No matter what time of the week you arrive, there’s something happening every day, whether it’d be a live performance on their Tree House Deck, hula-hooping lessons, yoga and more. One day while I was there, written on their daily activities board was “BIODANZA 7PM”.
What in the world is “biodanza”?!
“Well,” an ‘Earth Angel’ (volunteers at the lodge) responds, “it’s very hippie and spiritual, you move and dance with a facilitator and connect with each other’s eyes. You don’t need to bring a partner and anyone can join! People either love it or hate it. Whatever they feel, everyone must try it once in their life.”
Another Earth Angel remarked: “It’s not for me. I don’t need to attend the session to dance silly, I already do anyway!”
Learning the dance originated from Chile by psychologist Rolando Toro Araneda who was primarily interested in the effects of music as means of healing and inner strength, I decided to give the 1.5 hour dancing session a go.
Read about my experience in three parts.
Part 1: Surrendering Myself To Welcome New Feelings
To fully understand and appreciate a new spiritual activity, you need to surrender yourself for that moment in opening your mind and heart to welcome new ideas. You arrive with a level of subjectivity but your ego and scepticism must be left behind. Only then, afterwards, you can truly ask yourself “is this for me?”
I arrived in the small candle-lit yoga barn and there stood a group of eight guests – mostly middle-aged, a couple fragile and white-haired. I thought I’d stand out as the only 20-something and would receive awkward stares but I was welcomed in like any other.
Getting into a circle, one by one we opened a random page of the book “When I Loved Myself Enough…” and read out loud pockets of simple, profound truths. This became sort of the theme or set the mood for our session. One attendee read: “When I loved myself enough, I see God within me and God within you, and it is divine.” Ah, the goose-bumps on my arm. My turn: “When I loved myself enough, I turn to writing because I feel like it’s my responsibility to write my thoughts and feelings”. Um, coincidence?!
“So where are you from?” I asked the woman next to me, expecting to acquaint myself with a German or English traveller.
“I’m from here, Nature’s Valley, I just came here for a dance,” the local smiled.
To start, we were sent on a journey through bossa nova, tribal/earth sounds and folk music, prompted to happily march about like cruising down an Italian cobblestone lane during a European summer. As the music transitions, you’re guided to be wildly open and move as you wish, bending and twirling every inch of your body in abstract ways without fear of judgement. It felt slightly strange for me to express myself in such a way but because everyone was unashamedly participating, I felt comfortable to truly dance like nobody’s watching. I remembered what I was encouraged while learning to drum at Wild Spirit: “Don’t think, just feel it.”
Sometimes we were on our own, other times we had our arms linked or hands held with a partner. I witnessed and experienced how quick and easy it was for people’s energies to bounce off each other. If you had an energetic dancing partner bouncing off the walls with a glowing face, naturally with your hands attached to theirs, you’d jump with them like carefree children. But if they’re a little more reserved, your energy settles down to align with their movements.
It’s clear that energy is a two-way process. When you’re happy, you make other people around you happy too. And when you’re miserable, well… you make others miserable with you.
Part 2: Getting Touchy-Feely
Without talking, our beamish facilitator showed us how to acknowledge our partner and what was essentially sending light and love to them in whichever creative way you wanted in a charades-like manner. It could be playful, like plucking stars out of the sky into your palms and blowing, ah – stardust?, onto the receiver. Or picking flowers from the ground around you to present them a beautiful bouquet. All with meaningful eye contact.
Or, it could hit right at home with just one look in the eye. Facing one woman with her hands in mine, the melodies had her so moved that she bursted into tears but everyone kept dancing, smiling at her. With a controlled gaze, I felt like I felt everything she was feeling. You know how they say you see your life flash before your eyes when you die? When I looked at her, I felt flashes of an entire journey of emotions. I squeezed her hands and sent her all the world’s compassion within me through my eyes. She nodded, we both took a big breath and smiled.
I moved onto the next partner, in-between wiping a fallen tear I tried holding back during the last few minutes. Next was Grandpa’s shivering hands. He saw my teary eyes, widened his and looked straight into my soul, cupped my hands and hovered them close to his face for a second… then kissed them in the most chivalrous fashion. I laughed.
After a half-hour of swiftly swaying and rocking about, it was time for the comedown with cinematic, ambient music. We chose our next closest person to rest our backs against each other for support. I got little, quiet Grandma with her petite moves.
I felt the pulsating body of an elderly woman resting on mine – fragile, but living. As we both tried catching our breath, I wondered about the life she had. She was once young like me too with this strong body – I suddenly felt grateful for mine. There was an electric, non-verbal transfer of energy between us, a contrast of solidity and quiver that revealed an enlightening truth: the reality of growth, change, and impermanence. Spiritual conceptions over the topic of death is one whole other conversation, but at this moment I contemplated how beautiful it is to flourish at every waking, conscious moment of our lives.
Part 3: The Afterglow
I left the barn lifted with cheeks sore from smiling. I was ready to call it a night – it takes it out of you, mostly mentally! This reminds me of the time I stared into a stranger’s eyes for three minutes at Burning Man as part of another human connection exercise.
We’ve become so concerned with keeping ourselves busy in fast-paced lives that we’ve forgotton to have real encounters with other humans. To look into each other’s eyes and truly connect. So when you’re staring into another person’s soul during biodanza, it can feel confronting. It hits.
Is this for me? It’s said that regular attendance can harvest benefits but I’m not sure if I could participate every week. However, it’s a beautiful experience that I’d consider attending again if I happen to come across it in the late future.
If you ever get the chance, do try the spiritual dance. And for now, put down your phone, shut your laptop and connect with who’s in front of you.
Light and love,
Would you give biodanza a go? Write me a comment below.
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This experience was made possible thanks to the team at Wild Spirit Backpacker’s Lodge, a home/farm-stay located in the heart of South Africa’s famous Garden Route between Cape Town and Plettenberg Bay. Like them on Facebook.
For more information on the Garden Route, check out the official South African Tourism page.
HOW TO BOOK
Dorms, en-suite double and family rooms are located within three double-storey garden cottages from R130-R1200/night. You can also opt for camping with your own tent (R80) or sleeping in their pre-pitched safari tents (R300). Check out their Accommodation page for more details, as well as info on guest facilities and meals. To enquire, fill out their contact form.
HOW TO GET THERE
Wild Spirit Backpacker’s Lodge is located between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth along the Garden Route.
- By Car – Many people rent cars (Avis, Budget, Hertz) to explore spectacular South Africa as it’s convenient and fairly cheap. Wild Spirit is located 3km along the R102 Nature’s Valley Road, just off the N2. The N2 junction with the R102 Nature’s Valley is located at The Crags, 13km west of the Tsitsikamma Toll Gate and 20km east of Plettenberg Bay. Once you are on the R102, look on the left for the large brown sign to Khoinania/Wild Spirit. GPS Address: -33° 56′ 51.58″, +23° 31′ 14.35″.
- By Coach – Reputable bus companies Intercape and Greyhound will take you on an 8-9 hour journey to Plettenberg Bay (R350-550), 20 minutes from the lodge. You can then arrange for Wild Spirit to pick you up for roughly R150.
- By The Baz Bus – South Africa’s hop-on hop-off door-to-door backpacker’s bus service arrives daily directly at Wild Spirit. You can check out their varied travel passes and timetables here.
The perfect base for exploring Nature’s Valley Beach and Lagoon, nature walks, canoeing and kayaking, eating at the quaint Farm Stall, and plenty more! Check out Wild Spirit’s Activities page for a full list of stuff to do.