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  Tibetan Sacred Dance: A Journey into the Religious and Folk Traditions—by Ellen Pearlman
Tibetan Sacred Dance: A Journey into the Religious and Folk Traditions—by Ellen Pearlman


 

Tibetan Sacred Dance explores the significance and symbolism of the sacred and ritual dances of Tibetan Buddhism. Since Buddhism entered the mythical land of the snows, Tibetans have expressed their spiritual devotion and celebrated their culture through dance. Only since the tragic Diaspora of the Tibetan people have outsiders been privileged to witness these performances. To many, they still remain mysterious and enigmatic. Ellen Pearlman, who studied with Lobsang Samten, the ritual dance master of the Dalai Lama's Namgyal Monastery in India, set out to discover the meaning behind these mysterious dances. She found the story of the indigenous shamanistic Bön religion being superceded by and woven into Buddhism-a story of complex liaisons, secret teachings, brilliant visions, and unrevealed yogic practices.

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Pearlman explores the mystical beginnings and complex practices of sacred Cham-the secret ritual dances of Tibet's Buddhist monks-and Achi Lhamo, the storytelling folk dances and operas. She describes the mental and physical process of preparing for these dances, the meaning of the iconography of the costumes and masks, the spectrum of accompanying music, and the actual dance steps as recorded in a book of choreography dating back to the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1647. Beautiful color photographs from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts and Pearlman's own images of touring monastic troupes complement the rare historic black-and-white photos from the collections of Sir Charles Bell, chief of the British Mission in Tibet during the life of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. From the week-long sacred Kalachakra initiation of the fold opera performances, Pearlman reveals the beauty, drama, and compelling nature of these dances and rituals and shows how Tibetan dance is an essential part of the rich history of Tibet and the survival of that culture.

Paperback, 191 pp.