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Next Forestdance Gatherings:

 

•June 12-17, 2024 at Camp Timber Trails, MA

•February 19-24, 2025 at VerdEnergia, Costa Rica

 

Stay tuned for details!

Forestdance is a profound ceremonial gathering where we dance and experiment with creativity in service, around a sacred fire for three full nights until dawn.
 
Forestdance is a profound ceremonial gathering where we dance and experiment with creativity in service, around a sacred fire for three full nights until dawn.
Come join us as we share in a deep celebration of our lives together on sacred & wild land. Here, we move through the human symptoms that keep us from sensing our powerful interconnections. The energy weaves through us and then to everything around us, until the ceremony seems to dissolve and we all remember the subtle and truest parts of ourselves.

Our facilitators, teachers, and everyone present guide our journey, where we reignite our inspiration, access and reclaim our own core, connect to nature, and expand our heart awareness.

This beautiful gathering has shaped community. It has reignited passions for so many talented people, reclaiming inspiration, and has shown an alternative way to co-exist. Thank you for showing up and bringing your magic & medicine.
 
 

Come join us as we share in a deep celebration of our lives together on sacred & wild land. Here, we move through the human symptoms that keep us from sensing our powerful interconnections. The energy weaves through us and then to everything around us, until the ceremony seems to dissolve and we all remember the subtle and truest parts of ourselves. 

Our facilitators, teachers, and everyone present guide our journey, where we reignite our inspiration, access and reclaim our own core, connect to nature, and expand our heart awareness.
 

This beautiful gathering has shaped community. It has reignited passions for so many talented people, reclaiming inspiration, and has shown an alternative way to co-exist. Thank you for showing up and bringing your magic & medicine. 



Play Video
First off, I’ll share that It took years for me to become comfortable describing what happens in our fire circles. It is not in reading words that one would come to understand all that happens in the space co-created, but it is in the process and effect of the shedding during the rite. It is in the attuning that occurs. It is in making the agreement that though we all come from different walks of life, and different ways and beliefs, that for our time together, we are open to trying this experiment of life force, will, faith, artfulness and service.

Many of us have been moved by music, art and dance. Something happens when we “lose” ourselves for a while on the dance floor. Bliss, ecstasy, frustrations come and move, and sometimes we break through something. We break through the voices we carry that sometimes say: we are tired, we are not beautiful, we are not whole.

This model is designed to cultivate our energy together. It is designed to be in service together and to create an atmosphere for deep listening, where the musicians, which can include all of us, are swept up together in the energy that moves through the circle. Through the timeless action of circling the fire, and connecting in various creative ways, in part from the pulsing of moving closer to music and away, and closer and away, there is a breaking away of the armor. The pieces we who were born sensitive people need to cope day to day, come down and we begin to expand and open.

In this expanded place of service, we remember how much more capable we are. We call ourselves back to a presence we did not even realize we were missing. Our connections to our hearts come back to us. Our acceptance of our bodies comes back to us. Gratitude for our minds comes back to us. A genuine caring for others comes back to us. A connection to the other living creatures around us is remembered.

I can share stories of singing together, of brewing teas on the root fire, of dancing through sweat, of tears, laughter, truths being spoken, and of people sharing wisdom, of rattling for one another in the space, and of spontaneous words to new chants moving the group. I can write about epic dawns of deep peace, with renewed faith in humanity, and in ourselves. But even then, there are the pieces left untold in relation to the Unseen beliefs of what is happening. What I can say is that we look to make something Whole from something Broken. We honor our Ancestors. And we aim to embody in service, to be animated as divine beings between Sky and Earth. For this small amount of time together, we agree to take risks to explore all that we may be capable of. Our dance is a healing ceremony, a rite of passage, and an honoring of all that we are.

