Exactly a year ago on May 22th, I didn’t join the ancestors. I had a very close shave after an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy, and I was rushed into hospital for a life-saving operation. Ectopic pregnancy means that the foetus nested in my fallopian tube instead of my womb. This is a dangerous condition, and one of the leading causes for maternal death in the first three months. According to the doctors it had been a window of two hours. Any longer, and I would no longer be here.
I am so grateful that I could give space and attention to the healing journey, which was intense and multi-layered. I went through deserts of despair, oceans of grief, volcanos of rage… with open eyes, as much as possible. Writing poetry, journaling, painting, ceremony, and being out in nature were some ingredients that helped me integrate this experience.
Dance was the one that connected them all. I remember my first 3-minute movement to Rodrigo & Gabriela’s Tamacun, dancing both the gratitude of still being alive and shaking out the shock of it all – and shaking with exhaustion afterwards. I felt I was literally ‘fighting’ my way back to wholeness. It wasn’t linear, it wasn’t neat. And since then, life seemed to take so much more courage than before. Was I up for it? Oh Gods, why didn’t I just die?
Exactly nine months after the operation I went into the studio to do a danced soul retrieval ceremony. Soul retrieval is a (shamanic) practice to retrieve dissociated parts of ourselves. Inviting the four elements earth, fire, water and air as allies in a strong medicine wheel, I danced the original events of pregnancy, apparent miscarriage and nearly losing my life. I then expressed the many stories I told myself about these events, the feelings I experienced in the moment and in the long aftermath of healing. Finally, I reconnected with a soul piece that had left during the process, and harvested the wisdom gifts that I received through the experience. I really felt healing and integration happen during that ceremony – in a way being reborn into life.
The next day I condensed this 40-minute healing dance ceremony into an improvised performance. Instead of choreographing every step and sequence, I used the various building blocks that I identified during my process of recovery as a movement score.
I am delighted to share the 15-minute online performance East Wind: the story of my ectopic pregnancy. It is a testimony to the tremendous capacity of dance to mend what was broken, retrieve what was lost, to integrate and heal.
I hope it soothes and inspires anyone who is on their own journey of reclaiming their health and wellbeing. Whatever you are experiencing, you are not alone. Dance provides such a deep avenue for expressing the whole range of emotions we experience, and a resource to find courage and resilience to move with and through whatever life offers us. May you dance!
I give thanks for all the support I received during this challenging time, from people, various practices, mother earth, and spirit. And thank you for reading this. In connection from heart to heart.
Please note that the video may cause strong emotional responses, especially if you have gone through a similar experience. If you think this applies, you can best watch it together with a trusted person, or make sure there is someone you can call afterward.
On the ‘one year anniversary’ of this experience I was in Brittany, intending to visit a neolithic passage grave on one of the tidal islands off the coast of France (That’s one of the things I do in my free time – see https://feminismandreligion.com/2019/10/01/autumn-equinox-with-the-ancestors-or-after-ecstasy-indeed-the-laundry-eline-kieft/).
The intriguing thing was that this mound on Île Venan, which I hadn’t visited before, was completely covered with brambles, so it was literally impossible to enter. To me its inaccessibility symbolised that, indeed, and thankfully, it was not yet my time to join the ancestors.
This experience has given a different window into being human, which will lead to making different choices in life, and also to questions of ‘what kind of ancestor do I want to become’ – even if this does not, in this life, involve physical children. Sharing this dance video is a first step towards that.
Eline Kieft danced from a young age, including rigorous classical and contemporary training to become a professional dancer. She then decided to study anthropology, deepening her fascination with worldwide similarities between indigenous traditions regarding intangible aspects of reality and other ways of knowing, including embodied epistemologies and shamanic techniques.
She pursued her PhD in dance anthropology at Roehampton University with the late Prof. Andrée Grau. She also gained more practical understanding and hands-on experience with shamanism while studying with Jonathan Horwitz from the Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies. Eline furthermore became qualified as teacher of Movement Medicine, an approach for contemporary shamanic improvised dance, created by Ya’Acov and Susannah Darling Khan.
Eline works at the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University, where she recently led a project to build a Somatics toolkit for ethnographers.
Finally, Eline is founder of Clover Trail, which offers soulful journeys to integrate the sacred into the everyday, and create your own meaningful and personalised art of living (mostly in France and UK). www.elinekieft.com and www.clover-trail.com.
Read more: feminismandreligion.com