This represent a wide diversity of dance that is hard to categorize except through their mutual association. Sacred Circle Dance is thought to have evolved from a movement begun at Findhorn by Bernard Wosien in the 1970's where the importance of the spiritual concepts behind traditional folk dances were emphasized. Pre-existing Circle dance groups were usually more recreational and differed little from folk dance groups except seen as being more about having fun rather than being precise about the folk traditions. Many of these trace their origins to the influx of refugees or through association with the establishment of International Folk dance scene during and after World War II (the established folk dance groups tended to concentrate on European set dances with partners).
The repertoire of Sacred Circle dance evolved through choreography of dances to selected tunes for particular purposes (e.g. meditative, worship, themed suites) and the incorporation of other sacred dance forms (e.g. Taize, Native American) and repertoires (e.g. Dances of Universal Peace). A major change was the move away from the authentic traditions dances to include new choreographies and the focus on dances originating from or being promoted by 'names' rather than being representative of a genre.
Circle dancers evolved variants of the folk dances to make the dances more interesting, more accessible to beginners and/or to fit a different piece of music, though variations would also arise through dances being learnt second or third hand. They would also choreograph new dances either to traditional music for which they did not know a dance for or for any piece of music that was seen as enjoyable.
The distinction between the two types has gradually become blurred as teachers and groups sought to satisfy both audiences. Organizers would often offer or make space for other activities (e.g. aromatherapy, Tai Chi, Reiki, drumming etc) effectively integrating the dance with other New Age practices, in order to attract a larger share of the available audience. The idea that Circle Dance generally was about self-exploration and development became established.
The result has been that the genre as a whole incorporates a wide variety of dance and movement without any particular stylist reason, leading to some confusion in expectations. The exact repertoire and 'feel' of workshops and groups varies widely ranging from purely recreational with a mainly folk based repertoire to spiritual with entirely modern choreographies with all shades and combinations in between. Groups with more than one teacher may vary between sessions. A teacher may offer to teach in all of the three styles – international folk, circle or sacred – as well as any number of incorporated genres and may also offer other New Age practices as well.
The common factor is perhaps an acceptance of the differences and a self-perception as being part of the Circle Dance world which being unstructured allows all possibilities to coexist. There are many circle dance communities that continue in the tradition that they first had when established. However, the purely recreational aspects of many groups have been eroded by the promotion of the spiritual side and in some the spiritual has given way to the religious. The term World Dance is now being used to designate groups emphasizing multi-cultural rather than religious leanings. Conversely, the genre used to import much of their traditional material second hand from the international folk scene but some Sacred Dance teachers actively carry out research into areas of traditional dance (e.g. women's ritual dances), often using an ethnographic approach, and subscribing to the original idea of the spiritual aspects of authentic folk culture.
If you are a Circle Dance group and your repertoire consists of mainly international folk dances with some modern dances, if the purpose of the group is merely to dance and if your site reflects this, then you should consider suggesting your site to Arts/Performing_Arts/Dance/Folk/International
If you are a Circle Dance Group whose repertoire consists of a mix of folk dances and modern dances with no especial spiritual yearnings, please use the term Circle Dance.
If your group and site reflect a fusion of spirituality and dance, please use the term Sacred Circle Dance. This will aid in creating the directory structure.