ we simply move to centre and sway - but initially with downturned eyes and humbly - because we do not expect to deserve Light, Love, and Peace from our worldly identity. But when we look up we actually find neither sin nor sorrow - this has a reaching up and discovery that is also shared at the centre. ‘Peace is found/abounds like a river’ is one part of the song that does not have this lazy lilt - and flows as a continuum - which feels congruent with the lyric - so also in the dance the continuum of sway, turn and grapevine and sway is all exactly on the beat and without pause in a flowing movement.
I also like a dance to have something unique in it that carries a moment of discovery for the dancer and perhaps extends the vocabulary of movement - but again this is a matter of discovery rather than invention. In this dance there is a common motif of a sway that on completion spills into a turn on a swivel and another sway - which is not something I have met with before. See full notes and steps


Honeybee - (Denis Quinn's 'Days of Honey')

This was my first dance choreography - made sometime in the 90's. I felt to start in the centre - in a hug - the hive - the oneness - and move out into individual experience and return - then move together around a common center and return. I can find it a busy bee now, it is a fairly fast waltz. It is demanding of the dancers to anticipate their movement and all go for it as one - (to move from hug to travelling). My groups then enjoyed it. The first time I wondered whether to share was it at a weekend at Wood Norton Hall, I hesitated - but then a bee came in the room, a big bee, a bumble bee. This also is the sequence of parts AB ABB ABBB. (I went ahead and shared it!)


Huron Carol - (to Carol of same name by Crash Test Dummies)

I found versions of this Carol on youtube and liked elements from different versions - but for the dance initially I was drawn to a version that can be viewed HERE
I was drawn to the sense of opening and aspiring in the third line that then falls into a pause amidst a rather strange and wonderful incompletion - from which the chorus then stands forth. I immediately ‘felt’ a dance!
As it happens, the week before I had made up a simple dance on the spot for 4 seasons because I didn't recall or like the original but wanted to sing and dance the song - and the first part of this tapped me on the shoulder and said "I fit this Carol just right" - and I agreed. It is a forward travelling step slipstep step - slightly expanding and contracting.
The third line faced centre and palms up moved in to right, in to left. The 4th line has us step back before then stepping in to centre and bending knee in reverence and pausing. The chorus then bends again and suddenly rises our arms as we step back and rock and sway to indicate the cardinal directions of Earth which is also a cross - and arms come down with a slow grapevine to finish.
 
Note: I adapted and simplified the above when I discovered the Crash Test Dummies version which is beautiful and which I now use. You can see the full step notes in the Resource page.
 
The feelings of this movement are of a travelling (Magi) that comes to face centre in willingness to behold and receive - yet this is in some sense hesitant as of approaching a holy state or place that the conditioning of our past might have us feel tempted to unworthiness or fear of - for we are stripped of our pretensions in such a light. Yet we do approach and in essence kneel or give recognition, welcome into our heart and honour. This draws on the symbol the wise men who went beyond their kingdoms in guided search for truth and received it. The immediate response of the awakened heart is to give joyously - to rise and release and allow the light to plant itself in the world through them: "Here in this place, here with these hands I join".
 
Now of course my words are not in the dancer - but something of such energetic symbol is innately in the dance and it is a way to bring the appreciation of the entrance of the divine into the human story - into wordless experience, felt and known.
 
There are other aspects to the Huron Carol lyric that I hope to address. I have made a new lyric develpoed from the literal translation of the Huron version that was made by St Jean de Brébeuf a jesuit missionary in (then) New France c.1643. The popular verses used are simply a version made by Jesse Middleton, a Toronto journalist and church musician in 1926 that renders the standard nativity in American Indian terms - whereas the original included aspects of teachings in addition to nativity references. See the Resource page for both versions
 
That Christianity may be associated with the white man’s subjugation and genocide of indigenous peoples is distinct in my mind from the story and symbol of Jesus - which is not owned or ultimately interpreted by Christianity, but in the intimacy of our own heart.
 
