Muslim prayer

The Song of the Body:
Global Physical Expressions Toward the Sacred

Sara K. Schneider

In this experiential workshop, we inquire with our bodies, as well as our minds, into ancient practices designed to bring about a sense of surrender and to promote insight or an experience of the divine.

Beginning with practices of surrendering to the Other, we try on bowing as it may be executed in the secular Japanese context, and foot washing as a Christian practice of hospitality and humility. With our feet, we study pilgrimage, comparing our own experience with that of the Muslim hajj to Mecca. We conclude with a playful contemporary dance-drama that we create, re-interpreting the mirthful and fun-poking medieval Dances of Death, invoking yet another type of surrender, this one to our own sense of the myriad ways one can whimsically play with or mischievously trick, tango with or seduce death. Additional exercises drawn from global spiritual traditions are also explored actively.Dance of Death 1493

In the process, we find that the experience of surrender is one not of terror but of considerable joy, not of heaviness but rather of fleetness of heart as well as foot.

In all cases, we connect these culturally embedded practices with the ways in which, in contemporary Western culture, we may surrender, both physically and in other ways, to others, ourselves, and a sense of the divine. Journaling and thorough debriefing allow participants to integrate their experience within their home spiritual practices. Movement is gentle and easily adapted; participants of all physical abilities are welcome.

Esalen photo
The Song of the Body is offered periodically at the Esalen Institute,
in Big Sur, California, as a weekend workshop.
Other formats are also possible.

schedule workshops at your retreat or conference center,
please contact Sara at or 312.593.2345.

Leader's background


The Medieval Dance of Death

Sara K. Schneider

Holbein New-Married Lady
In the fourteenth century, between 30 and 60 percent of the population of Europe was felled by the Black Death; many others perished in famines and wars. A rich artistic tradition on “The Dance of Death” arose over the next couple of centuries, as those remaining struggled to make sense of the fact of ubiquitous loss, using such artistic media as Christian liturgical dramas and allegorical art, dance, and poetry to dramatize the interactions between Death, as an anthropomorphized figure, and people of every social station. Death was of course the great democratizer, coming after kings as well as peasants, the upright as well as the ungodly, the learned equally as the unschooled. Far from being restricted to Europe or to the late Middle Ages or early Renaissance, coming to terms with death is an essential task of living. In this experiential workshop, we reconstruct the spirit of the medieval Dance of Death, creating moving tableaux of not merely menacing but also the playful and seductive interactions between Death and his object.

Light movement accessible to everyone will be interspersed with scripting and personal writing to highlight the creative and healing potential of this form of
“rehearsing death -- and the universal hope either to escape the inevitable or else to make every death a good death. 

The Medieval Dance of Death is usually offered as a 1.5 - 2 hour workshop.
Other formats are also possible.

To schedule a workshop for your institution,
contact Sara at or 312.593.2345.

Leader's background

All materials © Sara K. Schneider 2010 - 2011