Laura's Blog

Spring Equinox: Balance and New Beginnings

March 20, 2015

Dear Dancing Sisters!                    

Today is the Spring Equinox, the New Moon and a partial Solar Eclipse. This rare configuration of events will not happen again for over two hundred years.

I invite you to welcome and celebrate the sacred themes of Balance and New Beginnings on this auspicious day, themes which traditional dances can always help us invoke and integrate.

As you are friends of Greek dance, now is a particularly good time to send positive thoughts to our beloved Greece, and I have two suggestions for practical ways we can do that.

Firstly, I invite you to show your support in the Greek humanitarian crisis by signing this Avaaz petition.
It asks for for medical care to be exempted from the drastic cuts to social services demanded of Greece by its creditors, including the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

Mass closures of hospitals and clinics and mass firings of doctors, nurses and essential medical staff have led to a sharp rise in infant mortality rates as well as many illnesses. Since medical care is tied to employment in Greece, the quarter of the adult population which has been thrown out of work now has no access to health care.

'Austerity' has become a matter of life and death here.  This petition is particularly important because it originated in Germany and acknowledges Germany's complicity in the Greek humanitarian crisis through the insistence on brutal austerity measures which have caused untold suffering to the innocent and the poor. 

Your solidarity now means so much. At a time when the banking industry shows not even the pretence of concern for the high human cost of the pursuit of profit – and make no mistake, the Greek 'debt problem' is generating enormous profits for foreign speculators – and governments almost universally support the banks over citizens, it is up to individuals to demonstrate our sense of shared humanity and common destiny.

In this way we can invite balance once again into politics and economics, and help nurture the new hope and new beginning which the new Greek government has dared to initiate.

Second, I invite you to 
celebrate life with Greek dance this year! There are many opportunities which I warmly recommend, including my own workshops of Women's Ritual Dances on Lesvos, June 10-17, 2015, at the Milelja Inselgarten Centre, and in Mani, August 30-September 6, 2015, at the Mani-Sonnenlink Bio-Hotel and Retreat Centre. Both these events are for women only. I also recommend seminars offered by my friends Babis Almpantis (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Kyriakos Moïsidis (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Best of all, you can also have an authentic and unique Greek dance experience this summer in the UK, as we have invited 
Dimitris Barbaroussis to be the guest teacher at the Findhorn Festival of Sacred Dance, Music and Song. See sidebar for more information about Dimitris and the Findhorn Festival, now entering its 29th year!

Along with Dimitris, teachers at this year's Festival include: Peter Vallance (Sacred Dance), Susanne Anders Bartholomäi (TanzMeditation), Barbara Swetina (Sacred Song), Bill Henderson (Scratch Orchestra), and other teachers and musicians. I will be sharing Armenian Lyrical Dances and other Armenian, Greek & Balkan ritual dances, with live music from Kostantis Kourmadias. For information on bursaries and special non-residential prices, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As you will know if you have danced with me, traditional

women’s ritual dances are among the oldest circle dances. Simple yet profound, they celebrate the sacredness of the natural world, and help us reconnect with ourselves, each other and the cycles of life.  Coming from cultures which have survived many times of transition, these dances open doors to ancient wisdom and joyfully guide us through our own life changes. Strengthening our own capacity for creative change gives us the courage to show solidarity with those friends who need our support at this time.

On the holy day of the Spring Equinox, I invite you to send your loving prayers for balance and new beginnings  to our brothers and sisters in Greece - and everywhere else in the world where suffering is being deliberately permitted, not to say provoked. We've seen that we can't count on European governments to do the right thing to relieve suffering when profits stand to be made. It is we ordinary people who must show that we care about community, hospitality, and mutual support – the highest traditional values, which have been Greek treasures since ancient times.

For more thoughts along these lines, check out my recent articles, 
All We Are Saying Is Give Greece a Chanceon the Feminism and Religion website, and Values of Community and Sustainability: Surviving Austerity in Greece on my blog Greek Fire.

For information about any of my workshops in Greece, Europe or the UK, please visit my website or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


I hope to see you in the circle!
With love and blessings in the dance,



The Dance of Memory, Part 2: The Wishing Tree

The Dance of Memory, Part 2: The Wishing Tree

May 2, 2015


Now is the time of Beltane, the great festival celebrating life and fertility.


Last week, on April 24th, in my post The Dance of Memory I wrote about the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, and invited everyone to join in this worldwide day of remembrance through prayer, meditation, music and dance. Subsequently I received testimony from students and colleagues all over the world about dance events they had organised in response to my call.


Dancing friends from Europe, North America, South America, and Australia told how moved they felt to be part of a larger whole, connected through the wordless beauty of music and dance, and by our compassion and caring for all those affected by genocide. Many, including my sister Leslie, thanked me for my ‘call to include Turkish and other dances in the Armenian commemoration activities’. She wrote from New Zealand, ‘The world needs more of this kind of inclusiveness!’

