LAURA SHANNON holds an honours degree in Intercultural Studies (1986), a postgraduate diploma in Dance Movement Therapy (1990), and a Master's degree with Distinction in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred (2020). She is currently a PhD candidate, writing a dissertation exploring the embodied wisdom of women's ritual dances from ancient times to the present day.
Laura trained in Sacred Dance at the Findhorn Foundation with Anna Barton and Rosie Turnbull in 1987 and 1988, and has been a faculty member of the Sacred Dance Department at Findhorn since 1998. She has been researching and teaching traditional folk dances for over 35 years, specialising in Armenian, Greek, Balkan, and Romani (Gypsy) dances, as well as women's dances, ritual dances and three-measure dances. Laura sees these dances as an ancient mystery school, transmitting information encoded in symbols such as the circle, spiral, zigzag, crescent, and Tree of Life, with roots in the Neolithic civilisations of Old Europe which honoured the Goddess.
Laura's caring, innovative approach to traditional dance bridges the authenticity of the folk dance world with the spiritual intention of the circle dance world. She sees the dances both as a nonverbal language and as a form of spiritual practice, passed down from our ancestors in the human family. In her pioneering way of working, careful attention to style, background, and symbolism gradually illuminates meaning within the movements, revealing encoded wisdom still relevant to our lives today.
Traditional dances embody an ancient worldview of sustainability, community, and reverence for the earth. Their roots go back thousands of years, to peaceful, egalitarian Neolithic civilisations of Old Europe which honoured the Goddess, as articulated by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas and others. Laura's teaching seeks to rekindle our understanding of this worldview, to bring greater awareness, gratitude and joy into our dancing and into our lives.
Coming from cultures which historically have survived many periods of change, these dances teach skills and transmit messages which can guide us lovingly through difficult times. Traditional ritual dances also channel and magnify a physical experience of positive energy, akin to the chi experienced in body-based movement practices such as t'ai chi or qi gong. In traditional dance, just as in those practices, this awakened flow of energy or life force helps to support healing on all levels.
Laura is deeply committed to supporting traditional music and brings musicians to her workshops whenever possible. She has collaborated with Xenos on CDs of Balkan & Gypsy dance music including Fire in the Feet, Tutti Frutti, and Cirikli; produced a CD of traditional Armenian dance music, Gorani, with Shakeh Major Tchilingirian in Armenia in 2001, and produced three CDs of Greek traditional music, Taxidi, Limani and Lavra. Together with her husband Kostantis Kourmadias and other musicians including Nikolas Angelopoulos and Ruth Hill, Laura performs traditional Greek and Balkan folk music in concerts throughout Greece and Europe.
Laura lives partly with her husband in a tiny village in Greece, overlooking the Aegean sea, and partly in the Findhorn ecological community in northern Scotland, where she has had a home for 20 years. Recently for her academic work she has also been based in Canterbury, Kent (UK).
Laura's writings on dance have been published in many languages. She has written chapters in the books Spiritual Herstories (Intellect Publishing 2019), Inanna’s Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power (Girl God Press 2018), Re-Enchanting the Academy (Rubedo Press 2017), Revisioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom (Girl God Press 2017), Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess (Mago Books 2017), She Rises: How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? Vol 2 (Mago Books 2016), and Dancing on the Earth: Women’s Stories of Healing through Dance (Findhorn Press 2011), as well as scholarly articles in the academic journals Dance, Movement & Spiritualities, Feminist Theology and Walking the Worlds. In 2016 she edited the book 'String of Pearls: Forty Years of Sacred Dance in the Findhorn Community'. Laura contributes regularly to the German Sacred Dance periodicals Neue Kreise Ziehen and Balance, as well as The Grapevine magazine of circle dance, and blogs frequently on feminismandreligion.com. Laura's work is featured in an e-book by Emily Jarrett Hughes, 'This Joy Heals: Tapping into the Encoded Wisdom and Transformative Power within Women's Ritual Dances' (Wisdom Dances LLC, 2022). For more information about Laura’s articles and publications, please click here or visit Laura's page on academia.edu.
Laura is Founding Director of the German-based non-profit Athena Institute for Women’s Dance and Culture. In 2018 Laura was made an Honorary Lifetime Member of The Sacred Dance Guild, in recognition of her 'significant and lasting contribution to dance as a sacred art'. In 2021 her close friend Carol P. Christ, renowned feminist author and scholar of religion, appointed Laura to succeed her as Director of the non-profit Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual, to serve as her literary executor, and to continue leading the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete which Carol developed and led for over 20 years. Laura is also a member of the advisory board of ASWM, the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology.
