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What Is a Circle Dance?

By Karize Uy
Updated May 23, 2024
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Simply put, a circle dance is a type of dance wherein participants dance around in a circle without having a particular partner. It is said to be one of the oldest forms of dances, if not the oldest, and is often accompanied by a few musical instruments like the drums, to sustain the rhythm, and woodwind instruments like the flute. The circle dance can be considered a universal ritual and symbol, as it is performed in different cultures and religions around the world. Other terms for the dance are the round dance and the circular dance.

The origin of the circle dance is uncertain, but definitely very ancient; a rock petroglyph of girls dancing around in a circle had been discovered in Egypt, and was dated probably around 3000 BC. Some accounts say that the dance is a method of imitating how the planets revolve around the Sun, or around the Earth, as was previously believed. This imitation could be a form of worship to the Sun, to Earth itself, or other heavenly bodies seen in the sky, such as the moon and the stars. Aside from worship, another purpose of circular dances could be to signify the union of a community, and to strengthen their bond through a common ritual. The dances can also be done as a prayer for good harvest, healing, and to receive visions.

A circle dance usually does not require a specific number of participants, but instead can accommodate lots of people. It can also involve holding of hands, probably to further symbolize the community’s sense of togetherness, and the belief that the physical connection will help “energy” to flow from one person to another. The dance can also contain several “circles,” with the biggest circle containing the other smaller circles, and participants sometimes spinning alternately. There can also be an object at the center around which the participants dance, such as in Maypole dancing.

There are many different examples of circle dances all around the world, such as the Jewish Mayim Mayim folk dance, performed as a tribute to how the Jews found water during 40 years of wandering in the desert. Native Americans also use the circle dance for different purposes: for healing, seeking of visions, and preparation for war. The Scottish Sacred Circle Dance is another example of the circular dance and uses a small, flower-adorned altar as the centerpiece participants dance around.

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