Week 48: Ecstatic Dancing
"Between the head and feet of any given person is a billion miles of unexplored wilderness." - Gabrielle Roth
What did I do:
For months my friends have told me about ecstatic dancing and urged that I give it a try as part of Thrive at 35! So one Sunday morning, I drove down to the Masonic Temple in Culver City for a 4 hour class. For anyone who is unfamiliar, ecstatic dancing is free form dance curated by a guide who plays different pieces of music. There is no talking involved, no instruction or choreography. It is an opportunity to release all shame, fear, and judgement, allowing you to fully express yourself through dance and movement. Jo Bainbridge Cobbett , our particular guide, did not allow video or photography because it can easily make others self conscious, limiting their ability to fully express themselves. The images and video I am sharing in this blog entry are examples of ecstatic dancing to give you an idea of what to expect, should you decide to give this experience a try.
Who was with me:
I took the class with my friends Santi and Layla, two avid yogis and meditators. For Santi, ecstatic dancing is like his church. It is something he participates in regularly and truly believes in it's benefits. For Layla and I, this was an entirely new adventure.
What did I learn:
In recent years, research has verified that health is no longer the non-existence of disease but also a state of complete physical, emotional and social well-being. Dance potentially plays a significant role to restore individual well-being and health.
- Participants benefit greatly from ecstatic dance as a form of communication, coping strategy, spiritual practice
- Ecstatic dancing allows dancers to connect with others and more importantly, with their own emotions
- The meditative effects of ecstatic dancing holds a high value in restoring and creating serenity
- Release endorphins and reduce pain
Having read about the benefits of ecstatic dance, I looked forward to my first class.
For anyone reading who wants to book a class, the 5Rhythms site allows you to search for class locations and times all over the world. For local Los Angelenos, the Masonic Lodge in Culver City hosts ecstatic dance classes throughout the week.
The attendee demographics was an accurate representation of the Los Angeles melting pot. In the same class we had a 7 year old little girl and people well into their 70s and 80s. We had a celebrity on the verge of touring the world for a year and someone living out of their car. Many different ethnic backgrounds were represented along with people with varying sexual orientation.
It became evident early on in the class who was a beginner and who comes here on a regular basis. For the first 30-45 minutes, I walked around and mostly observed others. I was fascinated by how freely people moved around the room, dancing solo or fluidly transitioning in and out of positions and rhythm with others.
As the class continued, I become more and more comfortable to be expressive. I found myself twirling, skipping, leaping and even rolling around on the ground. Because it is a judgement free zone, I felt safe and comfortable to listen to my body and do as I was called to. Towards the end, I danced with a gentleman. We were completely synchronized without exchanging any words. We simply allowed our collective energy and occasional eye contact to guide our movements. It was an extremely liberating experience. If you had told me at the beginning of the class how things would end 4 hours later, I wouldn't have believed you. But such is life! When in Rome, do as the Romans do!
Would I do this again:
The one downfall of the class was the sweaty bodies. I am not a fan of a stranger's sweat falling on me as they move around the room dancing wholeheartedly. Aside from this, the dancing was transformative and I had a ton of fun watching others interpret the music and dance from their hearts. I would definitely give ecstatic dancing another try. This time, I actually want to go to a location where I don't know anyone at all and see if I can even further release shame, judgement and fear.