Dance of the Labyrinth
Meditating like Minotaurs

Dance of the Labyrinth
57 N St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
by appointment only; suggested days Thursdays or Sundays, 1-4pm

FREE (donation suggested)

You might think of labyrinths as places to get lost in, but DC-area artist Sandra Wasko-Flood has designed one that helps you find inner peace. Her creation, "Dance of the Labyrinth," combines sculpture, photographic transparencies, interactive light boxes, and sound in a computer triggered interactive environment. Visitors provide the performance as they walk the steps of the labyrinth, moving through its six cycles, until they reach the center�where they literally face themselves before walking out transformed and renewed. 

The moment you enter the room containing "Dance of the Labyrinth," you�re pulled into a meditative inner space by the combination of calming background music, cool darkness, swirling lights, and archetypal images floating up from the floor and revolving on the walls. This imagery incorporates the natural elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air, as well as psychological themes Wasko-Flood calls "Changing Elements" and "Merging Elements." As you walk the spiraling footpath into the center, each touch-sensitive glass panel lights up to reveal different surreal, black-and-white icons formed from the combination of religious motifs: Nature goddesses and animal totems, Russian Orthodox saints, Egyptian mummies, and macumba dancers. 

The first section, dedicated to the Earth element, is a physical path where images of the Madonna and Christ are superimposed on the Earth. The Water section is an emotional path, where hybrid creatures like a laughing, fish-eyed mummy leer up at you. The Fire section is dedicated to the intellect, and involves images of worship. The Air section, dedicated to the spirit, combines stars, hawks, and features the hybrid "monkey Madonna." In the Changing Elements section, these images combine in a way that shows them coming together. The Merging Elements section comes just before the center and contains the most powerful images. When one reaches the center, light strikes a mirror ball overhead, sending shards of light spinning through the room; the traveler looks down into a mirror, where one�s own reflection blends with the lights and images on the surrounding walls. The walls feature dancing forms inspired by a vision Wasko-Flood experienced in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, in which Anasazi Indians danced the circular canyon wall in a labyrinth motion. Groups of dancers alternate with four revolving wheels, one for each element, incorporating corresponding imagery. 

"They�re like Rorschachs, you bring what you know to them," Wasko-Flood says of her startling images. "I  use these symbols to unite people. People can walk for intentions, to solve problems, express feeling, make a wish. You come in with concerns of the day and let go. When you get to the center there�s a transformation, where one ideally reaches enlightenment. As you walk back out to the starting point, you travel through the cycle of life and death. You go in with life problems and undergo a kind of death in the center; you walk out to be reborn, with a fresh start."

She notes that most visitors to "Dance of the Labyrinth" describe the experience using three words: "peace, power, and mystery."

�In our culture, the labyrinth has become a metaphor for confusion," Wasko-Flood says. "I want to use the labyrinth as a metaphor for life. The idea is you�re going through life's challenges. If you have your faith and put one foot in front of another, you�ll reach your goal." She�s quick to point out the distinction between mazes, which are designed to trap and confuse, and labyrinths, which have been used in many different cultures since antiquity as a ritualized meditative tool, with only one continuous pathway that spirals into the center and back out.

"Dance of the Labyrinth" was first exhibited in 1994 at Gallery 10 in Washington, DC. Wasko-Flood has also displayed a different interactive labyrinth environment at Art-O-Matic, as well as many other interactive light and sound constructions in other area galleries. A traveling show called "Labyrinths for Peace," which was first shown on the east lawn of the U.S. Capitol, involved �low tech� labyrinths marked out in the grass and printed on canvas panels. Numerous churches use similar canvas labyrinths as a meditative spiritual exercise. 

You can make your own journey through the "Dance of the Labyrinth" by appointment at Wasko-Flood�s studio, which doubles as the Labyrinth Lights Center, her organization to promote peace, meditation and contemplation through labyrinths. The center contains a small library of labyrinth resources, and artworks featuring labyrinths.