I can feel both dance and music changing and healing my brain’s neurons. Seriously. We can change our brains and I’m doing it. Neuroplasticity. There is a multitude of ways to heal. My self-directed protocol involves many different things.
A friend of mine asked today what ecstatic dance looks like. I’ve tried to find good videos on youtube and it’s really hard to find anything that catches the essence for me. What happens on the dance floor is actually very intimate and I suppose that is why there aren’t all that many videos online. Filming and photography isn’t allowed in the community I dance with. In any case, I’ve collected a few videos below that together might help people get a feeling for what dancing in community looks and feels like.
Dancing is a practice and discipline. The ecstatic aspect can be light or dark. People might cry either in despair or in joy on the dance floor. Anything goes. You can curl up in the fetal position in a corner and cry or leap as high as you can while running in circles. I have spent time sitting cross-legged in meditation or laying on my back with my feet up the wall. Feeling the vibrations of dancing feet and loud music while lying flat on the floor is quite nice too. The practice involves letting the body do what it wants to do. All while wonderful music pulsates around us as well. It’s a liberating and lovely celebration every single time I partake and that holds true whether I’m in a good mood or not because this is a place where any mood is okay. It’s a safe and beautiful space to feel and emote as we need to among others who allow for that which is human to unfold to music and movement.
This one has a guy telling his story of how he uses dance as a practice.
“I praise the dance, for it frees people from the burdensome; from the things that threaten to dominate the spirit and make it heavy, and to unravel the loose ends of the soul. I praise the dance, for it binds body, mind, and soul into a human whole; it binds the scattered people into a new community; it binds the community into a new space and time. I praise the dance. Dance transforms the person. Humans are constantly in danger of disintegrating, becoming only brain, will, or feeling. Dancing, however, demands the whole person, fully centered, resting on the breath; not possessed by motivation, or the desire for people and things, which is due to the demon of self-isolation. … I praise the dance, for it transforms space, it transforms time, it transforms people and community. The dance can transform us. We are all turned to stone if we forget how to dance and continue to covet things and let them dance around us. I praise the dance for it makes the dead live.” — George Goestch (attribution is a bit unclear but it seems most think that Goestch wrote this)
Gabrielle Roth said: ”When you put the psyche in motion it heals itself.”
Moving in many different ways has become and will remain a foundational aspect of becoming well for me. I do yoga, I walk, I dance, I garden and I mindfully am present with the movements of my body when I do just about everything. Even when I do the dishes or any other household chores. Becoming conscious of our incredibly lovely animal bodies can be a deep and profound joy. The wonderful thing about this is doing something like mowing the lawn ceases to be a chore. It becomes time to be with your lovely body.
In dance we can go deep into that which doesn’t come up in other more ordinary movements.
Noted artist, philosopher, and dancer Gabrielle Roth devoted her life to honoring and communicating the language of primal movement and experimental theater. Since the mid-1960s, Roth has taken thousands of people on a journey from physical and emotional inertia to the freedom of ecstasy, from the tyranny of the chattering ego-mind to the blessed emptiness of stillness.
We need to free our bodies and mind!! There is no separation.
More ECSTATIC DANCE on Beyond Meds (scroll down for past posts)
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Thank for this, very interesting! I was lucky enough to attend a yoga dance class recently and it was an incredible, therapeutic experience. At one point toward the end I was absolutely mortified because I started crying, but several other people did too.
great to hear you’ve found such a class.
I actually do a lot of yoga when I do ecstatic dance…or perhaps I should say, yoga inspired movement and stretches…I sometimes call what I do self-directed body work. Therapeutic body work releases trauma from the body and cathartic emoting is the rule in such therapies. In dance too, this is very normal. It takes a while to feel safe in such settings, but once we see others release and do whatever it is their bodies need doing we find that we too can follow suit and find great healing and integration in the process.
Yogic dance is similar…I was taking a class for while that was pretty much yogic dance as well…the teacher called it Interpretive Intuitive Yoga…it was really great…it’s no longer offered at my yoga studio…but basically it’s often what I’m doing on the ecstatic dance floor in any case, as I just said.
I’m so grateful for all the options I have in my community…I know it’s not always easy to find stuff like this.
I should say, however, that I started dancing in my house…all by myself…before I could go out on a regular basis. Sometimes for just a few minutes at a time (or even 30 seconds) when I had no stamina. I started listening to my body before I could move much at all…in bed…really when I started doing yoga so that I could once again stand and walk and rejoin the world. The general idea is always the same…on and off the dance floor! Learning to listen to the body.
Dear Monica Cassini,
Wholeheartedly agree with body and soul that dancing activates healing powers.
I have a dream: Social dance lessons in the community to enhance embodied-ensouled empowerment in the fine felt nuances of shared-mirrored, mutually sensed movements in a common, peopled space: the dance floor. Especially for people who experienced abuse, neglect and te subsequent fading out of the mutually ensouled bodily-being (alive).
Pierre Dulaine has developed social dance programmes for disempowered, marginalized youths in the US and one has even been adapted for practice in psych hospital and community in Switzerland. ‘Patients’ and ‘staff’ dance together!
Take the lead… with chacha, samba, foxtrott, waltz … in fine, focused, flexible, fabulous dance-partner teams.
I have this dream to come alive in community programmes for embodied mental health xxx
I cried watching these. I have experienced ecstatic dance while listening to trance music in my own home with no one watching me. Most times now my body pain is to significant to move like I want to. I love to dance. I think I will now start again, slowly and gentle..The benefits are too great to ignore. I like the feeling of chemicals releasing up my spine when it happen. thank you for this
as I say in the post I sometimes hardly move…and you know what? I can feel my cells dancing!! please do give it a go! it’s wonderful.
Dancing is something that connects one to their most hidden animal/human instincts. In some religions dancing trance is a part of a ritual connecting people to the spirit world. It is healing and it is empowering.