SUNDANCE 99: Rainbow Renaissance
|by Murray Archibald|
It's SUNDANCE time again! As I sit down and begin to write about what that means I am reminded suddenly of all the many years that I have been writing and designing and painting and planning and dreaming about SUNDANCE. Surely, I think to myself, I've said all that there is to saytwice! But then again, perhaps your memory is no better than mine and we all need a little reminder.
SUNDANCE, for those of you who have never been to our area before, is the big, two night event that caps off the summer season in Rehoboth. The first night is a huge cocktail party, buffet and live and silent auction. The next night is THE DANCE. Last year we cleared over $120,000not bad for a little beach town.
But really, the truth about SUNDANCE is a great deal more than a monetary amount. Yes, the money helps fund programs for Sussex County AIDS Committee and CAMP Rehoboth, but the event is also a way for us to share ourselves with one another and with our community. That happens in various waysSponsors, Supporters, Hosts, Volunteers, Auction Donors, and those of you who buy tickets. It is, as I've said many times, a labor (day) of love. SUNDANCE is a matter of the heart and matters of the heart always lift us into a more spiritual realm.
Those of you who have studied Native American culture know that the Sun Dance was a sacred ceremony. One did not dance the Sun Dance lightly. Perhaps you remember its graphic depiction in the movie A Man Called Horsea Sun Dancer would carry the scars for the rest of his life. Our SUNDANCE, of course, is not that of the Native Americans, but I cannot help but be enthralled by descriptions of that ancient ritual and how it seems to overlay and whisper meaning into our present day reality.
In the book, Lakota Belief and Ritual, James Walker provides some wonderful insight into what the Sun Dance was like. "The Holy Men Tell of the Sun Dance...the Sun Dance is the greatest ceremony that the Oglalas do. It is a sacred ceremony in which all the people have a part. It must be done in a ceremonial camp [or CAMP]. One who wishes to dance the Sun Dance should make this known [buy tickets]some time before the time for doing this dance. All should have time to prepare [create outfits] for the Sun Dance." In another section, Walker reports on Sun Dance symbols. "A skirt of red worn by a man is an emblem of holiness. A blue skirt is an emblem of...the heavens, and indicates that the wearer is engaged in a sacred undertaking. Armlets and anklets are emblems of strength and of love and of cunning in the chase [but I won't go there!]."
Yes, I jest a little, but if the truth be known, I love the ritual and the ceremony that accompany such descriptions. Even as I laugh, I know that it is with a touch of that divine humor that we gay people so much appreciate and that so often helps us through the rough spots of our lives. It is all too easy to get caught up in the stress of our lives and forget about the healing that comes from sacred laughterand to forget about the healing that comes from the joyous celebration of the dance.
This year's SUNDANCE painting is from my 1999 Queen of Hearts Series and is called RENAISSANCEand this year's theme is Rainbow Renaissance. For me, the painting is filled with sacred humorthe red ribbon, the face of the Queen, the opening of a rose. It is both deadly serious and full of laughter. I find hope in the way the patterns of life bleed onto the ribbonchanging it and in the process creating it and making it more beautiful. AIDS has drastically altered our lives and its patterns and shapes continue to mold and color who we are today. Our laughter and our celebration are richer because of the tears that have watered them.
SUNDANCE is a time of giving, and when a whole community joins together to give, to love, and to celebrate, something happens within that communitythere is indeed a revival, a renaissance, an awakening, a new beginning. The old expression, "the more you give, the more you receive," is always true. Generosity breeds generosity and abundance and hope.
For the past twenty years AIDS has consumed our energy and financial resourcesand it will continue to do so until we can end its terrible grip on the world. But AIDS has also made us more human, more understanding. SUNDANCE is about ending the pain of AIDS, but it is also about the renaissance of the rainbow movement. Like the Oglalas we, too, need a "sacred ceremony in which all the people have a part." We, too, need to come together to dance our own SUNDANCE. We, too, need to experience the rainbow renaissance that arises out of the ashes of our past pain and loss.
SUNDANCE is a celebration and a gathering, a ritual passage of summer, and just a great party. See you on the dance floor.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 12, Aug. 27, 1999