When I was asked to present at the first ever Conscious Dance Conference I felt very privileged.
You see I am acutely aware that Ecstatic Dance is often seen as the black sheep of the Conscious Dance family. There is a prevalent idea, especially in North America, that Ecstatic Dance is not conscious dance. That Ecstatic Dances are more of a party, a spiritual bypass free for all. The misunderstanding seems to be rooted in two misconceptions. First that Ecstatic Dances are completely free from verbal guidance and therefore the possibility to influence the group field creating community. Second, and quite understandably given its name, that there is a goal to a reach Ecstatic highs, which lacks consciousness by not honouring the full spectrum of human emotion which could potentially arise during the dance. I say I feel privileged to have been asked to join the Conscious Dance Conference because I am grateful to be given the opportunity to dispel this myth.
In July 2018 I walked into Club 8 on Amsterdam’s west side. I had NEVER been to an Ecstatic Dance held in a night club before. Honestly wondered how it was even possible. The vibe felt so clubby! This would be the location for our Ecstatic Dance 2018 Leadership training. Often we began our events with an Ecstatic Dance as a teaching tool. We were visiting it a month early to get a lay of the land. This particular Sunday morning my dear friend was to DJ and I was there to be one of her “space angels”, a group of volunteers who arrive early to help set up. Along with the DJ and the space angels there is another role to be filled, that of the ceremony leader. This particular morning this role was to be filled by a man named Tom Goldhand
“Tom is a dancer, dance teacher and group facilitator, co-founder and facilitator of Ecstatic Dance Amsterdam, owner and manager of Sadhana Dance School.”
After carefully cleaning the floors, setting up tea stations and arranging the altar we came together in a circle. Dropped in and wished each other a fruitful dance before the dancers began to arrive. When the room was about 80 dancers full Tom began to work magic. He lead what I would call a body centred dance exploration with light verbal guidance for 25 minutes, dropping them well prepared into a 2 hour musical set to explore his skilled facilitation. Tom did not leave the dance floor for those 2 hours. I saw how seriously he took his role as space holder; dancing through dips in energy, including those on the periphery and gently reminding people that this was a non verbal space. He was aware, present and ended the event by bringing the people back to themselves, the room and each other; readying them to walk out into the warm Sunday Amsterdam afternoon having been changed by the dance.
While I am sure some of the dancers achieved ecstasy, others did not. It is a bit of a misnomer the name Ecstatic Dance. It works, and has taken hold and so globally we seem to be going with the name but “Full Spectrum of Emotion Dance” might be a better fit if it had any ring to it. Through the guidance of the music delivered by the Dj and the deft facilitation of Tom a container was created which gave permission for the dancers to explore all of who they were in the dance that day.
That day the room eventually filled with approx. 140 dancers. It was hot, sweaty and dark, it looked like a night club, but it didn’t feel like one. It felt like a group of people coming together in consciousness to dance. It was very much a conscious dance.
In the past year I have attended Ecstatic Dances in Portugal, The Netherlands, Guatemala, Italy, Belgium, the UK, the US, Canada and Greece . Each ED does it a little differently. Some begin with yoga classes, some with contact improv, others meditation. Many are held by a dedicated leader, a space holder whose job it is to attend to the physical, metaphysical, and emotional space for the entire duration of the dance. Often these ceremony leaders are trained in another conscious dance modality. I have encountered ceremony leaders trained in BioDanza, Movement Medicine, 5R, Open Floor, Soul Motion and Gestalt. Some ceremony leaders, as they are commonly called in Europe, guide through the body, others have a more spiritual bent while other still lead in through emotion or global happenings. Some openings last 5 minutes, other 15, some dances don’t have verbal openers at all. But there always seems to be a lot of preparation of one kind or another to set the tone of consciousness.
And so as I present at this first ever Online Conscious Dance Conference I hope to open the door for other conscious dance facilitators and practitioners to better understand that Ecstatic Dance has a place at the Conscious Dance table. I hope you join me.