Tuning in with interest to a lot of talk this last year about the influx of Ecstatic Dance into communities and the effect this has on other dance practices that are already flourishing. This whole sad conversation about territory and who will prevail and which is better. Really people, we are talking about dance here and I say the more dance the better.
Let’s get some clear definitions going here though. To me, Ecstatic Dance is the big old generic term for what people have been doing for thousands of years. Around bon fires, accompanied by drums, people have moved to the beat before anybody thought to give it a name. But in the current use of the term I think some people equate Ecstatic Dance with DJ-ed music, sometimes, but not always, unvaried in tempo or genre, and no verbal instruction. A space where you are free to “do your own thing”, never have to take a partner or move in a way other than what your own internal compass dictates.
Now there are many established forms of the generic use of the term Ecstatic Dance – 5Rhythms, Soul Motion, Contact Improv, Zumba, NIA – maybe because us Western creatures like to get all heady and start defining things, make up complex systems where an embodied intuition originally seemed to be enough. But I actually think this is a good development; because of how we live, many of us benefit from having some form, some invitation to movement, some instruction. Many of us suffer from some degree of disconnect with our body and its incredible possibility for movement. If you are reading this, you are sitting, completely in your head, in front of a computer, the exact state I am in as I write this. We spend a friggin’ amount of time in this heady place, some of us more than others.
Here’s what I see when I’m looking out on the dance floor, corroborated by what I feel when I am out there myself. We all have our signature moves. If I’m on my own out there and actually engage in my 5Rhythms practice – walking through the space, body parts, feeling my weight & fluidity, expressing clear moves, letting go of whatever I am holding on to – well, on a good day, sometimes new stuff emerges, always a delight. I like it even better when a teacher offers up some suggestions in my willing ear. I crave that! Never really understood the big old resistance some people have about that. Like they are so self-sufficient, so instruction-adverse that they have no space for trying on something someone deems interesting. What is the big deal? I am eternally grateful for skilled guidance.
And there is one more thing I have to say, because 5Rhythms practice is so close to my heart. I’m pretty sure I could have spent the last 10 years unguided on an Ecstatic Dance floor and had a great time. But I would not be where I am today. I learned the language of this practice by showing up many hours and trying on just about every verbal invitation. And then I took that language to the workshop maps and did the work I needed to do for years. My body is softer, my heart is more open, my mind is way more free, my soul has found an expression it was yearning for and my spirit is palpable in a way only grace could deliver.
So let’s not quibble about what is best here. Only you can know. And you’ll know for sure if you stick with a particular practice for about a year and keep showing up no matter what. Because when it gets sticky or gets boring or gets frustrating there is usually some pretty ripe and juicy stuff right around the corner. And sometimes it helps to have some support for the discoveries that are just waiting to happen. I know this is true.
Let’s keep moving it…bella