In Germany, Sybille Kolaric danced Armenian dances and a Turkish dance with her group, saying, “I really liked the idea to combine in the dance circle what is so separated in reality.”


A beautiful coming together of Turks and Armenians took place in Istanbul, where my dear friend and colleague Shakeh Major Tchilingirian went with her family, along with many Armenians from all over the world, for the April 24th commemorative ceremonies. A few days before, Shakeh had been leading Armenian dances with Turkish university students there as a ritual of reconciliation (you can see the film, Circle of Life, about a similar event she led in London). Shakeh wrote that they attended a very emotional service in the Armenian Church, and then went to Taksim Square to tie cloths to the Wishing Tree.


Shakeh wrote from Istanbul, “Last night I read some of the messages on The Wishing Tree, messages remembering ALL victims of atrocities and genocide as well as the displaced. There were thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people sitting silently in Taksim Square, many Turks and Kurds amongst us. There is a lesson to be learned here: we are all victims of the situation we find ourselves in and the longer these wounds bleed the more difficult it becomes to heal.”


The Wishing Tree in Taksim Square was created by Turkish artist Hale Tenger, specifically to mark the centennial of the Genocide. She invited participants to tie pieces of cloth to its branches in homage to the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Armenian-American Nancy Kricorian brought with her from New York a strip of fabric from one of her grandmother’s aprons, saying, “My grandmother Mariam Kodjababian Kricorian was a survivor of the 1915 Genocide, and tying this cloth to the Wishing Tree in Istanbul will be a tribute to her life.”


Coincidentally, my April 24 post on FAR included a photo of an Armenian grandmother tying an offering of cloth to just such a tree. The ancient folk custom of the wishing tree, where people (usually women) tie cloths with a special prayer for a loved one, can be found today in Armenia, Turkey, and Greece, in Asia and throughout Europe as far as the British Isles and in Asia as well. This ‘clootie tree’ by the ‘clootie well’ (cloth = clootie) in Madron, Cornwall, is almost identical to the Armenian one shown in my previous post.


Carol P. Christ’s comment on my last post described a similar tree on her Greek island of Lesvos which she tells me is near hot baths once sacred in antiquity. She also stated that brides in ancient Greece would leave articles of their unmarried clothing on a tree dedicated to the virgin Goddess Artemis, one of many tree-worshipping rituals which were well-known and widespread in the ancient world...


Read the full article with illustrations on


The Greek Crisis and the Values of the Dance

February 15, 2015



Dear dancing friends,


I bring you greetings from Findhorn, where the light is waxing every day with a noticeably earlier sunrise and later sunset. The first blossoms and birds are responding with vigour  and there is an exquisite sense of renewed life in the air.


In Greece, the other place I call home, there is also a renewed sense of hope in the air, light and relief in people’s eyes.  After six years of gruelling economic and humanitarian crisis, people have given their support – peacefully and democratically – to a new government which wants to renegotiate Greek’s debt in a sustainable way.


Recent articles in the mainstream press finally acknowledge that in Greece, austerity has been pushed too far and it is time to find a compromise and a new solution. You can read my article about this situation, All We Are Saying Is Give Greece a Chance, today on the Feminism and Religion website.


In my article I describe some of the devastating effects of austerity in Greece, including soaring rates of poverty, hunger, unemployment, sickness, and suicide. And all for nothing: Greek debt is now a higher proportion of GDP than it was before the bailout. All of the bailout money went to foreign bankers, none of it to the Greek people. Those suffering are not the ones responsible for the crisis. Austerity doesn’t work.


It is time to exchange austerity for ‘charitable, civic-minded, loving’ values – values of generosity, hospitality, connection and mutual support. These are the values which brought me to live in Greece in the first place, and they are also the values of the dance. First and foremost, they affirm our common humanity. 


As you are lovers of Greece and of Greek dances, I ask you to please send compassionate thoughts and prayers to Greece now, for a peaceful and sustainable solution to both the debt crisis and the humanitarian crisis. 


And I encourage you to visit Greece this year if you can, to experience for yourselves the amazing sense of hope newly inspiring a nation which had lost all dignity and optimism. Your presence is a sign of solidarity with ordinary Greek people, who did not create the mess but have been made to pay for it, and who do not deserve further suffering.  They will cherish your support. 


There are still places on my upcoming 2015 seminars in Women’s Ritual Dances (for women):

    10-17 June 2015 in Lesvos, Greece

    30 August-6 September 2015: Mani, Greece 


For more information, and for details of workshops in other countries, please visit  I would be delighted to see you in the circle! 

If you are unable to join me on the above dates, there are many other wonderful events taking place at the centres where I teach, Milelja Inselgarten on Lesvos and Mani- Sonnenlink near Stoupa in the Peloponnese. The Kalikalos Centre in Pilion also has a full programme of alternative and holistic summer events, and I particularly recommend Carol P. Christ's twice-yearly Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete.


