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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Meet Jen

JF at Tribal Visions
Points of Light Music (PLM) invited each curator to answer some questions about the Dances and this retreat and we'll be doing a deeper introduction weekly.

Here's Jen, the fourth of four. 



PLM: Tell us about your relationship to the Dances. How and when did it begin? Is there a highlight experience you could share?


JF: The Dances have become the very foundation for how I move throughout my life. The Oneness philosophy of Universal Sufism is at the core of my being and is the basis for my service in the world as an interfaith hospital chaplain. As a Dance leader, the prayers and practices that we join together in circle for, for me, represent the very embodiment of all the beautiful spiritual qualities that I believe we humans aspire toward in our personal lives and collectively for all humanity.
Canyonlands Dance Camp, Moab, Utah
Acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, hope, inspiration, surrender, peace. Love, Harmony, and Beauty. All can be found to varying degrees throughout the cycle of the Dance circle. In individual dances, in the interaction with others and with ourselves. I love that we have the opportunity to develop these capacities each time we join hands and hearts together. 


Bernie Heideman and JF
at Tribal Vision Festival, Taos, NM
My journey with the Dances began one fateful day at a music festival in Hotchkiss, Colorado called Dreamtime in 2007. I was booked to perform at the festival as a folk musician playing original music by my own Dance mentor’s son! I also led a song and chant circle at the festival with a dear friend and after the circle was finished, Bernie Heideman, my Dance mentor came to me and asked if I knew that I had sang several DUP songs and I did not know what he was talking about as the songs we sang were ones I had learned around a campfire or at Rainbow gatherings. Bernie invited me to attend his DUP circle at the festival which was to be the next day and I did. The rest is history, as they say. I have a very clear memory of standing in the circle and knowing that I would become a Dance leader.  I could feel that the path of Dance leadership would bring the integration of my particular talents, skills, and abilities with my awakening desire and passion to sing in service to the Divine and for peace in our world. I quite literally felt the shining glow of serendipity and knew that the DUP would forever be part of my life and Soul’s path. 

JF leading at Puerto Morelos Mex Dance Camp
One of the most incredible experiences that I have ever had in my life I believe I owe to the Dances. I was on pilgrimage to Turkey with Dr. Omid Safi, director of the Duke Center for Islamic Studies who had been one of the visiting professors at my seminary, The Iliff School of Theology in Denver. En route to Rumi’s dargah in Konya, we visited a Sufi community that was engaged in a practice of 99 days of continuous whirling, with each day devoted to a different divine name of God. We were invited into the sacred sanctuary of the community and took our seats on the outside of the circle as the musicians were singing/playing zikr and people were whirling. Because of my years of experience with the Dances and Sufism I was very familiar with all of the phrases that were being sung and so amidst my group of 20 or so American students, I sat with my eyes closed and sang from my heart the sacred phrases and performed the movements. To my great surprise, I was tapped on the shoulder and invited to whirl in the center. I do not consider myself a good whirler as I oftentimes get dizzy and after some hesitation and feelings of embarrassment, I whirled in the company of some of the most beautiful and sincere hearts and it was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Ya Shakur!


PLM: This retreat is organized in an unusual fashion with Morgan selecting emerging dance leaders to co-create the retreat around a theme and inviting other dance leaders and musicians to contribute to the vision. What excites you to participate in this retreat as one of the curators?
JF at Wilderness Dance Camp

JF: There are many reasons that I feel drawn to this retreat and am honored and pleased to serve on the leadership team. I am very excited to work with the Elemental theme as I feel very connected to Mother Earth and the Divine Love of the Universe. I feel the energy of the elements moving through my life and so I’m interested in focusing my own energies and intentions in this way. I have also spent many years in leadership at the national level of DUP and focused on engagement of youth and young adults in the Dances to nurture the legacy and sustainability of the tradition. I resonate with Morgan’s invitation to leadership of Dance leaders from the age group of the ‘Bridge Generation’ which is the age group between the baby boomers and the millennials because I think one of the ways that we (collectively as a community) can help keep our tradition alive is to nurture leadership from each generation and the ‘Bridgers’ (myself, Conie and Saleem) are in a unique position to play a role in the transmission of wisdom within our community since we have deep ties to both at either end of the spectrum, so to speak. I see Morgan’s invitation as an affirmation of the importance of fostering strong leadership within this generation.

I also feel connected to the Midwest, having been born and raised in Illinois so it feels comfortable for me to come “back home.”



PLM: Each curator has selected an element and will be holding intention and vision for it during the retreat. Which element have you selected and what are you looking forward to sharing?  

Singing at the Parliament of World Religions
Salt Lake City, UT
JF: I am very strongly connected to the Earth element by my very nature. The Earth has always been my home energy, so to speak, and it’s quite common that I am invited to assist with grounding practices in many of the communities that I’m a part of. However, the last few years I have found myself becoming more attuned to the winged ones and have been practicing the feather way in my personal spiritual life. With this retreat invitation, I am curious to explore and live into my developing connection with the Air element. I am hoping to learn how to embody and alchemize a new way of Being; blending the Air qualities of freedom and inspiration which are really new to me with the rooted, strong grounding qualities of Earth which I feel so comfortable and at home in.

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