Sunday I did ecstatic dance over zoom, then effused to some friends about how much I love it. A friend in Canada asked me about it–I wanted to answer her in a way that others can read also.
Loving ecstatic dance is part of who I am, but some people don’t know what it is. So here, I’ll tell you.
kind to my body
Late 2019, I did ecstatic dance for the first time. I had danced at Hare Krishna temples before, honestly. But December 2019 was my first actual ecstatic dance.
I really love the mentality of doing it for myself–to be kind to my body, feel my feelings, and release tension, anxiety, grief, and whatever needs to get out in the form of movement.
The music is great, stuff I’ve never heard before, and to be with other people who are dancing. We relate without language–that’s super-important to me! Language is my life! So I like to be around people but relating in space as dancers, not talkers. I need a break from sentences.
I’ve never danced at a night club, but I’ve danced at parties a tiny bit, and at school dances as a kid. Those kinds of dancing can be more about sex–a way to flirt, and asking to be looked at. People want to be objects, or partly–to be admired and desired for how they look.
Ecstatic dance is the opposite of that. We’re doing something bodily but inner. I want to be around people, but also alone. The room is full of music, people dancing, and people at the edges might rest or have a mat to do yoga or sit or stretch. Flirtation would be frowned upon.
I see a few serious-looking youngish women who seem very absorbed in what they’re doing–strong and self-contained. I really like them, but they seem to have zero interest in me or other people. They’re doing a spiritual practice on their own.
Then could be friendly strangers who smile and want to hug. I like them too.
Then there could be people I feel less relaxed about, like a hyper bearded guy wearing socks that depict mushrooms. He seems edgy, like his energy is slightly stirring up trouble, but I could be making that up.
There’s the couple who run it–two middle aged people. The woman sometimes dances with a cane. I never saw that before and felt very moved. She doesn’t look around much, after the initial checkin, and seems closed off in a totally ok way.
The DJ is her partner, and he seems nice, but not too nice. His choice of music is great, and I trust the couple to make a safe container for the group.
what I do
Personally, I want to move a lot. I dance as much as I can. The dancing is for a good purpose–to let loose any stuck feelings in my body. And to be in motion longer than usual. To do nothing but dance, for a while.
“How are you doing, Laura-Marie?” someone could ask, if language were allowed.
“Dancing,” I would say. Dancing is what I’m doing and how I’m doing.
Regular social times are hard for me! Parties scare me, and I used to be terrified of people. I ease up a little, over the years. One-on-one and with a lot of touch, I can be very comfortable. But in groups, I don’t know what to do, unless it’s something like a meeting, such as a Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective meeting, with an agenda and norms.
Ecstatic dance is way more possible for me than parties or regular social situations. I also like rituals, a yoga class, and maybe body work, like massage. Situations where I know what to do and things are defined. That could be an autism thing, a crazy thing, a Laura-Marie thing. Who knows, but it’s lifelong.
What I’m doing while ecstatic dancing is dancing. I feel my body and what it needs. My shoulders ache, my knees–I feel my knees and learn how they’re really doing. I try moving my shoulders in new ways to lessen the pain. I experience my body with more honesty than usual–I feel it more.
Thoughts come up about different things that are happening in my life, and strong feelings. The things that come up while I’m dancing–I think they come up because I want to dance about them. Usually I process everything through language, but it’s great to move instead.
I move my body in new ways, experimenting with what my arms can do, hunkering, feeling my whole body at the same time, feeling my muscles, joints, lungs, energy. Collaborating with the songs. Breathing more than usual, as it’s exercise. Checking in constantly with my body, in a wordless way. Feeling the temperature of my body and if I’m sweating. Sensing any pain inside the pleasure. Feeling how long I want to keep dancing, do I need water, do I need a rest.
The work feels important! It’s almost magical, the pleasure–healing. It’s like inducing an extreme state in a safe way, to play with extreme possibilities, with very low risk. I dance dance dance, become a dance creature. All I know is dancing, for a while. I get a dance mind.
Ecstatic states are my favorite. I really need that, to go into a different mentality. I can’t be the usual Laura-Marie all the time. Chanting, sex, soaking in hot springs, art, trike, closeness to Mother God–I need all that.
Well, that’s a long list. The deliciousness of brussels sprouts, the hugs of Ming, amazing sleep dreams, close friendship, seeing a rose, a beautiful phrase a kid says, pesto, saying something just how I want to–I spend much of my life ecstatic, to a degree. This is my thing.
Body liberation freedom of movement is related to fat liberation and disability justice, for me. And healthy hedonism. Pleasure is ok.
I was repressed as a young person, by myself and others. The misogyny and sexual harm of the Christianity I was raised with limited me. I was taught the body is untrustworthy, sinful.
So any way I can feel my embodiment, feel my consciousness in my whole body, recognize I am my whole body, feel ok about my body, and feel pleasure flooding my entire body is nourishing. I can undo the old harm.
It also heals past fat shame and sad body-denial disconnection. Probably it helps heal old trauma too. Any way to teach myself that my body is good and I can believe it–I’m safe to feel the pleasure. I can go there and be ok. My body is mine–I can move it in all sorts of ways, and I’m in control of that.
Let me know if you want to ecstatic dance over zoom–I can hook you up! Sunday while dancing, I got the feeling like I should quit my whole life and become an ecstatic dance facilitator or somehow give my life to it.
It’s my favorite healing modality. Simple and easy–way easier than running marathons, doing drugs, or sitting zazen. My body is asking to dance, and I say yes.