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Dance-The Sacred Art: The Joy of Movement as a Spiritual Practice

Dance-The Sacred Art: The Joy of Movement as a Spiritual Practice

by Cynthia Winton-Henry

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Unlock the transformative power of movement as a life-changing spiritual practice.

If youre thinking But Im not a dancer or I feel awkward, I hope to reassure you. You dont need a special talent to move. You dont need to be graceful or especially coordinated. You dont need a body thats in shape. Dancing helps us embrace all this humanity. Dance connects us


Unlock the transformative power of movement as a life-changing spiritual practice.

If youre thinking But Im not a dancer or I feel awkward, I hope to reassure you. You dont need a special talent to move. You dont need to be graceful or especially coordinated. You dont need a body thats in shape. Dancing helps us embrace all this humanity. Dance connects us to the holy of life.
from the Introduction

Seize the joy and healing power of dance! Drawing from her years of experience as a dance and movement teacher, and as cofounder of the international dance organization InterPlay, Cynthia Winton-Henry helps you overcome your embarrassment or anxiety and discover in dance a place of solace and restoration, as well as an energizing spiritual force. She taps into the spirit of dancing throughout history and in many world cultures to provide detailed exercises that will help you learn to trust your body and interpret its physical and spiritual intentions. For both newcomers and seasoned movers alike, she encourages you to embrace dance as a spiritual tool to:

  • Celebrate your unique spirituality and get in touch with your emotions
  • Unify your body and mind, and push your personal boundaries
  • Work through trauma or crisis and restore spiritual well-being
  • Deepen your relationships and strengthen your community
  • Find spiritual direction
  • … and much more!

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The joy of movement leaps off the pages.... Sound theology, personal stories and clear guidelines for dancing alone or in community … invaluable for all who wish to expand their understanding and experience of spiritual practice."
Rev. Jane E. Vennard, author, Praying with Body and Soul and Embracing the World: Praying for Justice and Peace

"Shows us that the pathway to spirit starts deep in our bodies. Cynthia's gift and her calling is to share play. A dose of joy, like dancing itself! As I read it, my toes started tapping and my shoulders kept the beat until I couldn't sit still for another moment. Thank goodness it’s here!"
Carolyn North, dance healer; author, Ecstatic Relations

“Opens for us a released and exciting blending of body and spirit.”
Flora Slosson Wuellner, minister, United Church of Christ; former adjunct faculty member, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley

“For dancers and non-dancers alike.... Shows how sacred the art of movement is to deepening life’s experiences, healing the past, and entering into the wholeness of the present.”
Karen Josephson, PhD, president, Sacred Dance Guild

“A wonderful resource for leaders and participants of all beliefs, giving permission and specific activities to use movement as a spiritual practice.”
JoAnne Tucker, PhD, founding director, Avodah Dance Ensemble

“Shows us that the pathway to spirit starts deep in our bodies. Cynthia’s gift and her calling is to share playful tools of movement to light our way.”
Mark Metz, executive director, Conscious Dancer magazine

“Beautiful and timely…. With affirmation and artistry, Cynthia 'lays out the welcome mat,’ weaving together simple but profound exercises and reflections validated by her own search for healing and joy. My whole being was engaged in her search for peace.”
Carla DeSola, director, Omega West Dance Company

“Captures the Spirit of the dance…. Gives clarity to the mind and connects the body’s purpose as it moves.”
Rev. Albirda Rose-Eberhardt, PhD, professor of dance, San Francisco State University School of Music and Dance

Journey - Julie Barns

So often in life we struggle to express what is going on inside of us, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually. Ms Winton-Henry's book, Dance—The Sacred Art, is an artfully and thoughtfully written manual that guides us to make contact with our emotions and put meaning and structure to them through dance.

Dance is an art form that can be deeply personal and exploratory, and then grow and evolve into something to share publicly with others.

This book takes the reader through the many stages and purposes of dance—all the time making links back to our spirituality and physicality in positive and nurturing ways.

It describes with clarity several dance/movement exercises that guide a person to make connections with God, connections with our fellow humankind, and connections between mind and body.

Clearly numbered 'step by step' processes and interesting anecdotes colour and shape our perceptions and ideas of how dance can be healing for us. Basic ideas such as describing spaces for movement sessions and what to wear for dancing are covered clearly and prepare the reader for more complex ideas and dance strategies.

Ms Winton-Henry delves into the healing power of dance on a personal level—using dance to cope with stress and trauma; on a local level—making connections with community and forging healthy relationships; and through to a global focus—creating and spreading peace.

