The Yoga of Light
The Path of the Priestess



Dances of the Divine

Boulder performer returns for one-woman show

By Cari Cunningham, Camera Dance Critic
June 23, 2005

Combine dancing with singing and acting and you get some version of a musical. Add a deeply spiritual dimension and a whole slew of ancient Hindu deities, and you get something entirely different.

Kathak, North Indian classical dance, is an Eastern blend of storytelling, intricate footwork, music and song, and it is the specialty of former Boulder resident Sharron Rose. On Friday Rose returns to Boulder to present "Myths and Visions of Shiva and Shakti," a one-woman show that unifies East and West, male and female, in music, chant and dance.

Kathak shares the connection between dancer and the divine that is found in Bharatanatym (another form of Indian classical dance), but differs from this dance form in its highly improvisational nature.

"Kathak is completely improvisational," Rose says. "It has an incredible base in structure and rhythm and expression ... but it really has to do with the energy of the audience ... and so each time you do it it can be different."

"For a Western person, I think, it's easier to learn," Rose adds, although her 27 years of training in the form belie this claim.

What she lacks in actual Indian bloodline, Rose makes up for in passion and research. Originally a student of Western performance (she began dancing as soon as she could walk and studied various forms of theater, as well as ballet and opera), her college years brought the opportunity for a synthesis of performative and spiritual energies.

"I went to college in '66 in Washington, D.C., and so what was happening?" Rose asks, and then answers her own question. "It was the feminist movement, the hippie movement, the psychedelic movement — all of that happened at once and all of a sudden the doors were opened to the East."

She began with yoga and meditation, discovering within the practice "an incredible system that was centuries older than ballet," she says. "And it seemed also to have incredible reverence for the feminine, as well as for the masculine. ... It was how to really work with the tissue, being conscious of every muscle and your alignment in a really beautiful way."

Yoga became a powerful foundation for Rose's training in various Eastern dance forms, primarily that of Kathak North Indian dance. It continues to inform her teaching and personal movement practices. While in Boulder, Rose will teach a two-day workshop combining yoga asana, meditation, chant and rhythm as a means for accessing the divine feminine and tantric tradition.

It was a "visionary experience," according to Rose, that led her to enroll in a dance class with the former director of the National Dance Company of Pakistan in the late '70s. "I saw this deity in front of me and I started dancing, doing all the gestures and movements of classical Indian dance although I had never seen it," Rose says.

"When I walked into that class it was as though I had come home," she says. "Here was a form in which you sing, you dance and you act and every movement that you make is deeply spiritual, every gesture has a meaning, many meanings."

As soon as she found her calling, Rose applied for a professional development grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies and later a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship that allowed her to travel to India to study with legendary Kathak dancer Sitara Devi.

"It all happened by what you would call magical circumstances," Rose says of her study in India. "I went to India and lived with my guruji Sitara Devi, which is a very rare thing. It was just her and I and her family and I had her all to myself in terms of a teacher."

Besides being a devoted student of Indian classical dance, Rose also has published a book, "The Path of the Priestess; A Guidebook for Awakening the Divine Feminine," and recently created her own DVD, "Yoga of Light." She is currently working on the reconstruction of ancient Egyptian temple dance, among other projects.

"There is a grace, a radiance that exists in these in these ancient traditions that is lost, almost," she says, a hint of sadness mingling with her incredible passion for learning and preserving this knowledge. "Dance is an incredible form of transmission."

Copyright 2005, Boulder Publishing LLC