"Circle dance" is the most common name for a style of traditional dance usually done in a circle without partners to musical accompaniment.
Dancing in a circle is an ancient tradition common to many cultures for marking special occasions, strengthening community and encouraging togetherness. The circle is probably the oldest known dance formation. It is found even today in the community dances of many cultures, including Arabic (Debke), Greek (Greek dances surviving from ancient Greece (chorea)), African, Eastern European, Israeli (see Jewish dance and Israeli folk dancing), South Slavic, Irish Celtic, Breton, Catalan (sardana), South American and North American Indian. It is also used, in its more meditative form, in worship within various religious traditions, including, for example, the Church of England and other Anglican Churches and the Islamic Haḍra dances.
Modern circle dance mixes traditional folk dances, mainly from European or Near-Eastern sources, with recently choreographed ones to a variety of music both ancient and modern and they draw on a rich and diverse dance tradition. There is also a growing repertoire of new dances to classical music and contemporary songs.
Circle dances can be energetic and lively or gentle and reflective. The style and mood reflects the group and the interests of the teacher. It was Bernhard Wosien who first brought to the Findhorn Community in Scotland the traditional circle dances that he had gathered from across Eastern Europe. He so inspired people there that teachers such as Colin Harrison and David Roberts took the dances (sometimes calling their dance 'sacred circle dance') to other parts of the UK and started regular groups particularly in the south east of England and Somerset, then across Europe, the US and elsewhere until now the network extends also to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America and India.
Sacred Circle Dance
Circle Dance is sometimes also known as Sacred Circle Dance from the original importance it had for the Findhorn Foundation community in Scotland following visits there from 1976 onwards by Professor Bernhard Wosien a German dancer. Known first as Sacred Dance, it has changed over time as enthusiasts have made contributions, and may now be called Circle Dance, Sacred Dance, or Sacred Circle Dance (SCD). A small centrepiece of flowers or other natural or venerated objects is often placed at the centre of the circle to help focus the dancers and maintain the circular shape. Dancers bring many different belief systems to the circle including conventional religions (see above), New age and Neopagan beliefs and no religious affiliations at all. Much debate goes on within the circle dance network about what is meant by 'sacred' in the dance.
World wide network
There is a worldwide network of circle dance groups who meet up weekly or fortnightly. In many groups people are welcome to "drop in" informally to try out a session without having to sign up for a term. (see Networks and Journals, below). Dance weekends and holidays are also available.
Thabal Chongba (Moonlight Dance) of Manipur
Thabal Chongba is a popular Manipuri folk dance associated with the festival of Yaoshang. The literal meaning of Thabal is 'moonlight' and Chongba means 'dance', thus 'dancing in the moonlight'. Traditionally conservative Manipuri parents did not allow their daughters to go out and meet any young men without their consent. Thabal Chongba therefore provided the only chance for girls to meet and talk to boys. In earlier times, this dance was performed in the moonlight accompanied by folk songs. The music is rhythmic beating of drums accompanied by other instruments. It is performed in every locality on all the five days of the festival. As soon as the moon rises over the hills the flute, the drums and the cymbals starts pouring out music. The boys and girls in a circle clutch each other's hands with rhythms of music slow and fast, high and low, up and down. If the number is great they may form two or three rows so that everybody and anybody can participate in the dance. They wear no make-up and special costumes.
- Dances of Universal Peace are meditative, spiritual practices danced in a circle
- Mayim Mayim, a popular Israeli circle dance
- Romvong, a popular Cambodian circle dance
- Circle Dancing - Celebrating the Sacred in Dance by June Watts, Green Magic Publishing (2006) ISBN 0-9547230-8-2
- Grapevine, the quarterly journal of the sacred/circle dance network, Circle Dance Friends Company Ltd. ISSN 1752-4660
- The Dancing Circle, volumes 1-4, compiled by Judy King, Sarsen Press, Winchester, England
- Dancing on Water, by Marion Violets Gibson, printed in Wales (2006) ISBN 0-905285-79-4
- The Sevenfold Circle: self awareness in dance by Lynn Frances and Richard Bryant-Jefferies, Findhorn Press (1998) ISBN 1-899171-37-1
- The Dancers Journey, by Bernhard Wosien, translated from the German by Katharina Kroeber
- The Dancers Journey - Bernhard Wosien "Self-Realisation Through Movement" - Ed. Seamas O Daimhin
- Sacred Dance: Encounter with the Gods by Maria-Gabriele Wosien
- The Bible in Israeli Folk Dances by Matti Goldschmidt, Ed. Choros
- Sacred Woman Sacred Dance: Awakening stirituality through movement and ritual, by Iris J Stewart, Inner Traditions, USA ISBN 0-89281-605-8
- Drumbeat, the South African circle dancing journal
- Encyclopaedia of Indian Tribes by Shyam Singh Shashi, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.(1997) ISBN 81-7041-836-4
- Social Change in Manipur by B. K. Ahluwalia, Shashi Ahluwalia, Cultural Pub. House (1984)
- "We ended with a circle dance." "A short session of circle dance was one of the activities on offer..."
- "...we were able to testify our love to the lord using circle dance and hymn singing."
- See many issues of Grapevine over its 25 years history, available via the legal deposit libraries since Winter 2006 or via www.circledancenetwork.org.uk
- # Encyclopaedia of Indian Tribes by Shyam Singh Shashi, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.(1997) ISBN 81-7041-836-4