The first time I heard about ecstatic dance I rolled my eyes and shrugged it off as some hippie nonsense. I envisioned a bunch of people with lots of body hair pretentiously and annoyingly gyrating with cult-like verve, replete with body odor and intense eye contact.
I figured it was great for some people. Just not me. Then I kept hearing about how fun it was.
I love to dance. I dance around while cooking and cleaning. I seat dance in the car while driving. I throw dance parties at my house. The more I heard about it, the more intrigued I became about ecstatic dance, but I was still reluctant to go. I feared the unfamiliar. What if I don’t like the music? What if I’m forced to interact with strangers? What if someone touches me? What if I don’t fit in? While I was judging the hairy hippies, I was afraid they’d be judging me.
Then I went.
I felt a bit awkward at first, unsure of what to do with myself. I took a seat on the floor with my back against the wall and surveyed the scene. People around the room were warming up—stretching, neck rolling, shaking their limbs as if they were about to step into a boxing ring or run a marathon. I wondered if I should leave.
After few minutes, a facilitator called everyone to circle up. During this convocation, she reviewed the dance guidelines which heavily emphasized respect and consent. It was not ok to try to engage in dance with someone who didn’t indicate a reciprocal interest. No one was to stare at anyone or to have conversations on or near the dance floor. Anyone was free to move however much or little felt good to them. It was clear that this was a safe space for everyone.
Quite a far cry from dance floors with drunken assholes hovering or grinding up on you. I was relieved.
When the circle closed, a guy to my left made his way into the center of the room by scooting forward on his belly, like an inchworm. Oh jeez. Once again, I wondered if I should leave.
The music started slowly and people began writhing on the floor. As the music increased in tempo, people moved faster and rose to their feet. I followed suit, feeling a little silly. The more experienced dancers just went for it and it was obvious that no one cared what anyone else was doing. This was not a space for judgment. Rather, it was a space for free expression. I exhaled fully and let the music take me.
I spent the next two hours immersed in movement. At one point I felt overcome by a wave of emotion and started crying. I danced and cried, knowing that it was absolutely safe and ok for me to do that. I let the music carry my body and while this was happening I silently processed so many feelings. By the end, I felt lighter and more clear.
The music slowed down and people ended up on the floor once again. During the closing circle, people shared how they were feeling and how much they appreciated the community.
As a highly sensitive person, being amongst large groups of people can often feel overwhelming. But the energy here was vibrant and positive. It felt like showering in sunlight—uplifting and refreshing. Being around people who understand the healing power of movement and who support others in their experience, or at least pass no judgment, is truly special. I’ll keep dancing in my car and in my kitchen but I’ll also keep enjoying the collective movement experience.
Turns out, all kinds of people attend ecstatic dance. People of various ages, races and walks of life can enjoy the universal language of dance. Which is pretty fucking cool, in my opinion. Even if there’s some body odor and eye contact 😉
I pushed past fear and presumption and stepped out of my comfort zone to try something new. I’m really glad I did.
What about you? Would you enjoy ecstatic dance? Is there something else you’ve been wanting to do but feel reluctant to try? Let me know, I’d love to hear!
With Love & Compassion,
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.