– Jason Cohen –
We sing the Sacred Truths often in relation to nature and sometimes mysticism. At various times during the night, people will sing sacred truths. Some sing sacred names. Some people offer songs about the fire, creatures, ancestors, mysticism, inspiration, survival and of nature. Just as the drumming and instruments hold a crucial part that “heats” up the dance, the singing element returns us to our heart space, and helps us sink in deeper to our own healing. The dancing continues during the chants, and is often inspired by them. Some chants are known across various cultures and some are improvised in the moment. Themes may often include:  Rivers, Trees, Love, Sacred Names, Fire, Alchemy, Survival, Ancestors, Cycles, Seasons, Life, Death and Rebirth, Presence, Humor, the Divine, God/dess, Spirit, Gratitude, Opening, Community, Elders, Children, Animals, etc. Dialogue is always welcome between circles, and sacred truths can be shared in relation to the origins of chants with respect their cultures. 
Each person will have their own unique experience. However, there are some common effects that we’d like to highlight because these are what motivate us to keep doing this work.

Becoming More Fully Ourselves
By intentionally uncovering unresolved emotions, allowing ourselves to feel them in a safe environment, and releasing them rather than reacting to them, we can loosen their hold on us. This can be incredibly liberating; we often aren’t aware of how much of our lives are affected by small fears and past experiences until we’ve had an opportunity to be free of them.


Opening Our Hearts
The container of emotional safety we create together at the fire circle is indespensible to the process. It gives us an opportunity to practice taking emotional risks without fear of judgment. It allows us to soften our hearts, to become vulnerable, to get used to holding ourselves with care and love. By being willing to express our true selves, we receive the gift of being truly seen.


Transformation
The experiences we’re describing can be deep and beautiful. The real power comes from the lasting effects we take home with us. Outside the container we create together, the effects are more subtle, but cumulatively they can be life changing.

Through insights gained at Forestdance, some have found the confidence to find a new path for their creative expression; some have entered into new leadership roles in their community, and some have been able to let go of traumatic experiences that had limited their lives.


The experience of Forestdance will not change you from the outside. Rather, it creates a container that offers an opportunity for you to transform yourself from within.
I walk down the candle-lit path to the main field, trying to remind myself why I would leave the comfort of my warm sleeping bag at midnight. Even in my semi-conscious haze I’m feeling excited. I don’t know exactly what this night will bring. I know it won’t be the same as last time, because I’m not the same person I was last time. I set my intention for this night: to be present with myself, to feel whatever feelings come up, to release them to the fire. Then a second intention appears of its own accord: to take a risk, to practice being vulnerable. My heart quickens at this thought. This is the real work, this is scary. This is why I’m here.

I join others at the perimeter around the sacred circle in silence, the unlit fire at the center giving a focus for our attention. I practice reverence. The opening ceremony begins. Some words happen, some sounds, some movement, and now I am walking around the new flames, hearing the voices around me chant a sweet melody.

Drums, dancing, celebration. It comes in waves, the energy reaching an ecstatic peak then gently receding, making way for another beautiful song. Sometimes it meets me where I am, and I revel in it. Sometimes I’m not feeling it and I shake a rattle to support the others. I listen to the stories people share in the quiet moments. Vignettes really, or even just a single phrase. Some are difficult to receive; the words are raw. My heart goes out to those brave enough to share. I notice how gently they are supported in the circle, and I wonder if I am that brave.

At some point I notice the graying of the Eastern sky. The circle has thinned. I get it; there were some times I was close to calling it a night, when I didn’t feel connected to the circle, or when I just felt tired. This hint of dawn gives me fresh resolve to hang on until we close.

In the growing light I take a fresh look at the faces of the people around me. Some have shared sweet songs, some difficult memories, some anger, some gratitude. Some people I have come to know by the unique energy of their movement, some by a thoughtful expression touched by firelight. To all of them my heart opens. In a few short hours they have become my family. I love them for their humanity, for their vulnerability, for their beautiful imperfections.

After we close, I make my way back to my sleeping bag, heart wide open, filled with gratitude.

