Interview with Deonesea La Fey: Movement, Sacred Dance, and Sensuality as Paths to Feminine Healing
March is Women’s History month, March 8th is International Women’s Day, and I am planning to honor both by posting weekly here this month with posts that add to each section of this blog, and hopefully inspire you to embrace, heal, or empower your feminine in some new way (and for those of you who follow astrology, I think all the extra Piscean energy this March makes this an extra special time for this too.)
To kick this off I have a wonderful interview with Deonesea La Fey, a sensuality coach, priestess, healer, and sacred and belly dancer who works with women through movement and feminine archetypes. In our interview together, she shares the powerful role that movement and opening to our sensuality can play in healing from abuse and trauma, as well as in opening to our full feminine power. Enjoy!
Hi Deonesea, thanks so much for talking with me. I wanted to talk with you because I work so much with healing second/sacral chakra wounds, and you do as well but in a different way that I wanted to learn more about. Let’s start with you describing your main work with women.
A lot of the work that I do is based in movement. When I work with people, whether privately or in a workshop, I encourage them to drop into their bodies. I find that an important part of my work is helping women feel their bodies in a way that maybe they aren’t yet aware they haven’t been doing, or that perhaps they are but that is scary for them.
What parts of the body do women often not feel, or find scary?
I work with a lot of women who cannot move their pelvises at all. A lot of the work that I do is focused on finding our womb space as a source of creative power. I help women explore movement based in the pelvis, in a way that allows the pelvis to find its own authentic flow. I guide movement vocabulary with specific moves, some drawn from sacred and belly dancing for example, but then also encourage them to allow their womb to speak through movement in a natural way. The movement will often then undulate up the spine, or we’ll encourage it to do so. This brings the power source from our womb up into our heart space.
For women who have experienced some kind of sexual abuse or trauma, the wounds are often locked physically and energetically into the pelvic area. So beginning to move this area starts to unlock this, and allows things that have been held in the body to release. This can be very emotional.
Yes I’m sure, and very powerful. What typically draws women to this kind of movement work? Do most come in knowing that there is also emotional work to be done, or are they initially drawn to the movement?
Both. I do have women come in who have already worked through trauma in other ways, perhaps through therapy, and now want to explore movement of this type because they still feel disconnected from their bodies. Others come in exploring the movement for its own sake, and discover that things come up that they hadn’t realized they were holding in. They might have been drawn to explore this because they felt something was missing, but weren’t sure what it was. They just want to connect more sensually to their world. This is a big piece to exploring our sensuality – if our bodies are still holding trauma, or sadness, or rage from our past experiences, then that is a blockage to really, truly embodying our sensuality. It’s a blockage, and we have to release that blockage to really be able to go there.
So how does the work usually unfold?
I combine movements from sacred, belly, ecstatic and Tantric dance traditions. Always I am working with the breath though – I find that working with our breath is the fastest way to get into our bodies, and feel what is really going on there, whether it’s ecstasy or pain. So I always begin with breath work, and how to incorporate breathing into movement.
Then we gradually make that movement bigger and bigger, and I relate it to the elements. Essentially we are embodying the elements. We first ground ourselves in earth, as I think this connection is so important for women, in terms of recognizing that our bodies are made up of earth. Then we connect to air through the breath. And then a lot of the movement that I use in the transformative parts of the dance are related to fire and water. What I mean by this is that with fire we set our prayer – whatever it is that we want to transform, and we use the fire of passion to dance this prayer. Then we invite all of this energy down into our womb space and combine it with the element water, and our feminine flow that is rooted there. Then we are naturally moving from our pelvises.
This is taking all of the movements of belly dance, or Tantric dance, and holding it in a very clear container, and using the elements to generate and embody that.
How do you work with the emotions that often come up in this process? How do you approach processing the emotions that surface?
It depends on the women, and the setting. When I’m facilitating a dance circle, once we have worked together with our breath and movement, each woman is invited into the center of the circle, for her own personal journey there. It’s a very powerful experience for a woman to be witnessed in her journey in this way. She is dancing with her eyes closed, and really going inside herself, allowing her own process to unfold, and dancing from there.
