FINDHORN, SCOTLAND — Armenian folk dance was the main theme of the international Findhorn Festival of Sacred Music, Song and Dance, held 14-20 July 2018, at the Findhorn Park in Scotland. The Festival, now in its 27thth year, celebrates the transformative and healing power of circle dance and brings hundreds of people together every July to dance in Scotland.
Shakeh Major Tchilingirian, an acclaimed solo dance artist, choreographer and teacher, was the special guest teacher at the festival, where she conducted daily workshops for nearly 100 participants, accompanied with presentations on Armenian history, culture and folk dances.
Laura Shannon, known worldwide for her pioneering work with women’s ritual dances, said: “Shakeh teaches with great awareness of the sacred dimension of Armenian dances and their capacity for personal transformation, as well as historical context.” She explains that the “motifs and patterns” of Armenian dances “are very ancient, forming a nonverbal language of movements which are deeply symbolic, powerfully evocative and profoundly spiritual.”
Shakeh brought traditional Armenian dance to the Festival for the first time. The repertoire included a mixture of folk and lyrical style dances. Her program was designed to give the participants an opportunity to experience, as she put it, “the living and blossoming culture of the Armenians in the homeland and the Diaspora.” Particular dances and music were chosen to create a sense of spiritual connection with the land, with nature, and human roots that continue to flourish. “This was a journey of discovery, connection and reflection through dance,” explained Shakeh.
London-based musicians Tigran Aleksanyan (duduk, zurna) and Ara Petrosyan (dhol) accompanied her with exhilarating live music. Resident teachers at Findhorn, including long-standing community members Barbara Swetina, Peter Vallance, Rory O’Connell and friends, Sheila Pettit (choir) and Maya Buckley (orchestra) shared their knowledge and experience with a series of master classes. The Festival Choir and Orchestra provided music for the final night’s celebration.
Laura Shannon, who has travelled widely to research Greek, Armenian, Balkan and Roma traditional dances in their original settings, taught deeply meditative circle dances. Kostantis Kourmadias and Nikolas Angelopoulos accompanied her classes with exquisite live music, as well as played with the Armenian musicians on two special occasions.
Sacred dance in Findhorn serves as a spiritual practice and combines traditional circle dances with modern choreographies. It took root in the Findhorn community in 1976, when visiting dance master Bernhard Wosien shared a collection of traditional circle dances and modern meditative choreographies as tools for group connection and inner work.