I am originally from Pennsylvania, where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Grassroots Social Movements and Empowerment. After school, I traveled the world for a decade learning different cultures’ traditions and dances. Having been introduced to yoga and healing dance in my travels, I developed my own style of teaching sacred dance and have been sharing it since 1998.
When I finally found my home here in North Carolina, I became the first apprentice of Corinna Wood, herbalist, teacher and founder of the SE Wise Women Conference. I served as Medicine Maker for Red Moon Herbs for the following 2 years. During that time, I also drummed and danced for many Native American-style ceremonial dances with Joseph Rael and Sally Perry.
Before becoming pregnant, I learned the art of belly dance for pregnancy and birth. After dancing through both of my pregnancies and labors, I enjoyed blissful, quick home births with my daughters. I now teach this ancient art to expectant mothers as well as attend births to dance with mamas during labor.
Since 2006, I have also been facilitating circles for girls to help prepare them for their transition into womanhood.
I currently live off-the-grid in the mountains near Asheville with my partner and our 3 beautiful children surrounded by our beloved community.
The image of the mandorla (which literally means “almond” in Italian) represents union. It is perhaps the most ancient sacred symbol known to humankind, said to have been inscribed on the Ark of the Covenant. Also known as the Vesica Piscis, it symbolizes the sacred geometrical pattern of life on Earth. The 2 smaller circles represent earth and sky, body and soul, or the feminine and masculine energies. These 2 circles have opposing energies which magnetize them to each other. They interlock within the larger circle, which represents the totality of existence. The creative power that ignites in the overlap (the “almond” or birth canal) is the basic matrix for all life on earth.
Learning to be a bridge between earth and spirit is one of the fundamental lessons and destinies of being human. By balancing these 2 worlds, humans can discover the deeper truths within themselves as well as gain glimpses of the greater mysteries of the Cosmos. We can only gain true spiritual insight and growth by grounding into our own physical bodies, the current residence of our souls. The 2 realms are inextricable.
The Mandorla school teaches this fundamental approach to better understand our true, complete selves within the larger whole through dance, rites of passage preparation and communal ritual. Through the practice of sacred dance, we can learn to create a bridge from deep within our bodies to all that exists outside of it. In this trance-like state, we can gain wisdom and understanding of our true essence, heal ourselves, discover our life’s calling and create strong bonds of tribe.
Every tribal culture has had rites of passage to mark times of great transition in the human life span – birth, childhood, adolescence, sexual partnerships, elder-hood and death. These rites were usually more than a simple day of ritual. The ceremony itself was proceeded by lengthy times of preparation where the individual would learn new arts or undertake specific tasks. She or he would be guided by their family members and other mentors from their tribe. Through this process, the individual learned the lessons inherent for the next stage of life. The rite itself was then simply a ceremony to mark that the passage was complete.
The Mandorla school mostly serves this time of preparation. Our culture has done away with these rites or replaced them with quicker or less meaningful customs. The lessons of how to evolve as a human being have therefore been largely lost in our culture.
The Mandorla focuses on the passageways of adolescence, healing, sexuality and birth. The Girls’ Circles re-create an inter-generational guidance system to assist girls in learning the ways of womanhood. Healing old wounds and patterns is another way that life brings us transformation. These initiations come to us through life experiences. Likewise, transforming our sexual natures into a source of power and pleasure is a life initiation. The Birth Dancing Circles help women to prepare for birth as a sacred rite of passage, to heal the past and to feel empowered in this incredibly important transformation.
Body awareness is key to these rites of passage. The physical body is inextricably linked to the emotional and spiritual bodies. To grow into our full human potential, we need to understand and connect with the physical changes in our bodies to experience the full transformation in our spirit.
Humans are collective beings. In order to thrive, we need each other’s support, guidance, affection, love and cooperation. Centuries ago, when the US government sought to eliminate the Native American cultures, their focus was to disintegrate the tribal system. In doing so, they knew that they would destroy the people’s strength and power and make them dependent upon the government instead.
Nowadays, our society is built upon the nuclear family, which is proving to be too small and weak to function properly. The nuclear families are falling apart and people are becoming even more separate. Insulating ourselves through technology, living separately, and having no one to turn to for support creates loneliness, despair and violence. Our true nature is tribal; our lives will continue to be in turmoil if we maintain this segregation.
Communicating from the heart, praying in communal ritual and inter-generational support create powerful bonds. This re-weaving of the human tribe is absolutely essential to the human race thriving again.
“The 5 Elements of Healing Dance” – an interview with Michelle Dionne that was published in the August 2013 edition of WNC Woman. To view the article, please follow this link.
“Freeing the Feminine” – an article by Lea McLellan in the December 25, 2013 issue of the Mtn Xpress about Michelle’s teachings of Sacred Belly Dance. To view the article, please follow this link.
“Dancing with Spirit” – an article by Lea McLellan in the Dec 25, 2013 issue of the Mtn Xpress about Michelle’s teachings of Birth Dancing. To view the article, please follow this link to page 19.
“Asheville practitioners offer dance as a gateway to healing” – an article by Nicki Glasser in the January 7, 2016 edition of the Mtn Xpress. To view the article, please follow this link.