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Denver’s Dance Ritual Leader


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For centuries, cultures have used dance as a healing practice and as a means to journey and commune with spirits without the use of psychotropic drugs (and sometimes with). The year 2013 is no different. It’s the evening of a new moon and a solar eclipse. And Ahva Lenay, adorned in radical colors and patterns with her silver hair styled in pigtails, is practicing a ritual dance at the Rhythm Sanctuary in Wheat Ridge. She dances with the skill of a professionally trained dancer surrounded by hanging tapestries, relics of Eastern religion and 200 rollicking, well-dreaded young and old dancers. (The patchouli aroma is feint, but there.) It’s called ecstatic dancing—a blend of spirituality, healing arts and social connection.

“We’re using dance as a body prayer and movement as a language and as a way to commune with each other and call to spirit,” Lenay, 55, explains as her pigtails bounce ecstatically. From taking ballet lessons in the 1950s by an instructor who smoked out of a cigarette holder to being in a commune’s dance collective in her twenties, rhythm and movement have always been a central theme for Lenay. When a car accident left her with a neck injury, she found healing by creating the Rhythm Sanctuary.

The dances are for a special breed of people. Specifically those who enjoy two hours of silence—Lenay stresses the importance of a non-verbal environment, where inhibitions are thrown to the side with a flick of a dancing scarf. One participant who volunteers with the Rhythm Sanctuary, said after coming to Denver three years ago and attending the dance ritual, she “found my people.” Those people now spin and revel minus the alcohol-induced courage. This sober space was Lenay’s intent, especially after becoming a mom at 23. The result is a safe place, void of judgement where men and women can dance as though they’re alone, with everyone else.

WHO:  Ahva Lenay

WHAT: Rhythm Sanctuary

WHEN: Thursdays from
7 – 9:30pm

WHERE: 5929 W. 32nd Ave.

COST:  $9 for adults, $5 for
students and seniors

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