Each of these ideas are strongly grounded in a spiritual and godly focus. Dance as prayer is both implicitly and explicitly professed as a powerful, healing, empowering, moving, binding, freeing, loving experience.

The author makes reference to past and present dance artists of the secular world, and leads the reader to consider and reflect upon those ideas and practises, and then transfer them to develop dance as a spiritual practice.

An inspiring read for those already dance literate and immersed in the wonderful, creative, expressive world of movement. An accessible and motivating book for those wanting to share in this joy of dance as a spiritual practice.

New Age Retailer - Richard D. Wright

The author of Dance is a teacher of dance and movement and cofounder of InterPlay, an international dance organization. Her use of the term "dance" does not particularly have to do with being graceful or especially coordinated or with having to learn various steps and rhythms. Instead, it has to do with becoming in touch with your body, which can be as simple as making faces, moving fingers and legs, stretching and wiggling the body, or walking around in a variety of ways. Such movement practices can help to develop a greater sense of wholeness. As the author explains, "The 'Body Smarts' found in dancing have the potential to carry us away from anxious to peaceful, from ordinary to extraordinary, from out of balance to balanced, from held back to liberated." She suggests, for example, dancing to one's own rhythm, or off the clock, to create a sense of detachment, which then may "awaken a spacious, loving, compassionate connection to the world and God."

The book begins by showing the reader how to work through any inhibitions or self-consciousness harbored regarding dancing and gives a 10-second exercise using one hand. How to use the breath, find inspiration, and move various parts of one's anatomy to create body awareness and confidence are some of the other areas covered as preliminaries. After further suggestions and exercises toward releasing one’s natural grace and discovering joy, the book shows how to dance for wholeness, healing, spiritual direction, a sense of beloved community and peacemaking. The eight chapters include a total of 45 movement practices. When one is dancing with another, for example, the focus is on “the five basic movements of healthy relationships—leading, following, blending, letting go and reuniting.” When practiced as a unified exercise, these movements then carry resonance that can enrich one’s abilities to lead a richer, more expansive life. The author’s overarching message is that “those who discover dancing as a spiritual practice harness energies of love,” a key reason to explore the joy of movement.– Richard D. Wright, Tranquil Things, Derby Line, Vt.

Today's Books -Daily Book Register

DANCETHE SACRED ART: The Joy of Movement as a Spiritual Practice (December 2009 SkyLight Paths $16.99 Trade Paperback 978-1-59473-268-3), "The Art of Spiritual Living" series; written by Cynthia Winton-Henry (Chasing the Dance of Life), cofounder of movement therapy NPO, InterPlay. How to make the right moves, literally, toward serenity, healing, balance, discernment, intuition. Praise: Praying with Body and Soul author Jane E. Vennard ("Sound theology, personal stories, and clear guidelines."); Conscious Dancer executive director Mark Metz; Sacred Dance Guild president Karen Josephson; Embodied Prayer author Celeste Snowber. Publisher website: skylightpaths.com. Today's Books puts Dance—The Sacred Art on the “A-List!”. (Publicity: Carla Wright, publicity@skylightpaths.com, 802-457-4000; media kit includes press release, advance praise.)

Catholic Library World - Colette Hanlon
Do you sometimes feel as if you are experiencing information overload? Then pick up this book and learn the technique of "exformation" through dance. That is only one of the many ideas Winton-Henry shares in this creative contribution to spiritual practice.

The author presents the Divine as asking each person "May I have this dance?" Yet so many religious traditions downplay or deny the value of the body in spite of numerous traditions of God's movement toward creatures and the lively response of followers. This repression was not always so nor need it be so in the future, according to the author. In fact, words such as “carol” and “chorus” mean to dance and to dance together.

Winton-Henry develops ways in which to approach the Holy through unlocking the dance of joy, approaching wholeness through movement and dancing for healing. Interestingly, she also promotes dancing as a part of spiritual direction, as action of the beloved community and as a form of peacemaking.

Included in the book are a variety of movement practices for each theme, additional reading suggestions and resources for particular forms of dancing. No matter what age, what physical ability or limitation or what spiritual tradition you are, there is much in this volume to invite you to the sacred dance.

Product Details

Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
Art of Spiritual Living Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Winton-Henry, cofounder of InterPlay (an international not-for-profit organization with locations in over fifty cities on five continents), teaches people to unlock the wisdom of the body through movement and creativity. She has served as an adjunct faculty member at Pacific School of Religion and the Sophia Center at Holy Names University, and is author of Chasing the Dance of Life: A Faith Journey; What the Body Wants and DanceThe Sacred Art: The Joy of Movement as a Spiritual Practice (SkyLight Paths).

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