The Sophia Retreat: Embodying Wisdom through Belly Dance and Poetry

As a poet and writer who also has practiced belly dance for over fifteen years, I have always been keenly aware of the schism that exists in Western culture between spirit/mind and body/Eros. Women pay the highest price for this false separation, and experience the legacy of it in all aspects of our lives. How do we reclaim belly dance as the exalted sacred feminine art that it is—expressing not only our qualities of grace, fluidity, sensuality and strength—but also our wisdom, vision, and discrimination?

One of the challenges artists of the dance face is that belly dance is often separated from any kind of ideological or spiritual context in which it is exalted. Even though many women attest to its personally transformative value for them, it is still often viewed as another version of women’s erotic dance or as glitzy eye-candy for the “male gaze”. So how do we, as dancers, performers and artists expand the vision of what women are and can be —so that we can fully embody the Spirit and the richness of the soul in our dancing? How do we infuse the dance with the full power of our depth and wisdom? The key may be in bringing more of ourselves and our actual voices into our performance. Interweaving spoken word poetry, storytelling, and song with the dance can make it a more powerful and full expression of the feminine wisdom- of Sophia.


Jennifer Ferraro

As a poet, writer and artist my work has always been driven by soul and the sacred. One of the greatest honors I’ve had as a poet was to translate the unknown voices of the ancient Sufi poets of Turkey. For five years I toured with a Turkish Sufi music ensemble performing dance and reciting mystical poetry. One of the fruits of this was my book Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey (translated with Latif Bolat, White Cloud Press, 2007). Whenever possible, I have tried to present sacred poetry with dance and music—because in truth these pathways of beauty cannot be separated.

Through combining the sister arts of poetry and dance, we can more fully embody wisdom, as well as     beauty, in our dancing and performances.  Through a conscious marriage of Eros and Logos—the body and the word– we radically expand the perception of belly dance (and of women as performers/ presenters!). We create a powerful vehicle for expression of our wholeness as women.

Rather than being just a performer, the dancer is actually a conduit of the sacred, a mouthpiece of the divine. Our culture needs to remember this. Many of us have been deeply moved by the mystical love poetry of the ancient Middle East, by the ecstatic poetry of Rumi, Hafiz and others. Yet we too are poets of the soul and have sweet hidden words that are awaiting us… wanting to be birthed and spoken, wanting to be embodied in our voices and bodies. Can we fully embody the soul’s beauty—not just through the dance but in our heart-felt words, in our voices as well?

My dear friend and collaborator Myra Krien is Artistic Director of Mosaic Dance Company in Santa Fe, and founder of Pomegranate Studios and the transformative and nationally recognized Pomegranate SEEDs program for teen girls. She also is the granddaughter of legendary 1960s icon and writer Alan Watts, who vastly impacted American culture through his books on East-West mysticism and philosophy. She has been immersed in performing, teaching, and choreographing for over twenty years, and brings a deep artistry and soulfulness to her work, which I have always admired.  We both are passionate about uniting the sacred and the mystical with the sensual— and with expanding the perception of belly dance as a truly sacred art form. Our collaborations over the years have been extremely fruitful and provocative— combining spoken word poetry, dance and music in ways that challenge the audience and channel an ecstatic energy.

We have teamed up this year to offer a very special retreat for seasoned dancers who want to take their artistry to the next level, and explore their work as performers and dancers from a more spiritual level. The Sophia Retreat: Seeds of Transformation will help dancers discover and embody their own voices and inner gifts. Poetry has the capacity to gently guide us back to our most authentic selves, our most intimate questions, concerns, and longings. Both belly dance and poetry offer us potent tools for our healing, greater authenticity, and spiritual empowerment as women.

Jennifer Ferraro and Myra Krien


Over four playful, rich days in Santa Fe we will work with belly dance, and spoken word poetry/prayers/ invocations as the deeply connected arts they are. We will attune to our own voices and “embody” our words through our movements, expressing more fully the passion and purpose of the soul. Each participant will come away with a sense of greater mission, and with tools to more fully manifest her vision in the world.  We hope you will join us for this transformative, magical experience!

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