No one really seems to dance anymore. The feeling of letting one’s body move in directions dictated by the unconscious has been replaced by physical mating calls and jackassery. However, for those looking for an authentic dance experience that isn’t fraught with unwanted suitors and terrible dubstep music, there is Ecstatic Dance.
Ecstatic Dance is a movement modality in which participants gather in a substance-free setting, free of expectations, and allow their bodies to move in whatever strange ways they please. While the participants must move in silence, the speakers do not. The music starts the class off in a loose fashion then proceeds to take participants’ minds and bodies on a shamanistic journey through their pores, drenching their bodies in sweat while cleansing their soul.
“I think people feel very free in their bodies at an Ecstatic Dance,” said founder David Baker. “We really want to create a positive and free container in which people can express themselves without judgment and criticism through movement.”
Indeed, while Ecstatic Dance is no doubt an engaging way to get one’s heart rate up, it functions as something more: a practice in which one’s psyche gets just as much of a workout as does the mind.
“While I think Ecstatic Dance offers the same mind/body workout as a yoga class, it is a much more intense opportunity for physical and mental release,” said Baker.
For those who enjoy a simple night out with the gals—dancing on floors with sharks under them while sipping an appletini—a ladies’ night out can often turn into an awkward scene from A Night at the Roxbury, with every Situation-wannabe violating your space with pelvic thrusts. Ecstatic Dance offers the opportunity for that same experience of stress relief, sans assertive spray-on-tan man and expensive bar tab.
“I can understand the appeal of dancing in a club or bar,” said co-founder Ellen Baker. “However, I think a lot of women come for the space in which they can express themselves fully and play without the feeling of constantly being infringed upon.”
Likewise, for both sexes, one often has to ingest a myriad of libations before even feeling comfortable enough to do the foxtrot in front of others. On the contrary, Ecstatic Dance is a private, yet communal, judgment-free environment in which inhibitions organically fall away.
“No one is watching, everyone is very absorbed in their own experience,” said Baker. “It is shocking to witness how quickly people realize that no one is watching, and can move through whatever they please in a safe environment.“
For some, the experience of Ecstatic Dance exceeds the sensations of merely one’s body. Moving in a group, with similar people in a similar conscious state, can assist with connecting to others in a non-verbal way while simultaneously letting one possibly connect with something that is very alien and, perhaps, strangely familiar.
“When I peer open my eyes a little bit, I can see the whole room moving together like a school of fish,” said Ellen Baker. “For me, it really is an incredible experience of feeling everyone moving together; it feels like something mysterious, something ancient.”