So you think you can dance? Well, you’re right. And not just at a local nightclub stuffed with awkward conversations and overpriced cocktails. Something sprouted in Hawaii, grew wider in Oakland, and has since spread to many other cities—including San Diego. It’s called Ecstatic Dance, and it seems to be transforming lives.
People gather all over the world to share intentional dance; the intention being a celebration of life, healing, movement, and connection. People also gather, all over the world, to experience states of blissful elevation induced by the electronic music flourishing in the festival scene. It was Max Fathom, on the Big Island of Hawaii, who first united the worlds of conscious dance and DJ culture. The sacred space is enhanced through two very simple guidelines: no talking on the dance floor, and respect the space and one another.
A pair of yoga teachers from the San Francisco Bay were blown away by what they experienced in Hawaii and decided to bring it to the mainland. They found the Historic Sweet’s Ballroom in Uptown Oakland with its 1924 original 8,000 square foot dance floor, huge windows, and mezzanine. Soon it was packed with hundreds of ecstatic dancers, thrilled to laugh, play, skip, twirl, weave, and jump around—knowing anything goes and everything is welcomed and encouraged. All ages, genders, colors, and sexual orientations are embraced.
“Dance is healing and releasing. It does amazing things for the body and soul. In dance, often our minds get out of the way, out of any negative stories we may have about ourselves while recognizing the endless beauty in others,” says Rob Armstrong, who attended Ecstatic Dance San Diego’s first event in Hillcrest last month.
Motivated by the desire to expand local opportunities for positive movement, Ecstatic Dance San Diego was co-founded by wellness instructors Jill Sheperd and Nancy Parker. “What I found in Ecstatic Dance was a place to go that allowed the euphoria, release of inhibitions and permission for full self-expression on the dance floor that I found in my younger days by going to clubs and partying,” says Parker.
Burt Lo, another attendee, says, “It’s not about hooking up, getting high, or hanging out. It is about blowing off steam, getting turned on, shaking off the work week. You don’t need to feel ‘right.’ You don’t want to feel ‘right.’ You want to let go of feeling ‘wrong.’”
Ecstatic Dance offers freedom from structured definitions of movement. Solid forms such as ballet, jazz, modern, and hip hop take on dynamic new dimensions. Prescribed patterns of socialization are ditched at the door. What emerges is an authentic and diverse rainbow of human energy that excites, engages, and empowers. It’s an embodied expression of sustainable community.
You can find Ecstatic Dance San Diego on Facebook!