Introduction to Chasing the Dance of Life

A Faith Story by Cynthia Winton-Henry

“We have made no progress towards explaining how the mind is attached to the body”
Sir Herbert Louis, 1st Viscount Samuel 1870-1963.

Sitting on a plane, it’s hard to tell the guy next to me what I do. Even after decades of attempts at answering his question, it still stops me in my tracks. I could say I study theology, art, and multicultural education, that I’m a community organizer, dance producer, former seminary teacher or a co-founder of a non-profit. I rarely mention that I am an ex-minister as this can lead to long conversations. I know what I do, but how do I explain it? If I say that I chase the dance of life and foster freedom what will my seatmate say?

“You foster freedom? How do you do that?” the plane guy wants to know.
 “Through a non-profit organization called Body Wisdom that promotes InterPlay in fifty cities.”
“InterPlay? What’s that?”   

As the airplane leaves the ground, memories zip across my mind. My companion does not know that I’ve sought to answer his question all my adult years. I flashback to dancing with Phil Porter and Judith Rock in Body and Soul Dance Company in 1979. We stumbled onto something that modern religion, science, business, and education overlooks. Concealed in the abandoned territory of play, amidst the simplest elements of singing, moving, and telling stories we uncovered a gold mine of body wisdom, the stuff of enlightenment, ecstatic community, and right relationship. People we taught could find peace and health doing things as easy and childish as playing follow the leader. Our discovery led Phil and me to a café table in 1989. With the zeal that usually goes into getting elected for political office or researching a cure for cancer, together we cooked up a crazy scheme to have fun and change the world.

I know better than to burden my seatmate with my struggle to articulate a theo-kinetic philosophy. He doesn’t want to hear about the challenge to eke out the easiest route for skeptical, shy, wary, heady folk to regain access to their body wisdom. Worse, if I tell my unsuspecting listener that InterPlay replaced my need for institutional religion, it could confirm me as a flaky, new age kook. Instead, I flip through a menu of elevator speeches and say something like, “InterPlay is a toolset that reduces stress and builds cultures of peace,” or “InterPlay is a system of ideas and practices that helps people thrive as they change.” Or, “InterPlay helps people play again. Once that happens, anything is possible.” If I speak with authority my seatmate might say, “Cool!” and change the subject. I always forget to mention What the Body Wants, the book I wrote with thirty of my closest InterPlay friends.

As the plane levels off at an altitude of 30,000 feet, an absurd elevation that no one ever wants to contemplate, I touch the bracelet given to me after 9/11 with the dangling ring inscribed with one word. “Freedom.” Frankly, I spend too much time trying to explain what I do. All I know is that thanks to InterPlay, I am getting a paycheck to operate on eight cylinders in a two-cylinder world.

How did InterPlay happen? Ask Phil. He’ll tell you a funny, wonderful, sane story. My version is wilder. Perhaps because from an early age I was caught in the tailwind of the cosmic dance, the Great Mystery that no one can describe but that anyone can ride.          

If you find yourself inexplicably swept off your feet as I have been, I offer my story as companionship. Along with hundreds, even thousands of mystics, poets, visionaries and dancers I offer my own chase and the insane, insatiable quest to know why something as expansive, rejuvenating, visionary, heart-opening and socially healing as the dance of life could be so hard to claim.  Fortunately, there are voices that say, “Fear not.” On discouraging days I cling to incantations like that of poet Muriel Rukeyser.

Let poems and bodies love and be given to air,
Earth having us real in her seasons, our fire and savor;
And reader, love well, imagine forward, for
All of the testaments are in your favor.

 

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