Frequently Asked Questions
Camp Timber Trails

Yes, it can be hard to imagine such things. But you can do it. We break up our sleep into two different times during the days after our all nighters. After dawn we sleep until yoga or brunch. And again a bit after dinner we have quiet time until an hour before the circle. Though not a typical model, we find we have all the energy we need to make it though the night. Honoring quiet time is very important. And inside the circle energy is amplified. Shifting our sleep schedules in part helps with the fantastical nature of the ceremony. We dance during dream-time.
There is excellent well water available on site. There is a gorgeous spring fed lake to dip in. There are hot showers on site in one location. Bring your solar showers if you’d like to shower at your campsite or deep in the woods. And bring your water bottles!! Please bring a bathing suit and only all natural bio-degradable soap.
Arrival and Registration is Wednesday from 2pm to 7:30pm. Please arrive during this time, when registration is open.

The opening Orientation is very important to set the parameters for the container and to bring the group into alignment. Attending Wednesday’s Orientation is required. If you have attended Forestdance before, attending Orientation is still very helpful to the group. If you are unable to arrive during Registration time, and you have attended Forestdance before, please contact register@heartbeatcollective.org to arrange your late arrival time.
We provide healthy vegetarian mostly organic and native foods. We ask everyone to take a shift in preparing the food for others, and for cleaning up after the meal. We offer two full meals a day and snacks at all other times, including fruit and eggs at breakfast time.
Yes, yes, yes. Children are our hope for our future. All children are welcome to participate, and if they are 11 and under they may come for the cost of a donation to cover their food. The Forestdance staff do not provide childcare, but all the parents with kids on site are asked to co-create the Family and Allies Service Team.  The most crucial times are from dawn until brunch everyday, and parents will be asked to hold space for the kids during Seed Group times and throughout the night. Parents are encouraged to co-create programming during Seed Group times for their children during the gathering. We put up a tent of dreaming near the fire circle.  It can be challenging to have your kids at FD and to do the all night circle. But we encourage the building of our community to include the gifts of the little ones.  We have found that it is important to include the kids in the fire circle.  They, like everyone, should be attending to be part of something that is not mundane or typical.
Location: Camp Timber Trails 1266 E. Otis Rd. Tolland, Ma Directions: Google Map to the Site
In addition to drumming and dancing around the fire, Forestdance attendees add chants, spoken word, melodic instruments, costumes, and ritual theater to the circle. The event is improvised and operates organically, and at times participants allow space for the faintest voice and most subtle movement to come through during the course of the night.
People from many different spiritual and philosophical backgrounds attend Forestdance and are encouraged to bring their creative expression to the fire circle. The fire circle is a highly intentional ritual space that we agree to hold as a sacred experiment, where we honor and celebrate our diversity, our similarities, and the threads that run through many traditions. The model that we’ve been developing is one that is difficult to share with words, as is often the case with metaphysical or transformational experience. It’s a process that has a profound effect. Forestdance is considered an inter-faith gathering. We welcome dialogue around sensitive cultural issues in relation to where our traditions come from and why we do what we do.
Forestdance practices a “closed vessel” policy during our ceremony. There is a specific time window that you can arrive (before Orientation on Wednesday). Everyone needs to be on site for the orientation, and no one who misses the 1st circle will be admitted to the gathering; only an “act of God/Goddess” would permit admittance. Furthermore, if you leave the site during the gathering, you won’t be allowed to return to the site. Everyone is of course free to leave at any time as long as they understand there is no re-admittance. We have chosen these ways to ensure a safe container for deep work, where our community can develop our intimacy around the fire circle together, as we step deeper and deeper into the work and play each night.
We ask everyone to contribute to community work to help us keep this gathering running during the weekend. There will be kitchen prep and kitchen clean up shifts, and everyone will be asked to serve daily on a service team, which include:
  • preparing the fire circle each night
  • refilling tiki torches
  • refilling the water/dish stations
  • fire tending
  • families and allies (everyone who brings children serves on this service team)
It is a fun and enjoyable way to co-create our magic together. Buy-out options are available and the money raised goes towards supporting our continuing community service.
Forestdance does not support the use of illegal substances on the properties we lease from for our gatherings. Illegal usage is strictly prohibited. Very often, you will read a sentence like the two above in any festival’s or gathering’s guidelines that are written to protect the organizers. That said, many on the staff may enjoy partying at different times, and some may even be willing to get together with you and do so at some point in the future. However, we ask and highly suggest that everyone take this opportunity to explore magical space without the use of any drugs or alcohol.

