D's Blog

December 30, 2009   ♦   Comments Off on New Years Day Zaar Ritual

Dear Dancers,

I trust you all having a wondrous Holiday Season. We have been working hard for  months on our new web site and are scheduled to go live with this New Web site, tomorrow, under a full blue moon, lunar eclipse, it’s New Years Eve, (on my Birthday). Hope it all works. It’s been a huge job! We are so excited!

On NEW YEARS DAY we are having a Zaar Ritual at VDP Studios. I have been talking about it by word of mouth for months. This is not for the weak of heart or mind. A zaar, zahr, zar,  is a cathartic trance  dance ritual. This particular ritual is my own design and has been performed since 1994. Dancers find it very powerful. We are limiting it to 20 dancers because of time and space. We will teach some skills, give the the ritual outline then do it in 2 sets. Each person will be shown some exercises and given back ground and then will facilitate as a spotter for one set and dancer for  the second. Anyone who is interested is invited but we have limited space. Find out details here >>


The zar or zahr or zaar is known for being a trance dance. A  cathartic ritual performed in various areas of the middle east. It seems to take different forms depending on the local and time in history. It is a ritual of cleansing, a remedy for mental illness, a process of chasing away evil spirits, problems, depression and renewal. An ancient form of movement therapy really. Supposedly a zahr may be held for someone in particular who is ill at ease. An individual may seek out a location where open zahrs are held or independently heir musicians to perform the zahr rhythms as a service.  From out of my many years of trance dance experience my opinion is it all depends on your focus of intention how you want you use a movement trance. There is a universality that just takes on different cultural twists. Words, labels, descriptions, of experience are very subjective. There are many perspectives, superstitions and takes on what I think is a very common experience. Aspects of it have worked their way into belly dance routines. You may have seen where dancers start throwing their head and hair around in a circle to an ayoub rhythm.

I have had the opportunity to dance spontaneously to live music on stage for 45 -55 minute sets on a nightly basis I will tell you I was in trance for most of the time. During those trances I experience being able to do physically extreme gymnastics that I could not explain how I learned them or did them. I experience more endurance and energy reserves. The famous turkish drop was one of those kinds of events. I could never do that in a class or at the start of a routine. I had to be warmed up physically as well as psychically. Extreme neck gyrations are another thing people sometimes do in trance. Indian fakirs (and shaman all over the world for that matter) do extraordinary things with skewers and shisks.

The word Zahr is used in different ways and is ambiguous but it is connected with trance dance. Zahr rhythms, zahr house where musicians gather to play for participants, zahr woman, zar dance , zar exorcism. Trance is a loaded word for some religious people that connect it with demons and possession. For others it is treated more academically and scientifically. (You have to believe in demons to be effected by them, in my book, but be warned and decide for your self). The sufi ziker (dhikr), the tribal blessing dances of the Geudra, and healing trance dances of the Moroccan Jarjooka, Haitian voodoo dances with their Gods and Goddesses that originated from Africa, Indian fakirs,  American Indian pow wows, even the Christian Pentecostal and charismatic activities, Buddhist chanting and church hymns and are all dealing with and inducing a trance state. At least this is my point of view as I have experienced many of these things. Utilizing specific chants, repetitive prayers, rhythms, hand movements, body swaying are all methods to access cathartic conditions, and mind scapes. Repetition and focus are key. Doing the dishes and driving our car across town we all do in a trance state. Creating art is trance work. I do not find anything scary about these condition. I happen to like doing it in a physical capacity thus trance dance. It is powerful self exploration. Me? I come from a more scientific view of these states and view superstition and dogma as having blocked peoples access to their own internal mind scape. People should give it deep thought. I respect your feeling and experience if you feel differently.

The book Dancing in the Street by Barbara Ehrenreich I highly recommend. She explains the origins of dance as pure celebration. In ancient times dance was as necessary to the human spirit as water and bread. It was unheard of not to dance but it was nothing like ballet or performance on a stage. It was all about direct experience of actually dancing and giving thanks directly to the world at large for fully being in a body; bone, heart and soul.

My ritual has 3-4 distinct parts before the ayoub section. I’ll blog and let you know how this one turns out.

happy New Year 2010


A great way to start the new year of 2010.

Here are some great resources on Zaar Rituals:

Yours in Dance,