Which brings me to consider the sacred and dance as a subject for a future article. But for now I would say that, to be congruent in receiving and expressing music felt in heart and body, is to be adding not - nor taking away - but is in effect surrendering one’s self will to allow a greater Will - and this is the open ‘door’ to the sublime in whatever kind of quality of life we share.


I don't care to lose - De M'Enoiaxe Na Haso - Miltos Pashalidis

This is one of innumerable beautiful pieces of music that called me to a dance - and in between cooking a curry something came up that just worked, was simple and enjoyable - loosely based on Kalamatianos - but danced in front basket weave short lines, and moving in a very definite way with the music. A grapevine ending with a forward and back chekassia* (*whilst facing 45 degrees to centre) - except between the chekassias we alternate between one and two grapevines. With the double grapevine we are a surge of movement which contrasts with the single grapevine and the hesitancy implicit in the chekassia steps. It is very very easy to forget where one is but we have found this to be a feature of our moving as one - in which we are simply not meant to be in our head counting or thinking. The steps emphasise 1st and 3rd beat in the 4 time as does the music and the right knee bends so as to drop into the cross steps rather than dance it flat or even. (One and a two and a three and a four - where the bold beats are left foot leading steps, with right foot playing a supporting role). I start on the first long note of the violin intro with the chekassia xf.

I have only a google translation of the song - but it expresses in me a sense of the heartbreaks and pains of the past with full willingness to feel and yet move on in life with it all as it is and without a sense of loss.

Listen to the music here


Kirki - (track of same name by Maria Farandouri)

Kirki is Greek for Circe - who turned Odysseus' crew to swine. I'll write more on that later but the dance and music have a shuffling 'old time' romantic feel that invites us as a circle to be in the honouring and appreciation of sharing love. The step is like grapevines except each step of the grapevine is replaced with a slip-step - and on the musical interlude we swivel and grape-slip-step-vine to the left. So it's almost a no-brainer unless one is a already certain it is difficult. The hands rise gently as we move forward and fall as moving backwards - and also fall as we move left. I edited the track to add a musical interlude after the instrumental verse - which didnt have the interlude after like the sung verses do.
Allowing the hands to 'find their way' as an expression and reminder of connectedness rather than by imposition or getting it 'right'. See full notes and steps


Marta's Song - To song of same name by Deep Forest)

Marta's singing sampled into a modern studio track with a strong catchy dance beat brought out this very simple dance that has a bendy knee on the /s with the rythmn in a close basketweave line. (R/s L/xf)x2 (R/rpl L/s Rxf L/rpl) is basic step. There is one point in the music where it reverts to 16 percussive beats and I do an even simpler 'primitive' part to that. Later on there is an instrumental part also only once with 'electric violins' - (well synthetic somethings! (and for that I do adapted Grapevines to the right - adapted in that one moves forward and back like a net more than flowing or travelling sideways in basketweave 'Grapevines'. The revert to Basic step to finish. Marta sounds like she is singing 'I dont need it!' so I came to associate it with releasing the accumulated 'stuff' that I dont need so as to become more fully present and receptive. Actually she is singing about 3 - or was it 5 - metres of cloth to make her wedding outfit - maybe she's pregnant?
I have seen this with arms added. I remain in basketweave and often mime-taught it and called it in the music as a spontaneous dance. I now sing it - the only tricky bit solo is the electric violins! See full notes and steps


Prodomeni Agapi Mou (To song of same name by Mikis Theodorakis)

This song got into my feet after a long period of gestation in which I couldnt help but imagine a dance. Then I had the prompting to have a try in my kitchen and allowed a few passes to gradually sketch out forms and feel them. I dont try to pretend to be Greek but I didnt want to be insensitive to what I feel of the Greek spirit and culture in the step and style. There is an underlying '1,2,3 and hop' that is in much of the music and the dance picks this up in various ways. There is one funny part - well it is sung in a daaa da da da da da da dum rhythm - that my first dance form for - had Cathi dissolving in laughter. This is now saved for the advanced class - and we do a simple step that gives a rest between two other slightly more involved parts.
The dance was alive and kicking as a bright and expansive sense of freedom when I researched the track and found it translates as 'My betrayed love'. Earlier recordings of this song are indeed slowed down laments of joys rendered lifeless and lost - but this recording is the opposite of such - and speaks to me the the freedom that we find when the chains of the attempt to possess a special love (by which lose our love) are released. A resurrection song! See full notes and steps


