Psychedelic Science 2023

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Choreographing re-membrance: The Santo Daime bailado as danced epistemology


Choreographing re-membrance: The Santo Daime bailado as danced epistemology

The ayahuasca religion Santo Daime was founded in the Brazilian Amazon forest in the 1930s and is now practiced in more than forty countries. Central to the Santo Daime practice is a dance called the bailado, an important aspect of Santo Daime's unique approach to engagement with a psychoactive medicine. Mobilizing an analysis of the Santo Daime bailado through the field of dance studies, I work with the theory that choreography both presents and influences socio-cultural and epistemological values of a given people, place or time. I theorize that Santo Daime practitioners re-member themselves through participation in the bailado, recalling identities associated with forests and oceans through dance. Through this kinesthetic identification with major bodies of the natural world, knowledge systems that value these living memories are mobilized, providing practitioners with opportunities to cultivate a personal-collective, ecologically oriented sense of self. I suggest that the Santo Daime bailado provides a subjectively different kind of opportunity for healing and learning than those experienced through clinical, therapeutic models, and that the field of psychedelic studies stands to benefit by not only including more diverse perspectives, but by engaging with more diverse knowledge systems within the field.

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