Earthdance: Evolution of a Legacy

By: Xochi Raye

The 14th Annual Earthdance Festival will take place September 17-19 at Black Oak Ranch for the very last time. You can check out more details on this gathering here, which includes headliners Spearhead, Matisyahu, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave, EOTO and many more.

Every September for the past eight years, the Earthdance Peace Festival in Laytonville CA has drawn folks by the thousands to the legendary Black Oak Ranch for a weekend of celebration, music, dance, art and participation with an international prayer for peace and healing. Earthdance Laytonville is the hub event of the global Earthdance peace festival, which unites over 350 locations in 65 countries each year. Often described as a festival that combines the artistic liberation of Burning Man with the socially responsible conscience of the Oregon Country Fair, the festival has gained international recognition as one of the best "boutique" festivals on the west coast of the USA, with sell out shows each year. The festival has now outgrown itself and will be moving to a new location for 2012.

Prayer For Peace – Earthdance '09 by Michael Buchanan
"To me it feels like a really positive change," says Earthdance founder Chris Deckker. "If we can embrace change and transition, there is a lot of room for powerful growth."

Earthdance began as a one-day international event in 1997, using the universal medium of music and dance to unite people across the world in support of global peace and sustainability. The climax of the global event is a synchronized prayer for peace that is played by every location at the same time. The event has grown from 18 locations in 1997 to over 350 locations in 65 countries.

The first California Earthdance Festival took place in 2001 on the Yakeama Native American Reservation near Santa Rosa. In 2003, Earthdance found its home at the Black Oak Ranch, and at the same time, Deckker partnered with Bob Barsotti, one of Bill Graham's production managers who was pivotal in producing The Grateful Dead touring phenomena. The ranch is also home to the legendary "Hog Farm" community, who began their legacy in the 60s, founded by Wavy Gravy, the infamous clown activist. The Hog Farm is considered to be one of America's longest running counterculture communities, and is best known for their involvement with the Woodstock Music Festival. Earthdance Laytonville became a wonderful merging of 60s counterculture energy with the evolving technology generation.

So, it was inevitable that this land, coupled with the intentional container that Earthdance creates, would foster a certain magic of its own kind. From devotional Sufis chanting in the middle of the night to internationally renowned DJs and major headline acts, Earthdance Laytonville offers something for all. Past highlights include the "Drums for Peace" in 2005. That year Earthdance broke the Guinness World Record for the largest drum circle, giving away thousands of drums to those who registered for the event. Mickey Hart and some of the world's best percussionists facilitated a prayer that literally shook the wings of an airplane overhead. The pilot flying the plane was filming the drum circle, and commented that with every beat he could feel his wings vibrating. The only other time that a pilot has recorded his wings shaking was when bombs were being dropped.

Earthdance '09 by Michael Buchanan
The largest ever Celtic Spiral Dance was led in 2006 by Suzanne Sterling of Reclaiming, a Pagan Roots organization out of San Francisco, and in 2007 the international prayer included a global Om Circle with the intention of healing of our planetary waters. Earthdance was also the first West Coast festival to present an "elders wisdom council" featuring first nation and counterculture elders from across the world. This year the international prayer will be facilitated by Grandmother Agnes, Baker Pilgrim of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers Council, and Chief Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation with the theme being "Honoring Our Traditions."

Workshops offered throughout the weekend include yoga, permaculture, ancient forms of dance and healing and Earthskills workshops, where teaching of traditional indigenous skills such as cord weaving, hide tanning and natural fire making will be shared.

To make this a "grand farewell" year to remember the festival will present an amazing line up of artists featuring, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Matisyahu, Zap Mama, Ivan Neville's Dumstaphunk, The Yard Dogs Road Show, Kinky and many others. The festival will feature five stages of entertainment representing all music genres including a dedicated electronica stage and all-night devotional music.

"It will be bittersweet to say goodbye to the Black Oak Ranch," reflects Deckker " It has been wonderful to have such a stunning and vibrant place as a home for the past eight years. So much magic happened there! This is truly the end of a legacy, but I am really excited for these changes, and to see what the next chapter for Earthdance will bring."

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[Published on: 7/15/10]

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