Savanna Dance - (To song of same name by Deep Forest)

More info soon


Sino Moi - (To track of same name by Marta Sebastyn)

Marta was introduced to me via Deep Forest (see above) and this music has such a laid back guitar rythmn as to be extraordinarily gentle and restful. There are other versions of the song with various dances that I have since met one of - but I love the particular lilting rhythm of this recording and the dance responds to this. Moving very slowly calls for a willingness to listen to the beat rather than act from presumptions - so as to fall through the balance points of sways into steps. Travells to right in instrumental - to left in verse and to a center (optional hug) and back in chorus. I find such dances intimate in expression and they dont work well in a group liable to multiple private realms behind drawbridges! See full notes and steps


Time Flows - (The Clock - by No Blues)

I met the album through the title track - which I choreographed first: 'Farewell Shalabiye'. And I discovered this track moved me immediately to dance a freeform Pogonisius in which the hands and arms describe the rise and fall of the light - the cycle of time. Moving in the manner this invites brings Freidl's work to mind - an opportunity to let the inner dancer express perfectly - rather to let perfection express through an integrated willingness.
Then I found a radical change in tempo at the end of the track an at first thought this was for editing out! BUT - it actually becomes a freeform opportunity in the dance that is very easy and light to move to - and in which we 'break out' of formation and meet and greet or just fly in a sense of a freedom beyond linear time. Then the music resumes slowly once more to close for the experience of being 'in time but not of it'. See full notes and steps


You ain't goin' nowhere - (Bob Dylan track of same name)

In other cultures we can get a hit from the exotic nature of imaginitive freedoms where we might feel spiritual about it whatever they are actually singing. In music closer to home it calls for a willingness to assert or express a positive appreciation of 'this is part of us'.
I wanted to find dances for some songs I already sang and this was a favourite camp anthem of mine. I feel subtle meanings through the seemingly fun or random lyric and the dance has a light hearted celebration of the nature of limitation, freedom - and communion or love. Social and expansive with a small optional partner turn at the end. See full notes and steps


Yah Ribon aka Ya ribon (Olam) (Developed on from a very simple movement by Mandy DeWinter)

I first met this lovely music with this step: 2 steps in line of dance to right, 2 sways, swivel to take two steps backwards - still in line of dance and 2 more sways. Then online I found a youtube with an additional two steps into centre raising arms to W and then two back and two more sways added. (Done twice).This is after the original dance step has repeated twice and when the somewhat hanging third part of the music breaks in in a minor key. We much preferred this and used it a lot.
After dancing this as a closing dance at a teacher gathering (where no one looked up to meet or be met throughout the whole dance!) I noticed that the sways in the first part can be subtly orienting the body toward the following steps and this naturally sweeps one's vision around the circle. So I teach this way of swaying.
I have now developed the part that goes to the centre as follows:
Step in 2 steps raising hands palm to palm edges in adorante (and sway twice) and then continue 2 steps in to a hug (and sway twice) and reverse out as we went in. This uses the same time as two of the old pattern and so is done once - however we alternate this section with the following:
2 steps in releasing hands and raising hands palm up to horizontal from the elbow with palms up, (and sway twice) then continue 2 steps in with arms raised high,(and sway twice). And return from centre the same way as one went in in reverse.
I cant find the instrumental versions I have online - does anyone know? But here is a rendering:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNIycOOLEL8
Or at Amazon search for "Ya Ribon by Adama" for a few pence. (There are many different renderings and versions!).
(I usually sing it for the dance)

Dances I have Cheographed ~ Brian Steere

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