With love and blessings in the dance, 




The Dance of Memory: Commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide

The Dance of Memory: Commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide 

April 24, 2015


Friday, April 24, 2015 marks one hundred years since the start of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.


In my dance workshop last Sunday in Somerset, England, we lit candles to the exquisite voice of the great Armenian soprano Lusine Zakarian, and danced beautiful Armenian dances in a ritual of solidarity with this occasion.


I have been encouraging all my students to dance Armenian dances with their groups this week, most especially on Friday, to align with the commemorations happening around the world. Even if you do not dance, you could simply light a candle and listen to some Armenian music (see my list of recommendations at the end of this post). I feel that every act of compassionate witnessing, however small, helps heal the wounds of history.


Why Armenian dances? I am not Armenian, yet in my thirty years of researching and teaching traditional dances, Armenian dances have held a particular fascination for me, in their poignant melodies and timeless gestures expressing love, longing and homecoming.


Armenian Christianity has also been a tremendous source of inspiration. The Armenian khachkar (‘stone cross’) is magnificently life-affirming, in that the cross, rather than an instrument of suffering, is the Tree of Life, revealing the living wisdom of Christ’s teachings. Since antiquity, the Tree of Life has also represented the Goddess, originally worshipped in Armenia as Anahit, Saris, Nar, and Nune.


Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity, in 301 CE. Perhaps because it developed so early, the Armenian Orthodox church retains features of its nature-reverent origins. A solar symbol appears on every khachkar, embedded in the roots of the Tree to show union and balance, rather than separation, between earth and sky, spirit and matter. These are also the key principles of Armenian traditional dance, which I have been exploring in movement for thirty years...


Read the rest of this article on





Baba Marta, Bulgarian Grandmother Goddess of Springtime

Dear dancing friends,                    

March 1 is the day of Baba Marta, ‘Grandma March’ – the Bulgarian Grandmother Goddess of Springtime.

It’s early spring and the tender signs of new life awakening appear everywhere, somehow surviving the wild storms which are also gifts of Baba Marta.
On March 1st in Bulgaria, Romania and Greek Thrace, people honour Baba Marta by giving each other martenitsas: amulets of twisted red and white yarn. Red and white are the colours of life and of cleansing, and bring protection, health, prosperity and renewal.  
You tie the twist of red and white thread - often with a Goddess-resembling double tassel - around your wrist or to your clothes for a few days or weeks, until you see the first storks, cuckoos or swallows, or a beautifully flowering fruit tree. Then you throw the martenitsa into flowing water, place it under a stone near a river or tie it to a special tree which shows vigorous buds and abundant new growth. 
Baba Marta is the wise woman who has the power to bring new life into the world: ‘Baba’ means both ‘grandmother’ and ‘midwife’. She also wields the destructive power of spring storms. Like the dance of Shiva, this dance of creation and destruction is in Her hands. The balance between these two poles is also the dance of inner and outer, shadow and light, and the labyrinth of the Lenten/Easter cycle of descent and resurrection.
We experience this powerful spiral of release and renewal every day, too, every lunar cycle, every time we dance, and in all sorts of other ways.  And of course our own life paths ‘decide’ when to take us through surprising cycles of symbolic death and rebirth, which may last days, weeks, months, years regardless of the external cycles of the sun, the moon and seasons.
My approach to traditional women’s dances aims to strengthen our understanding of them as tools for personal transformation, and our ability to work with them consciously, so naturally the dances can help us align with this ancient springtime process. As you dance (and I hope you are dancing), I invite you to ask yourself: what change would you like to invoke in your life, and what are you ready to release in order to make space for the new? 
You can take a few moments to reflect by writing in a journal, sitting in meditation or spending quiet time in nature.  These simple steps can help you deepen your awareness and open the doors to your own wisdom and intuition. 
Above all, the women’s dances help us to understand the naturalness of this cosmic cycle, to feel at home with it, and to discover the joy of the journey, whichever part of the path of descent and return we may find ourselves on. So wherever you are, don't worry: you too are in perfect alignment with the spiral of life… and what goes down, must come up, like the newly sprouting seeds of spring. 

If you feel moved to discover more about vanishing women’s ritual traditions and dances of Bulgaria, join my Sacred Journey to Bulgaria this August 4-16, 2015. I offer this journey only every five years, to coincide with the renowned Koprivshtitsa folk festival, where you will see real-life babi, singing, dancing and performing rituals, wearing traditional costumes made by hand and rich in symbolic wisdom. There are just a few places left on this women-only journey, so book now.

Chestita Baba Marta!
With love and blessings in the dance,

Laura Shannon
Bouzalades, T. Th. 1075, Keratea, Attiki, 19001 GREECE
Rose of the Heart, 227 The Park, Findhorn, Forres, IV36 3TZ SCOTLAND, UK - Find me on Facebook!
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