During this, we are not really talking. I think that sometimes talk therapy can be very effective, and at other times we need other ways to express and experience. In this dance journey, if a woman does start to have a particularly emotional experience, I may step forward and be a little more present in a more overtly supportive way, although I really work to allow a woman to have her own process. I encourage women to keep moving, to keep processing the experience through the movement, and also to allow sound to happen, whatever that may be. I encourage them to open their throats and let sounds come out – whether it’s singing, or screaming, or even profanities.
Most women are already aware of what their ‘story’ is. In this day and age, most of us know how to talk about our experiences. But we need some other way to touch and express the emotions involved. We need a way to move beyond victim consciousness, beyond the story of being a victim, and this can be a very effective way of empowering that transformation.
This is especially important to me when working with abuse or trauma victims. It’s something I really want to gift women – the knowledge that there is a place beyond the story of being a victim. A place we can come to in our lives where we are fully in our bodies, embodying our power through our bodies, and enjoying our bodies. We can come to a place where our past issues are not popping up all of the time anymore. The triggers can be released, and they can go away.
Is this the role that dance and movement played in your own journey?
Yes. I started dancing very young – ballet, tap, and the usual things that are available to young girls – and it was a lifeline for me. My abuse went on as a child, and it went on for a period of several years. There was a lot of psychological and emotional trauma going on along with that. Dance for me during that time was a lifeline. It was a place I could go and shine and not have to think about those things.
As I got older, I moved on to other forms of dance, including African dance, which I loved. Rhythm for me was something I always really connected with. And then I was introduced to middle eastern dance, and some part of me just knew I had come home to the dance form for me.
At that point in my journey I was really stuck in naming my story – not only to therapists but to anyone I met. It was an important part of my healing at the time. I eventually joined a women’s circle, including one that involved learning yoni massage. This is also when I began to embrace Tantric dance and movement and then belly dance in its more ancient, sacred aspects, as opposed to some of its modern performance aspects. All of this built into the work I am doing now.
At some point along the way I realized I didn’t want or need to identify as a victim any longer. I couldn’t say exactly when that happened, but it was definitely related to what I had been able to release and express through movement and dance and all these related experiences. I just finally got tired of telling that story. Yes it happened, yes it was real, but I didn’t want to identify with it anymore.
It was really the archetypal journey of the ‘wounded healer’ – your healing gifts came to you partly out of your work to heal your own wounds, but now you no longer need to identify with those wounds. You are simply a healer.
Yes, and speaking of archetypes, I really enjoy working with goddess archetypes in my work, and I realized at a certain point that from a very young age I had identified with the goddess Aphrodite [Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation.] So in a way from a young age, these themes of pleasure and sensuality were a big part of my path. And that includes the ‘shadow’ aspect of these, when I went through phases of self-abuse, so the ‘shadow’ aspect is something else I really like to help women work with – the ways we misuse our sensual and sexual energies to attract things we don’t really want in our lives. Through facing this, and any shame we are carrying, we can move it into the light, and transform this energy into positive expression.
Yes, that’s very powerful. I know women who work with yoga in this way, as their main movement healing modality. What do you think each offers, or is it not useful to compare dance and yoga?
In my own personal journey yoga has played a very critical role. I’ve always been a dancer, but I met yoga in my early 20s, and I had many powerful yoga experiences that left me sobbing from the release. It was a profound opening and stretching for me, particularly those postures that focus on opening through the pelvis and hips. It helped me move a lot of things out of my body that needed to move.
What I find for myself personally is that to move my pelvis in a very sensual way creates a different feeling than yoga in my body in terms of release, and in terms of empowering creation. Yoga takes me into a place of beautiful stillness, while dance, and in particular ecstatic dance, takes me into bliss, and ecstasy. Even as I’m working through any kind of pain or trauma it’s still opening up my energetic field to feel more, to release more, to really move my sensual energy.
