“Dance is my method and mudra for connection and transformation.” ~ LiAnne Takeuchi Hunt
Some of my oldest and sweetest memories are of dancing. As a child growing up in Honolulu, dance was a common language that expressed identity, family, culture, dialog, seasons, and rites of passage. We danced at parties, at school, at cultural events, to honor the dead, to remember, and to connect with ourselves, and each other. We learned and performed dances of our mixed heritage, and celebrated diversity through cultural arts of our native and distant ancestral lands.
I entered the path of dharma at a young age. My family’s home was a stones throw, from the Karma Kagyu and Diamond Sangha Zen Centers. As a teenager exploring the neighborhood, I attended social gatherings and teachings, and was fortunate to meet many dharma teachers in my youth. In 1988, I met my root teacher Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, a disciple of HH Dudjom Rinpoche, and was blessed beyond measure to remain his heart student for 25 years.
From childhood to adulthood, I have studied and performed many styles of dance, from ancient and classical, to contemporary avant-garde performance art. Dance is my method and mudra for connection and transformation.
Many of the classical forms I studied originated as ritual temple dances and were based in Hindu mythology or animism. As a Buddhist practitioner, I longed to find a Vajrayana dance lineage, equivalent to the Devadasi tradition of India. The closest form I practiced, was Balinese classical dance, with roots in Tantrism from the Majapahit Empire. Performing the inner-temple offering dance of Pendet, felt like returning home. From the depths of my being, I hoped that a South Asian Buddhist dance tradition remained in the world, and that I would have the fortune to meet with it.
Then one day, while researching in the library, I found a rare book published in Nepal on Charya Nritya. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but in front of me, were dances in Sanskrit for Tara, Vajrayogini, Singhamukha, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Mahakala, and Vajrapani!
Right then and there, on the cold floor, I knelt and made aspiration prayers to meet with this tradition, and offered everything on the path.
Within months, the dance unexpectedly arrived at my door, direct from Nepal, through a vajra sister who received permission from my guru to begin teaching me. A year later, in 2001, through the most unbelievable and synchronistic circumstances of interconnectedness, I entered the heart of the mandala and met my guru Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya, soon after his arrival in the USA, becoming his first disciple in the West.
Over the years, I have offered Charya Nritya in Buddhist ceremony and ritual, during feast offerings, fire puja, in retreat, and for religious events and celebrations. I also present the tradition as a classical dance on the world stage through Dance Mandal. However, my greatest joy is to offer dances of the Dakini to the triple gem, and to introduce this ancient tradition to those on the path who seek to engage in physical yogas.
I rejoice and am forever indebted to my gurus who have provided the wisdom and skillful means, so that this wild and unruly yogini may dance her way to enlightenment! Sarva Mangalam.