Do you remember how it was like to dance when you were a child? Wild and free and without any restrictions. You just moved your body however you liked to the rhythm of the beat, flowing in every second, fully letting go of control, and surrendering to the moment and the music. Your whole body was radiating with joy and light.
"Dance is the hidden language of the soul" - Martha Graham
Ecstatic dance ceremonies are held regularly all over the US, and it’s safe to say that no two are the same. Sunday mornings are an especially popular time to engage in an ecstatic dance ceremony. No alcohol or drugs. And no cellphones, either—so if you’re looking for an ‘insta-worthy shot, you won’t be getting it at an ecstatic dance ceremony. It’s all about inclusivity, meaning people of all ages, sizes. Ecstatic dance is a free-form movement and type of dance form, often practiced without a fixed choreography.
The idea of ecstatic dance is to completely lend yourself and your body to the rhythm of the music.
In ecstatic dance, you move freely through the space leading to a state of trance and ecstasy (hence the name ecstatic). In a trance, many dancers find that ecstatic dance brings them into a deep meditative state. In ecstatic dance, one is fully and devotedly in the body and therefore also fully in the present moment.
The effects of ecstatic dance are many and are varying depending on the dancer. A lot of dancers report a feeling of bliss and happiness, due to the ecstatic state of being.
Ecstatic dance can also be extremely therapeutic, healing trauma, old wounds, and limiting beliefs on a physical level. Many dancers also feel more connected to their peers and their own emotions.
In various studies, dancing has been proven to increase happiness at all levels, and ecstatic dance is not an exception there - it actually might be the dance technique that boosts the feel-good hormone endorphin the most, which says a lot considering that dancing as such is already known to boost the release of endorphins like no other exercise.
During the dance, we disconnect from the beta brain waves that are active in our everyday life and problem-solving skills and connect to a deeper and trance-like state of theta brain waves. Theta brain waves are normally only present in states of sleep or deep meditation but are also activated during an ecstatic dance. Theta brain waves are known to enhance creativity, intuition, memory, and learning.
Ecstatic dance is being used more and more today in a therapeutic setting as well. It can help the dancer let go of emotions, process problems from the perspective of the body and not of the conscious mind and heal the inner child, by giving them love and attention through dance. A regular ecstatic dance practice has even been proven to be successful in the treatment against anxiety and depression.
After the dance, many participants feel a deep inner bliss, calmness, serenity, and deep connection with themselves and their surroundings.
Ecstatic dance is by no means a contemporary New Age practice. It is around since ancient times and has been practiced for centuries. In classical Greek times, the maenads, followers of Dionysus, practiced ecstatic dance.
In shamanism practiced throughout the world, ecstatic dance combined with rhythmic drumming is a spiritual practice intended to alter individual states of consciousness. Also, the Sufi whirling, a religious ritual and active meditation where one spins the body in repetitive cycles that the Sufi dervishes traditionally practiced, is ecstatic dance.
Modern ecstatic dance made a revival in the 1970s with the help of Gabrielle Roth and her 5Rhythms practice. 5Rhythms is a soul journey that connects individuals through their inner and outer worlds by moving the body, freeing the mind, and releasing the heart. Today ecstatic dance is found in many different varieties and traditions throughout the whole world. Many compare modern ecstatic dance to a rave-like setting, but without drugs, alcohol, or a nightclub.
The dance experience starts with a brief guided meditation involving breathing, stretching, shaking, and gentle yoga-like movements to help everyone become more heart-centered and “embodied,” or fully conscious of their senses. Then the dance music starts: gentle and slow at first, so we stretch, bend, and flow to the music as we wish.
The music ramps up over time from slow and gentle to faster music with drums. As the music changes, we allow our bodies to move, taking inspiration from both the music and the dancers around us.
There is a feeling that this is a place where we can return to the freedom and fun of our childhood.
Most people are there to dance on their own, according to their mood and intuition. Sometimes, couples will dance together, or contact improvisation dancers will come together spontaneously from time to time, but everyone eventually drifts apart to dance independently.
The whole event is “a deep freedom-celebration of the modern human tribe,” This is true “ecstatic dance.” It’s an easy meditation, which allows you just to let the mind drop away while your body takes over.
Toward the end of the dancing, the music slows right down, and people once again move slowly and flow through the final gentle minutes. Then, we all rest (some lay down) for five minutes before forming a giant closing circle.
People are encouraged to exclaim single words describing the experience. “Healing,” “gratitude,” and “freedom” are often heard. It is a deeply healing experience for the vast majority of the dancers. And it’s a meditation where the mind takes a break. It’s a chance for “embodiment” meditation.
First of all, there is no right or wrong when it comes to ecstatic dance. This is your time to go within, release, and recharge... You can dance as wild and expressive as you want, shake your whole body, jump, make sounds, crawl around the floor, whatever you prefer.
The motto of ecstatic DANCE AS IF NOBODY'S WATCHING!
This is intended to be a safe place, free of judgment.
Do I need a dance background?
What should I wear?
What is the age group?
Why is there no talking allowed in the space?
Is there alcohol available?
**Ecstatic dance is a space where positive healing and inner reflection can occur through movement and intention.