In the beginning people used dance in many ways. Most importantly in rites of passage when groups of youths and maidens would bind together in their awakening adulthood.
The film Zulu has a lovely example among the Bantu people of a marriage dance between the young warriors and maidens of the village.
Villagers danced to celebrate the harvest, a remnant of which is found today in Christian churches as the harvest festival. They danced for success in the hunt. They danced for Rain. They danced to the Sun and to the ancestors.
Prof. Bernhard Wosien brought to Findhorn in 1976 a tradition of dance that is unbroken from Antiquity. He called it ‘Meditation on the Dance’, and ‘Meditation on the Cross’, and said it was the Apollonian tradition of dance.
Bernhard told us the oldest forms were the circles, straight lines or crescents, and that these had been used as part of the rites of passage as young girls and boys stepped out to join society and take on more responsibility in the community. It may well be that this was the origin of such traditions as ‘the class of 64’ carried on in some colleges in America.
Couples dances came later he assured us and that there were dances which were hybrids, starting in a circle and moving into couples for part of the dance before returning to the circle again. sometimes these involve swapping partners and moving on to a new partner, sometimes one remains with the partner. Such a dance as the Branle de Quercy or the Angus Reel from Bernhard Wosien are examples of these.
He also taught us that the Greeks tend to move counter-clockwise following the movement of the Sun through the year, and the Moon through the month. Other cultures dance mostly clockwise. We find this among the Slavic and Celtic dances, though it is not wise to make an invariable law of these things. The clockwise movement symbolises the movement of the Sun and Stars through the day, and thus refers to daily life. Counter-clockwise relates to longer movements of time and so to deeper experience within the self.