Put Your Soul in Motion: Dance Outside the Box

Written by on October 1, 2006 in Art, Features, Health

Ecstatic Dance and TranceDance offer respite for body and soul
by Lisa Olson, MoveStudio

“The joy of movement is the language of the soul. When the body is touched by the soul, dance or movement with awareness is born. In all cultures, dance is a way that the sacred is actualized. The body, the offering, holds the ‘mana’, the energy of that which is blessing. It is through concentration, and movement meeting with devotion, that these intentions are put into action. Moved through inspiration, the body becomes a sacred living text. In this way joy spills forth, and the dance of life is.” © Zuleikha, 2005

If you have been looking for a way to expand your fitness practice, move more freely and create new ways to physically express yourself and experience your body, you might consider dancing ‘outside the box’ with two innovative and expressive forms of movement.

These two practices are Ecstatic Dance and TranceDance. While there are dozens of different dance and movement modalities out there, for many reasons, you may find these two to be a particularly enjoyable integration of body, mind and spirit.

No wrong moves – Many have found these dance forms to offer a welcomed break from the conscientious techniques, proper form and the oftentimes structured routines of other dance and fitness forms. For example, a student in a Step Aerobics class may find the structured, right-or-wrong techniques to be limiting or frustrating, even avoiding class for fear of feeling uncoordinated or clumsy. In TranceDance and Ecstatic Dance, however, there is no choreography or proper form or technique to dance by. This can be a welcome change for anyone, regardless of fitness experience or background. However, don’t mistake the unstructured lack of choreography as a lack of intention or purpose. Both forms of dance are heavily latent with intention and focus.

To facilitate this healing experience, the dancer’s eyes are blindfolded with a bandanna. The sensory limitation eliminates distractions and outer stimulation to the brain, stimulating an inner vision and an altered state of consciousness. “Spotters” are present to ensure participants’ safety. Each session includes a group discussion and orientation to TranceDance, as well as time to set one’s own personal intentions for the journey.

Ecstatic Dance is an authentic, spontaneous, expressive, meditative movement practice inspired by various freedance practices, including 5Rhythms™, a dance practice created by noted artist, philosopher and healer, Gabrielle Roth. Roth has devoted her life to exploring and communicating the language of primal movement and experimental theater. In her book, “Dance to Ecstasy,” Roth designates the five rhythms as: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness.

Robin Parker, owner and director of MoveStudio, in North Dallas, has facilitated Ecstatic Dance gatherings on Sundays at her studio for the last five years. She says “It’s about putting your soul in motion and giving yourself permission to dance without holding back.”

The Ecstatic Dance experience often includes the use of imagery or visualization in the dance. For example, objects such as weighted ballet bars, hula hoops and medicine balls might be placed around the room to symbolize life’s obstacles and challenges. The dance then becomes a personal metaphor for “dancing” with life, its ups and downs, and navigating through, around and over whatever may come your way.

Powerful, exotic music – Music plays an integral role in the both the Ecstatic and TranceDance experience. The music one might hear in an Ecstatic Dance class varies from slow, steady electronic beats and rhythms to uplifting funk, hip-hop or exotically mesmerizing world music with Asian, Middle Eastern or tribal flair.

Be prepared to sweat – Those who are looking to add more cardio time to their dance or fitness routines will appreciate the workout they get from Ecstatic Dance.
Each Sunday session of Ecstatic Dance typically begins with a self-directed warm-up and brief opening circle to get present and set intentions for the dance. Most dancers do so barefoot, dancing at their own pace for a little more than an hour. The music gradually builds to a high energy level and then winds back down to a meditative, relaxing finish. “I sweat my tail off!” says one Ecstatic Dancer, “But I love it. You won’t catch me in a gym taking an aerobics class, but this reminds me more of dancing in the living room with girlfriends as a teen, than it does exercise. I lose myself in it and I know I’m giving my body a gift.”

Careful.. you might get more than you expected – The spiritual and emotional benefits of both TranceDance and Ecstatic Dance weigh as heavily as the physical benefits.

Participants of Ecstatic Dance report a variety of experiences during the dance. Aside from simply being a fun dance workout, Ecstatic Dance offers the potential for connection with other people, release of stress and tension and an overall sense of well-being. Some Ecstatic Dancers even report transcendental experiences, gaining insights or revelations about personal issues, feelings of intense joy and ecstasy and a deep sense of divine oneness. Like the dance itself, the experience of each dance (and of each dancer) is unique.

Learn more – Visit www.gabrielleroth.com to learn more about these unique and powerful dance forms. If you’re interested in experiencing TranceDance or Ecstatic Dance for yourself, visit www.movestudio.com or call 972-732-0206 for a complete schedule of upcoming TranceDance and Ecstatic Dance classes and workshops. “I never thought of myself as a dancer,” shares a regular TranceDance participant, “But TranceDance has shown me that movement and dance are a spiritual practice for me. Dancing frees me and brings me back into my body. I think of dancing now as my birthright.”

“Dance reaches above and below to make one out of our earthly, heavenly, and deep selves. It is how we use the very stuff of which we are created to be a voice of the universe, reverberating far beyond ourselves.” – Carolyn Boyd


About the author: Lisa Olson is a writer and the Marketing/Communications Manager of MoveStudio in North Dallas. When she is not writing, marketing or communicating, she loves to move and has recently developed a passion for Middle Eastern and Ecstatic Dance. MoveStudio offers classes in Pilates, Nia, belly dancing, yoga and more. For more info, visit www.movestudio.com or contact Lisa directly at lisa@movestudio.com.

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