Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Daughters of Cybele Celebrate the Spring Equinox at St. John the Divine in NYC

Women’s voices, drums, sweat and passion rang in the 2010 Spring Equinox on March 20 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The Daughters of Cybele are billed as “a unique ensemble of women honoring the healing power of the female energy”, and they live up to every word of it. The Daughters are the result of a long-held dream by Alessandra Belloni, recognized as one of the world’s finest percussionists and an expert on Southern Italian dance and drum rituals.

Cybele is the Mother Earth Goddess from Turkey after whom Belloni chose to name her troupe. She thrives on the physical and spiritual strength conveyed by women over the centuries in chants and dance. This strength, says Belloni, is what women today need to rediscover and make their own. This strength can be drawn from a vital connection with the Earth and Nature’s forces.

Saturday’s performance took place on the altar of St. James Chapel, with its ceiling-high stone carved marble figures as a breathtaking backdrop. The seven women dressed in flowing red and white costumes raised their voices and drums, performing centuries old healing and work chants from Italy, France, Spain and Brazil. Also included were compositions by Belloni, drawing from her profound life experiences and global musical influences.

The songs themselves spoke deeply to the whole spectrum of feminine experience, whether honoring powerful Goddesses or laying low in the desolation of betrayal. One of Belloni’s works, Requiem Per Mamma Elvira, is a memorial of her mother’s passing and honors the unconditional love of the Universal Mother and rebirth of all things. Another of Belloni’s compositions, Figlia Di Oxun, portrays the Brazilian shamanic journey in honor of the Goddess Oxun and the Black Madonna. In a more lighthearted vein, the Brazilian chant, Canto Da Sereja, is sung to coax the mermaids out of the sea to play in the sand.

Besides Belloni, the members of the ensemble include Susan Aquila on the acoustic and electric Viper 6-string violin, dance, shakers and vocals; Olympia Avignone on African percussion, frame drums, bells and chekere; Lorraine Calculli on frame drums, tambourine and shakers; Allison Scola vocals, clarinet, tambourine, shakers and ritual dance; Eve Sicular on drumset, dumbeck, frame drums, shakers; Cynthia Enfield provided narration, vocals, shakers and ritual dance.

Members of the ensemble performed traditional dances and sometimes encouraged the audience to join them. It was especially in those moments, dancing and whirling in the Chapel aisle amid the chants and beats of frame drums, shakers and tamburello that the evening hit its emotional highpoints. Dancing the steps, hearing the words and feeling the connection to every woman who ever lived and will live was the rare gift of the Daughters of Cybele.

Alessandra Belloni conducts workshops throughout the world on the feminine power of drumming and dancing. Every August, you can journey with her to Tuscany for her signature workshop, Rhythm is the Cure. This year, the dates are August 22 – 29. To learn more, visit alessandrabelloni.com.

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