Ecstatic dance

For the first time, I danced not to be seen, but to see. 

The headphones blocked out any noise but the music, pulling me deeply into my own experience. Under the gorgeous Versailles sky of the Palace Hotel ballroom, I closed my eyes. Around me, people whirled and twirled like spinning tops, ballerinas in our own right. There was no performance, but rather, permission. For each of us, to move as we wanted to move and be moved. I leapt and kicked, spun and sashayed. When the desire struck, I laid down on the floor. I have no sense for how long it was, maybe two minutes, maybe twenty. 

Instead of dancing for others, I danced among others. Deeply immersed in our own experiences, we were each small separate parts of a larger body. There was no expectation to interact and engage with one other. Rather, you moved how you wanted to move. It was distinctly different from any sort of movement experience I’ve ever had. 

I saw the details of the ecstatic dance experience on Frizzant’s Instagram. I signed up immediately, despite not knowing what it was. Generally speaking, anything Frizzant does is excellent. More than that, I didn’t have plans for my Friday night and anything marketed as a movement experience without alcohol is up my alley. 

My ignorance was that I didn’t know ecstatic dance was a movement practice used around the world. I showed up to the Palace Hotel with absolutely no inkling of what the next two hours would be. In line to enter the room, I noticed people were wearing a variety of clothes. I went for a classic workout outfit, black leggings and a black long sleeve. Some people wore flowy dresses, a few in jeans. My curiosity increased. What were we about to do? 

When I imagined what it might be like, I anchored it to classes I had already been to. Maybe it might be like Daybreaker, an exuberant, joyful movement party that is also substance-free. Or perhaps, it would be like The Class by Tarn Toomey, an explosive and difficult movement class that pushes you to your edge physically so you can meet yourself emotionally. 

The ecstatic dance party was like nothing I had ever experienced. It had the same joyful exuberance of Daybreaker, but was different because there was no talking. The similarity to The Class was that it was an individual experience among others. But unlike The Class, there was no teacher. You moved how your body called you to move, which for me was sometimes not moving. I laid on the floor. I cried. I felt like a little kid again. 

Admittedly, I left for twenty minutes in the middle to grab my journal and write down the ideas that came flowing out of my brain. It was one of the most creativity-catalyzing experiences I’ve ever had. 

The only movement experience that I can even begin to call a comparison to are the dance classes I took as a child. We’d play a game called “Fairies and Goblins,” where the teacher would split the class in two and turn on music that was playful and light for the “fairies,” and

angry and dark for the “goblins.” We moved in the way our body wanted. Thrashing and throwing, or tiptoeing and twirling. Sometimes both. Honoring both light and dark. 

When I think of my childhood, this game stands out as one of the most important formatinal experiences for me. The practice of being in my body. Of being embodied. Moving without judging. I can’t remember the last time I let myself move in this way. Especially not as an adult. Moving not because it was “good” for me, or productive, or punishing, but because I felt like it. 

“My greatest desire is to be both free and connected.” A friend said this a few days ago and I can’t imagine a better way to describe the ecstatic dance experience at Frizzant. For two hours, I was both free and connected. I cannot wait to experience this again.

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