Friday, May 21, 2010

hair ritual dance

"Personal, self-designed ceremony enables us to speak, again, the same language as animals, trees, rivers, and mountains, the same dialect as soul and spirit, the same magical words as the sacred Other... Personal ceremonies need not be elaborate or complex... Although simple, the action is profound, perhaps capturing the central mystery of life - or opening the way to that mystery."

Bill Plotkin "Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche"

The day before this dance my sister and I had done three dances in Lynn Canyon Park honoring this time in her life after being diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer. You can view those three dances here: "Clean Out," "Sister Stumps," and "Connecting Chord."

What struck us while we were hiking yesterday was the incredible old man's beard lichen that was dripping off of a particular stand of trees close to Rice Lake. Of course it reminded us so much of hair, and inspired us to think of women's relationship to hair - especially since my sister was going to be receiving her first chemo-therapy treatment the next day and was told she should expect to lose her hair in three weeks.

Last year I decided to reduce the expense of hair-care maintenance by not getting it professionally cut and colored. This hair ritual would take place every 6 - 8 weeks, where I would go to a salon, and sit for 3 - 4 hours while my hair was being washed, dyed, lightened (foils), washed, cut, and dried. It was a ritual I did, but didn't enjoy. Although I went to a stylist who used 'natural' products, I hated the smell, the loudness of the music and blow-dryers and especially the sitting in a chair for that long which felt to me like such a waste of precious time as I so preferred the idea of being outside in nature!! In the last couple of years I took inspiring books with me to read (instead of the magazines found in salons), but still, the environment of synthetic smells and loudness had become too much to bare. The cost was a big factor - I was spending $150 per visit which was about $1300 per year!

I read recently that in Great Britain women spend on average about $50,000 during their lifetime on their hair and about $160 per year on hair products. And so, for the last year I have been coloring my own hair (with natural colors and henna) and have been enjoying the time and money not spent on my hair.

Most importantly, I couldn't help think about all the toxic chemicals that were used in the hair products and processes that were being washed down the sink and polluting our Mama Earth....

Although a trip to the salon is a ritual of sorts, to me it misses the connection to spirit and the soul that nature based traditions offer. And so for our dance, my sister and I decided to return to the place where there was a profuse amount of 'hair' flowing from the branches of the trees to do a ceremony related to our attachment to vanity and in particular, our hair...

This was a very moving dance / ceremony for me as I can only imagine what my sister is feeling at this time as she approaches her first chemo-treatment tomorrow and the health repercussions and side-effects from that, including the loss of her hair. I am in awe of her courage and her desire to want to dance this dance together, to connect and share the journey through this process of coming together at 'nature's beauty salon' amongst the hair-lichen ( I read this lichen was used to stimulate hair growth centuries ago). I love this practice (as taught by my butoh mentor, Momo), as nothing is pre-planned out except for the intention of doing a 'hair ceremony' in this particular location and using some props (our mother's bells) - the rest was spontaneous...
The filming of our 'hair dance' was a challenge, and the film includes our pre-dance ritual of preening each other's hair in 'naturure's salon,' and also our ceremony of cutting a lock from each other's hair to be released on a wooden 'boat' to be carried away with the current. Our 'dance' with our newly styled do's (the middle part) is very short due to technical challenges with our location :~)
"... Go to the limits of your longing...
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand."

Rainer Maria Rilke

Bev's words after our dance ritual:

Reflecting on yesterdays dance; initially done with the intention to honor the event of my hair shedding (that is apparently going to fall out in three weeks), I was struck by how much more it meant. Our sisterhood and our connection to the natural world was undeniable, moving comfortably with each other, the branches and mossy twigs as props for our hair dos, and the landscape.
We entered a myth...

Like one of the age old ceremonies that women share to mark a special time to honor a birth or the moon time, or for me the loss of my hair. How befitting we made ourself’s look beautiful, natural, appropriate to the surroundings.

Interesting that my crown headdress started to fall out. Lee’s crown was sturdy strong. The moss covered stick initially looked too big but it worked. I carefully tied and wrapped it with her hair and the silk scarf. It and she looked magnificent, a strong youthful human / animal / wood being.
As I watched her trying to navigate through the trees bumping her headdress here and there and having to figure out how to move forward I was reminded of the antlered animals and marveled at their ability to navigate through the forest. She looked so strong, graceful ready to take on anything. I felt vulnerable, my energy was down and wrapping myself in the blanket and moving slow seemed befitting to our ritual.

We started close together breathing, then gradually separated moving in our own way. Slowly synchronized movements emerged, and finally we came together in an embrace. The blanket enshrouding us breathing. From here we moved to the last step, the release of our hair.
I crouched by the small creek, gently handling one of my mothers string of bells. Was she here too? Lee came to me with another string their sounds mingled with the trickles of the small intimate creek. We started gently, taking turns helping each other take the headdresses apart. Gently turned to energetically as we pulled, untwisted, and uncurled our hair tendrils, tussling free any lingering forest extensions.
We proceeded to the cutting. We carefully took a few hairs from the nape of our necks. Symbolically letting go our hair, our attachment to beauty, a premonition of what was to come for me. My cut tendril looked like a tail, shades of brown grey and white, gracefully curling at the end. Lee’s was long and didn’t seem to want to stay as a piece. We put them in a bark boat in the water. When Lee’s cut ends touched the water they miraculously spread. I was captivated to see this fanning like a beautiful tree, each strand bending in lovely arcs like fingers.Were they protecting the boat or reaching for independence? I was reminded of the old growth stump and the beautiful new huckleberry bushes reaching spreading from the top. The bark boat with my piece laying comfortably contentedly, was giving birth to Lee’s strands. The bark boat surrendering to the flow of the creek. We were witnessing an end, awaiting an unknown beginning, as the light twinkled on the surface.
"I have come to the wilderness to say good-bye to a life grown too small. I release my attachment to the security and familiarity of that life, honoring what it has taught and given me..." Bill Plotkin
Thank you for viewing / reading this collaborative blog of my sister's and mine... we hope that it may offer you some inspiration on your journey... perhaps to connect more deeply to soul / nature with a personal dance ritual of your own...
Lee and Bev

If you double click the films below the right side will not be cut-off :~)

"Hair Ritual"

"Hair Ritual 2"

Music: Anna Mailian
Visit my butoh mentor's inspiring blog here: Maureen 'Momo' Freehill


  1. Once again Lee and Bev, words do not suffice for the gratitude, honor, beauty and goodness that I see feel and know in viewing this offering. I love you both! momo

  2. Oh how blessed you are to have each other as sisters! And how blessed we are to be able to witness this. I am overwhelmed how in "letting go of beauty" you are immersed in it, wrapped up in it (literally), and yes, how beautiful you are and become in this film.
    I'm also moved by the power of creating ceremony and ritual itself. The power of this personal and very intimate ritual grows in all of us through your sharing. Thank you.