Marking Moments: Dance in the Graveyards

Delta Rae – Dance in the Graveyards

When I was introduced to this music video last year, it instantly became one of my favourites for a number of reasons as its power is in the music and the rich symbolism and metaphors in the lyrics and video. It was written after a period of time when singer, Ian Holljes, who plays the main character in the video, lost a number of close friends who had major, positive influences on his life. These influences meant that for him, his friends weren’t resting in peace in the graveyards, but their “spirits and memories” they left behind still dance with him through life (Popbytes).

Mystical Musicians
Mystical Musicians

The calavera style make-up and costumes which are associated with El Dia de Los Muertos (the Mexican Day of the Dead – NOT a Mexican version of Halloween by the way) always remind me that death in other cultures is not purely seen as a time of doom and gloom, but is a celebration of lives lived. Though I don’t get the chance very often, I do have a shadow side which loves to dress up in costume and I am drawn to the more edgy side of life where the cross-pollination of styles, cultures and beliefs allows me to take the best and synthesize new and beautiful things. In the UK we don’t generally do this sort of thing, being trained to be restrained and stiff-upper-lipped, a remnant of the old Empire days I believe.

The music itself builds up throughout the song in a crescendo of liveliness. Starting with a simple beat, reminding me of skeletal bones knocking together, it’s quickly joined by a driving, heart pounding beat and piano which stirs my spirit and lifts me up inside. For a subject involving death, it’s completely the opposite of the sombre though often hauntingly beautiful classical music, or hymns that are usually associated with the subject of death. I can play it on repeat – not many songs on my playlists have that honour, especially on this topic.

The video brilliantly pays homage to the aforementioned Day of the Dead, tapping into that celebration of remembering the dead as vibrant and real. Although I may not with agree any literal attempts at contacting the dead in order to attempt to dance with them, I don’t believe that’s what the video is actually about; I understand it as being symbolic of the longing we who are alive have to remember the vibrancy of our deceased loved ones whilst they were alive.

Light in the Darkness
Light in the Darkness

Starting with a dark, foggy graveyard scene that could easily be the opening of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we quickly see a light shining in the darkness of that graveyard. The light is carried by the leader of a group who are intentionally visiting the graveyard at night – something many people would shy away from because of superstition and our internal fears of the dark and death. The leader and his magical staff have the ability to draw people into a remembrance of their loved ones and embrace their positive legacy in memories, teachings, laughter and love. And when that time of active remembrance is over, they are able to continue to dance through life, having embraced that legacy and moved on.

That light shining in the darkness reminds me of the words in the opening chapter of the Gospel of John 1 which refers to Jesus Christ, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Following the light
Following the light

The lyrics are powerful, loaded with longing, hope, love, joy and rich in symbolism and meaning. I love modern music that’s had serious thought, heart and soul put into it and which causes me to look up the lyrics and engage in interpreting them. I include the lyrics for us here:

When I die
I don’t want to rest in peace
I want to dance in joy
I want to dance in the graveyards, the graveyards
And while I’m alive
I don’t want to be alone
Mourning the ones who came before
I want to dance with them some more
Let’s dance in the graveyards

Gloria, like some other name we kept on calling ya and waiting for change
But I belong to all of your mysteries

And all of us, we’re meant for the fire, but we keep rising up and walking the wires
So when we go below don’t lose us in mourning

’Cause when I die
I don’t want to rest in peace
I want to dance in joy
I want to dance in the graveyards, the graveyards

And while I’m alive
I don’t want to be alone
Mourning the ones who came before
I want to dance with them some more
Let’s dance in the graveyards

Oh my love, don’t cry when I’m gone
I will lift you up, the air in your lungs
And when you reach for me, we’ll dance in the darkness

And we will walk beyond
Our daughters and sons, they will carry on
Like when we were young, and we will stand beside and breathe in their new life

’Cause when I die
I don’t want to rest in peace
I want to dance in joy
I want to dance in the graveyards, the graveyards
And while I’m alive
I don’t want to be alone
Mourning the ones who came before
I want to dance with them some more
Let’s dance in the graveyards

Dance in the Darkness
Dance in the Darkness

For me this song is about moving through and beyond mourning, via the hope we have beyond death, whether in the memories we create for others whilst we’re “walking the wires”, in the new life of our children, or in the ability to “dance” with those who have passed beyond through remembrance and thanksgiving of them and their legacy in our lives. As a Christian, my hope is all of these things and more, for through the power of the resurrection of Jesus I believe I will once more be raised after my physical death, to meet with the great company of those followers of the Eternal One who are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” cheering me on in this life.

I’ll leave with some thoughts surrounding this song which you may like to discuss with friends:

What might we be frightened of in the graveyard that may be stopping us from visiting the graves of loved ones? Are those fears legitimate, or based in the imagination?

How may those of our loved ones who have passed on be lost in mourning?

What is our relationship with the mysterious “Gloria” or Glory in whom we live and move and have our being?

What does it mean to reach for those who have passed on without attempting spiritual contact with them? In Christian teaching attempting to contact the dead is seen in a negative light for a variety of reasons which are intended for our benefit rather than as a spoilsport rule. In the Bible there are times when those who have “passed through the veil” are seen by the living, some in negative terms, such as the account of King Saul and the Medium of Endor, whilst on other occasions in positive terms, such as the transfiguration of Jesus where Moses and Elijah are seen as being in the afterlife. Whose help do we seek in all of this, do we go to the spiritualist medium, or do we go to the Eternal One who created all our spirits and to whom we return?

What legacy will we leave to the next generation, that we may “stand beside [them] and breathe in their new life”?

Are we able to metaphorically “dance in the graveyards”, and turn mourning into laughter and joy? If so, how?

The conversation continues at Marking Moments. If you would like to join us, please come along and share your gems of wisdom with us.

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