There are many reasons for this. We will be engaging in the process of fine-tuning ourselves, rather than doing anything that will remove us from one another or tune us out from our own greatest subtleties. In our experience, we have everything we need to attain incredible heightened states of consciousness without the aid of any altering substances.

Furthermore, the ability to retain the experience and integrate it into our daily lives is far more sustainable without altering ourselves. Our sacred circle model offers an opportunity to step into an environment that truly holds us in the highest vision of ourselves. For us the vision holds a space in which we are authentic about addiction in relation to habitual mind-altering substances. Also, others that walk with addiction or engage in habitual drug use are far more likely to partake if folks around them are offering or are carrying a vibration in which they are partying.

During the all-night Fire Circle process it is often difficult to achieve a place of true openness. The sense of a barrier or a wall is a common result. However, with continued participation and service within the circle, breaking through to a place of empowered embodiment will happen. Thank you for respecting these boundaries.
There are lots of people, children, edible plants and gardens at this event. Pets can be a problem. Our hosts ask you to not bring your dogs. There could be a couple of service dogs on site as our hosts allow staff to have them.
Everything you bring in with you should leave with you. This means your trash and all the little bits that are attached to things you are bringing.
There are rustic cabins at Camp Timber Trails, available for rent. These cabins have screens but no windows, and no electricity. There are multiple cots in each cabin. You will need to bring your own bedding.

If you are not staying in a cabin, you will need to bring your own tent.

Some years we open up cabins for all attendees.  Stay tuned, the ticket page will clearly denote our cabin/bed policy.
General Notes: Bring a flashlight; the moon may not be visible. Consider bringing a battery operated alarm clock (best if covered and we suggest not bringing watches into the sacred circle), earplugs, and all natural bug repellent. Please bring a tent and light bedding if you are camping, it will be warm. Any extra throws are welcome if you can, for the “nesting areas.” These are places outside the fire circle to take short rests if necessary during the night. Bring your own cup, bowl, plate, utensils and water bottle clearly labeled!

Bring a towel. Bring poems and any musical instrument and a song or three for the Bardic Circle. Consider contributing anything you would like to offer to the community or lending anything to an altar, such as sage, candles, something to burn sage in, seashells, feathers, crystals, etc. Something that represents your ancestors like a photo or one of their belongings.

If possible, please bring food and snacks for the food/community altar. These we are offering to each other as sustenance for the all-night circles. Aim for healthy and nourishing items, though chocolate-covered espresso beans do tend to disappear quickly. Please bring eco-friendly toiletries and your own towel. Sometimes there will be a Gifting Circle at the end of the gathering so please bring something to give away to the community if you feel so called. This can be as simple as a shell or a story. The Gifting Circle can be quite an amazing experience.

For inside the Fire Circle: Drums, rattles (so important), and other percussion such as cowbells. Instruments other than drums and percussion are welcome in the sacred circle, but their use must be discussed beforehand with a facilitator after Forestdance Orientation. Chants, songs, masks, costumes and elaborate clothing are welcome, as are body and face paint and your intentions. (What would you choose to manifest in your life and for your life?)