Laura has presented online and in-person talks at Canterbury Christ Church University; University of Winchester; Association for the Study of Women and Mythology; Ariadne Institute for the Study of Myth and Ritual; Athena Institute for Women's Dance and Culture; 'the big room' cic; California Institute of Integral Studies; 'The Centrepiece'; Conseil International de la Danse; Costume and Textile Association; Girl God Books; Institute of Archaeomythology; Findhorn Foundation; Moving Soma Centre for Embodiment & Somatic Movement Education and Therapy; Sacred Dance Guild; WomanSpiritIreland; and many other organisations. Her internet radio appearances include Wise Woman Radio with Susun Weed, Voices of the Sacred Feminine with Karen Tate, and the 'Mysteries, Graveyards and the Human Psyche' podcast series with Melissa Bee.
My dance teachers and key influences include:
Dance Movement Therapy and Healing Dance
Janet Adler, Christine Caldwell-Silver, Emilie Conrad Daoud, Felicitas Goodman, Linda Hartley, Marcia B. Leventhal, Gabrielle Roth, Tina Stromsted, Zuleikha.
Middle Eastern Dance
Fawzia Rosina Al-Rawi, Wendy Buonaventura, Myriam Eli, Helene Eriksen, Suraya Hilal, Travis Jarrell, Amel Benhassine Miller.
Balkan, Turkish, Kurdish, Roma and International Folk Dance
Dzelal Alieski, Dina Ancheva, Pece Atanasovski, Erik Bendix, Neda, Mitra and Lyubimka Bisserova, Iliana Bozhanova, Dick Crum, Judie David, Elsie Dunin, Karl Finger, Michael Ginsburg, Merita Halili & Raif Hyseni, Bianca de Jong, Sibel Kaya, Steve Kotansky, Bob Leibman, Jaap Leegwater, Anna Likollari and family, Ahmet Luleci, Yves Moreau, Zahir Ramadanov, Esma Redžepova, Šani Rifati, Fuat Sazimanoski, Kejmet Sazimanova, Carol Silverman, Baiba Vija Strads, Jane Sugarman.
Babis Almpantis, Katerina Asteriou-Kavazi, Dimitris Barbaroussis, Kyriakos Chamalides, Thomas Chamalides, Angelika Chrysoudi, Yiouli Dimou, Katerina Douka, Maria Georgakis, Vassilis Gerovassileiou, Joe Kaloyanides Graziosi, Rena Grigoriou, Efi Hatzihidiroglou, Niki Theoka Hill, Yvonne Hunt, Fouly Karagavriilidou, Rena Kragiopoulou, Nick & Stella Karamitsos, Natassa Katsabouka, Yiorgos & Yiorgia Lazarou, Kyriakos Moisidis, Angelos Nikolaidis, Panayotis Pagonidis, Chrysostomos Papadopoulos, Nena Papangeli, Dimitris Pashalides, Yiannis Prantsidis, Stavros Spiliakos, Dimitris Triandafyllidis, Maria Tsimitri, Loulouda Zikida, Panayiotis Zikidis, and teachers from the Dora Stratou Greek Dance Theatre and the Lykeion ton Ellinidon in Athens, Keratea and Salamina.
Tom Bozigian, Eddy Djololian, Aleksan & Hasmik Harutyunyan, Rudik Haroyan, Naira Kilichyan, Jan Knoppers, Tineke van Geel, Susan & Gary Lind-Sinanian, Gagik Mkhitaryan, Shakeh Major Tchilingirian (formerly Avanessian).
Sacred Dance and Circle Dance
Anna Barton, Andy Bettis, Lynn Frances, Anna Gahlin, Colin Harrison, Friedel Kloke-Eibl, Fiona Parr, David and Zoë Roberts, Rosie Turnbull, Peter Vallance, June Watts, Bernhard Wosien, Maria-Gabriele Wosien.
Women’s Spirituality and Goddess Culture
Hallie Iglehart Austen, Z Budapest, Carol P. Christ, Max Dashu, Riane Eisler, Carol Lee Flinders, Marija Gimbutas, Jane Harrison, Mary Kelly, Joan Marler, Vicki Noble, Patricia Monaghan, Sheila Paine, Starhawk, Karen Tate, Susun Weed.
I am also profoundly grateful to the ordinary women and men, grandmothers and grandfathers, dancers and musicians I have met since the 1980s at village panegyria and glendia in Greece and at weddings, festivals, and informal gatherings in Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, and numerous places in North Africa, as well as all those whose homelands I could not visit but whom I had the honour to meet and dance with in other countries. Without all of you, many of these treasures would have been lost long ago.
Bouzalades, T. Th. 1075, Keratea, Attiki, 19001 GREECE
Rose of the Heart, 227 The Park, Findhorn, Forres, IV36 3TZ SCOTLAND, UK
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