Yes beautiful. As you know I think of everything in terms of chakras, so to me ecstatic dance is like a pure physical expression of the second or sacral chakra – all of those energies of sensuality, creativity, passion, and fluidity.
Yes, and I like to work with the chakras as well. We begin by rooting and bringing our attention to our root and sacral chakra, and then work to move this energy up, into the heart space. We work to open up the chest, and embrace the breath, which in itself stirs up a lot, and then we move up into our throats, and up into our heads and crowns. So we are always working to move the energy up.
Which is the classic kundalini movement – the dance becomes like a moving kundalini yoga.
And in my view this is really the feminine aspect of the path that got pushed aside or forgotten in some traditions. The contemplative yogi-in-meditation model became more well-known.
Yes, and movement and fluidity is such an important part of the path for many women. We need to embrace this again, to make this part of our lives again. This is important for men and women, actually.
Do you do this work with men also?
Yes I have had men in my workshops and it’s a really wonderful dynamic that develops. I find it makes everyone softer. It’s touching a wound that is so present in our society, in terms of the dynamic between men and women, and the masculine and feminine inside ourselves, so that when we step into this place together and witness each other in it, we get really soft, and gentle with each other. There’s a beauty that happens that is very different than when it’s only women.
Of course, for some types of healing, particularly related to sexual abuse or trauma, it’s often important to have an all women setting, so that everyone feels safe to open to their vulnerabilities. It’s important at a certain stage of the healing process. But in other workshops I enjoy helping men connect with their ‘hara’, while women connect to their womb space.
That’s beautiful, and I have witnessed something similar. The imbalances we have on a cultural level lock men into rigid roles as much as they do women. Men are not invited to open to their emotions in this way, so when they are, it is healing for everyone.
I know you also work with all of the senses, can you talk a little bit about that?
One of the things that I really work with women on in sensuality coaching is embracing all of their senses. So depending on where a woman is at in her life, and what she needs, we might be addressing how she adorns herself, for example. I think self-adornment is a really key piece in terms of how we feel as sensual creatures. I also incorporate a lot of sensual eating practices. In retreats, this is part of the retreat – we build an altar together, and I encourage women to bring different offerings for the altar, representing different parts of themselves. Both of these practices often lead naturally to talking about body image issues, and working on those.
Talk to me more about sensual eating, I love that phrase. I think in terms of mindful eating, but not necessarily sensual eating.
For me it’s like opening up the nectar of the gods and goddesses and allowing ourselves to really take it in. The way that this looks is inviting each woman to bring something that she is then going to share with everyone else, and to really think in terms of what would be a sensual eating experience. For example, peaches are a favorite of mine, and I will encourage everyone to really feel and smell the peach, and then to enjoy the juices running down their arms as they eat – the full sensual experience of it. It’s about reveling in all of the sensations of the fruit, and opening to it as a nectar.
Of course chocolate usually makes its way into these rituals too!
Yes that would probably be my offering! I love this as the opposite of food denial that so many women practice in the name of health or weight loss. Often it feels like we are just bombarded with ‘no-nos’ in food. I love the idea of just embracing food as a sensual, pleasurable experience.
Thank you so much Deaonesea, for sharing your journey and your work with us, and for inviting us to explore our bodies, movement, and sensual experience.
Deonesea La Fey has studied and performed various forms of dance since her girlhood. She is deeply trained and experienced in creating and performing Sacred Dance expressions, Goddess initiations, embodiment practices and Ritual Theatre productions. Deonesea is devoted to inspiring and activating the Divine Feminine through performance art and the facilitation of Sacred Dance and women’s wisdom teachings. She leads empowerment workshops and teachers trainings for Sacred Womb Dance at home and abroad. Currently residing in Ashland, OR, she is the Creatress of the International Stage Production “Goddess Alive!,” Temple Dancer, Mother, and Priestess of the Goddess. You can visit her websites at www.DeoneseaLaFey.com or www.SacredDances.com.
As always, comments and questions welcome! Namaste-