In October, we are donating all profits from the Dancing Woman Labyrinth to the fight against Breast Cancer. In this article, artist Lisa Gidlow Moriarty shares the story of her creative process.
The Dancing Woman Labyrinth is a woman’s story about cancer survival and loss. She is dedicated in memory of my mother who died of breast cancer 14 years after the discovery of cervical cancer and, later, two radical mastectomies several years apart. I am, myself, a cancer survivor, celebrating many years since ovarian cancer surgery shortly after the birth of my only child, beautiful daughter Erin in 1983. The Dancing Woman knows grief; she bears the tears, embraces the heart pains and celebrates the days of joy and survival. She is a symbol of women’s strength and compassion. She dances with wild abandon in release of pain and celebration of enduring love.
The symbolism of the Dancing Woman design includes outstretched and uplifted arms that both reach out in a welcoming, supportive embrace and reach up in celebration; wild and flowing hair suggesting natural freedom as well as the crazy and unexpected ways hair may grow back after chemotherapy; entrances under the arms reminiscent of a mother’s or friend’s support and protection (e.g. a mother bird hiding offspring under her wings, taking someone under your wing); flowing skirt and leaping movement in pure grace and beauty; path center located within a womb or birthing space, a place for transformation, rebirth; number of circuits 4/5 symbols of earth, creation/creativity and transformation/ regeneration; location of figure as if rising out of the labyrinth, a phoenix-like rising upward or, if turned downward, a re-birth from the womb-like shape of the labyrinth. Dancing Woman can also be created with additional circuits – see Other Labyrinth Designs section.
Dancing Woman’s name is also based in a personal story. When my mother was dying from cancer, I moved her into our home where we could share the final days together. As her physical health deteriorated, transferring her from the bed posed a challenge. I would place her arms around my neck and reach my arms around her weakened body in a full embrace. We would turn and move together with awkward steps that we jokingly referred to as dancing. My mother soon became too weak to move from the bed. When she was restless, I would ponder her needs and she said softly, “I just want to dance.” Some weeks after my mother died, a young child wisely explained to me that when people die they go up to heaven where they dance with the angels. I understood this divine message and since that time have envisioned my mother doing just that. Released at last from the pain of her disease, she was once again free to dance.
Dancing Woman’s design is based on the Baltic Wheel, from my ancestral area of the world. I discovered this beautiful, flowing pattern as it was depicted in a labyrinth from Academy of Boldern, Switzerland. This slide was presented during a Labyrinth Society conference keynote speech by Susanne Kramer-Friedrich, with the Labyrinth Project International. Interestingly, the project’s symbol also depicts a woman, this one holding the labyrinth, using the 7-circuit classical labyrinth design. The design is similar, yet quite different from the Dancing Woman design. For more information on this beautiful women’s labyrinth story, please see the project’s website at www.labyrinth-international.org
A portion of the proceeds from the rental of the Dancing Woman labyrinths is donated to the American Cancer Society, specifically for woman’s cancer research.