Sufi dance opened my eyes to another way of conceiving dance. I embarked on the Sufi dance workshop in August 2015 having little experience of dance and until then. Dancing was above all, in the way I represented the act of dancing, to produce an aesthetic effect. Without realizing it, I associated dance with the realm of laymanship and appearance, and although I had heard that Sufi dance has a more spiritual aspect, I did not know concretely how to understand it. Often, we dance to make beautiful movements, and often in a setting where seduction has a role to play, such as in a ball or a nightclub.
And more specifically when it comes to professional dancers who dance for an audience during a show, I told myself that dance was above all the result of technique and rigorous work. But Sufi dance allowed me to realize that dancing could also be a language, a way to express oneself and externalize what lives in us. Work, technique and rigor are nevertheless present, but they are not enough. As I felt, they are simply at the service of dance, however what allows Sufi dance to be what it is lies rather in an attitude of listening and openness that intervenes when one enters the samâ. From the profane, one then passes to the sacred; from appearance, to interiority and feeling. So Sufi dance changed my view of dance.
But I have also noticed, when talking about the Sufi dance around me, that many people misrepresent it in my opinion. The word “trance” associated with Sufi dance, gives an image that does not correspond to what I have experienced. With this word, we imagine that Sufi dance rhymes with delirium, state of possession or search for thrills. In fact, Sufi dancing for me simply rhymes with the joy of dancing!
During the course, we learned that turning on oneself, like a spinning top, was in fact a universal movement, found in many traditions, long before Sufism made its appearance as such. It is also the movement that children spontaneously make when asked to turn, and circle dances are also very old. Perhaps this joy of dancing by turning on oneself and sometimes also in a circle is simply explained by the spontaneity of these movements? Their presence both in ancient traditions and, more disorderly, in the movements that children make, perhaps show how these gestures are inscribed in us, as they are “natural”. And it seemed to me that the spiritual aspect of Sufi dance comes precisely from this return to the spontaneity, naturalness and joy of a child who starts dancing. It is not spirituality in the sense of a hermetic esotericism, but in the sense of simplicity and joy. But this does not exclude technical work within a constant search for balance: spontaneity is not chaos and confusion, it flourishes precisely because it is based on solid foundations. Learning balance in movement therefore becomes essential to push the experience of the dance of the trick as far as possible.
To conclude this little testimony, I would say that Sufi dance has allowed me, thanks to a new language for me, to externalize a feeling that I do not always have the opportunity to put forward, while in harmony with the people and the ambient atmosphere . And if I had to define my experience of Sufi dance in a few very brief words, I would use these: listening to yourself, listening to others.