Here is a checklist: Costuming, masks, towel, Walking shoes, Tent, sleeping bag, bedding, Battery-operated alarm clock, Flashlight, Earplugs, Natural bug repellent, Sunscreen, Rain cover, Bathing suit, Towel, Eco-conscious toiletries, your medications if you need any, Water bottle, Your own cups and bowls labeled with your name, utensils, Nesting blanket/Ground cover to sit on, Snacks for the food altar, Ziplock bags, Instruments, Drums, Shakers, rattles, extra ones too for the percussion altar, Decorations for the altars, Massage oils and tables, Clear intentions for shaping our reality, something that represents your ancestors

Bring a Bicycle and a good Headlamp; it’s a large site.
Staff and teachers are chosen long before the event, so it is highly unlikely you will be able to do work exchange at the last minute. But there is often space in the Seed Groups to make offerings. We also prefer that people experience the Forestdance fire circle once as an attendee before being in service as a teacher, though we have made exceptions to this ideal. If there are certain work exchange positions still available, we will ask you about your specific skill sets and see if we can match things up together. Thanks again, we look forward to honoring our lives to the fullest.
  1. Hostel in the Forest, Brunswick, Georgia. Nov 2003 (Harmonic Concordance)
  2. Hostel in the Forest, Brunswick, Georgia Nov 2004
  3. Our Haven, French Lick, Indiana summer 2005
  4. Earthlands, Petersham, MA summer 2005 
  5. Deerfields, NC  summer 2006
  6. Our Haven, French Lick, Indiana summer 2006
  7. Circle Sanctuary, Barnevald, Wisconsin summer 2006
  8. Earthlands, Petersham MA summer 2006
  9. Earthlands, Petersham, MA summer 2007
  10. Home Farm, San Salvador, Costa Rica Feb 2008
  11. Earthlands, Petersham MA summer 2008
  12. Home Farm, San Salvador, Costa Rica Feb 2009
  13. Earthlands, Petersham MA summer 2009
  14. Home Farm, San Salvador, Costa Rica Feb 2010
  15. Earthlands, Petersham, MA Summer 2010
  16. Finca Amrta, Pedrogosita, Costa Rica February 2011
  17. Earthlands, Petersham, MA Summer 2011
  18. Finca Amrta, Pedrogosita, Costa Rica February 2012
  19. Earthlands, Petersham, MA Summer 2012
  20. Selva Armonia, Uvita, Costa Rica February 2013
  21. Mathis Branch Rd. Cosby, TN  June 2013
  22. Camp L New England, Lebanon CT Summer 2013
  23. Costa Rica Selva Armonia’ Winter 2014
  24. Camp Yankee Trails Tolland, CT Summer 2014
  25. Verdenergia, Lanas de Puriscal, Costa Rica 2015
  26. Camp Yankee Trails, Tolland, CT 2015  Micah is born
  27. Verdenergia, Lanas de Puriscal, Costa Rica 2016
  28. Camp Yankee Trails, Tolland, CT  2016
  29. Verdenergia, Lanas de Puriscal, Costa Rica 2017
  30. Camp Timber Trails, Tolland, MA  end of summer, 2017
  31. The Garden Retreat, Green Mountain, NC Indigenous People’s Day 2017
  32. Verdenergia, Lanas de Puriscal, February, Costa Rica 2018
  33. Camp Timber Trails, Tolland, MA  2018 
  34. Verdenergia, Lanas de Puriscal, Costa Rica February, 2019 
  35. Camp Timber Trails, Tolland, MA end of Summer  2019
  36. Vida by Selina, Puntarenas, Costa Rica March, 2020
  37. MA Camp Timber Trails, Tolland, MA  Aug. 2021 
  38. Camp Timber Trails, Tolland, MA  Labor Day Weekend, 2022
  39. Camp Timber Trails, Tolland, MA June 14th-18th, 2023
  40. Verdenergia, Lanas de Puriscal, Costa Rica January, 2023 
  41.  

 Forestdance is brought to you by the HeARTbeat Collective, Inc. 501(c)(3) organization.

The HeARTbeat Collective Mission:  We are united by the common cause of creating and supporting diverse and inclusive gatherings, workshops, and events that inspire and educate people through the healing and expressive arts, with a focus on healthy and sustainable relations to the earth and one another.


The HeARTbeat Collective thanks the Mass Cultural Council for their generous support and funding.