I felt a need for a place that was just right for our children to interface with the community. Though they were not excluded from our weekly public meeting, few of the Dances were “kid friendly”. The earnestness with which they approached this social interaction as new bi-peds had been inspiring and added to the preciousness of the environment for the community. Later, as they were coming more into their own power and choosing creative alternatives to the choreographed movements (sometimes including gleefully running around the circle… in the opposite direction of the Dance movements, during the more reverent segments of a meeting), their was a need, as a parent, to curb their expression. Having two avid readers, they generally could be diverted to sit on the side with a book.
I had resigned myself to the fact that they’d “get something out of it” in spite of being absorbed in a book….by osmosis. Meanwhile, they’d remain familiar with the Community. When a rowdy familiar Dance would appear they’d join in appropriately, and I was delighted. I particularly felt satisfaction when I heard them singing or humming Dances unconsciously while in the bathtub.
Other parents were having a less easy time with the “family fit”. For myself, being a Dance Leader with a desire for those deep still moments in our circle, I also had a desire to support that focus at our public meeting - which the children did tend to disrupt.
Hearing the distress of other parents about how there “isn’t a place for children in the community,” I began wondering if that place needed to be created. This community was full of people who had viewed my swelling belly. (Given I was carrying twins, it was a noticeable swell.) They were the singing voices that were heard from inside the womb, as my body rocked our babies in Dance. They were amongst those who first saw them smile, who’s hair got pulled as I leaned into a hug and little hands reached over my shoulder. Some of them even got christened with spit-up. This must be the Village for our children, I reasoned. So, a shift of venues, a rethinking of what a Dance meeting is and a variation on S.A.M.’s world peace plan, Eat, Dance, and Pray Together.has become for us Eat, Dance and Play Together. The play always needs to come first... and... generally later, as well. There’s a sense of “cousinness” that has to happen, a certain amount of bumping and laughing and exploring the hosting child’s domain, which is the true invocation to gathering.
Since its inception, we have had a core group of 5 families,
including 8 kids and 8 parents. Other families (from outside the
The gathering randomly moves from home to home, depending on who can host on a date that works for a quorum of families. Likewise, the gathering date and time shift from Sunday to Saturday, from late afternoon/early evening, to midday for the annual Easter gathering (including egg-hunt) at the home of our “out-in-the-sticks” family. Family calendars steer us to different parts of the month and generally steer us away from December and August. It goes on year after year.
Erin and Ryan are 13 years old now, and have no younger sibs. The opportunity to coo at babies and assist little ones in moving with the circle and help protect the creations of the older sibs from their younger sibs at VP, has been invaluable for them. Likewise, I suspect it has served the only-child/single mom family, in ways that their home dynamics can’t.
The home environment makes this event more kid friendly and so do the selection of DUPs. But also the way we approach the Dances respects the children’s needs. Key to this is waiting until the essential playful reunion has crested. Then, I walk around with paper and pencil in hand to take requests from the children. It is very empowering for a young child to see an adult actually “taking note” of what they offer. This is a strong element of the “buy in” for Dancing. As the children turn into tweens, the need they fill by helping the younger ones Dance, has been useful in keeping them engaged. Overtime, the young ones continue to make the same requests, while the older ones have gotten bored (they are so gooood at getting bored at this age) with those very Dances. So I invite them to request something new. Incase they draw a blank; I come prepared with a list of fresher kid-friendly (or kid-adapted) DUPs. I can tell them a little about each Dance, or sing a phrase and they easily choose.
Typically, we dance for 30-45 minutes and cover 4-6 Dances in that time. Occasionally, we do a deep quiet Dance and partnerships in there. The children have sustained deep focused places with this. Otherwise, things are lively. There seems also to be a “buy-in” in supporting the other children’s selection of Dances, though this is most challenging for the teens who really are tired of dancing Gopala. Ryan was particularly unhappy about this Dance, so I asked him to bring his flute and play on it - no problem with Gopala in the program, any more.
Children usually start the invocation for us, and occasionally lead (or co-lead) a familiar Dance. Since the circle is well primed, it doesn’t take much to get and keep it going. More often, they need help with stopping it. That’s when a Dance Leader in the hand is worth 2 across the circle.
Recently, a Youth-Oriented DUP Meeting has started in our area. For this first meeting, I arranged to borrow another VP Teen (Nate) to come along with our family. A couple days before, I asked Ryan if he would play flute for Gopala. His response was, “Why can’t I just lead it?” So be it. I informed him that the young Dancers would be brand new to Dancing and Gopala. So, a couple of brief run-throughs in the living room, to feel the way through the instructional element, and he was off. There he was leading a vivacious young circle! On the way home, we spoke of Ryan’s success and how he was feeling about it. Then, I asked Nate, if he would like to lead one next time. “Oh, maybe,” was the response. I’m hopeful.
So…where from here with Village Potluck? The reality is that it gets harder and harder to shoe-horn it into our lives. The older kids have so many other activities on their schedules. I don’t know if it will continue to serve our family. This public Youth DUP Meeting may be more what they need. The place I feel sad about the potential of VP ending, is for the younger ones. Our youngest, Vivian, is now 8 years old and she was born into VP. We need a new baby and some toddlers to give her the rich experience that my children have had, that opportunity to be the bigger kid. I’ve suggested that a new baby is due at VP several times, but none of the adults are willing to steer their family that direction. Should I post this in the “Wanted” column somewhere?
Article and photos by Hayra Fatah