Friday, July 8, 2016

Day 8: Ecstatic Dance

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. ~~ Nietzsche

When I found out today that I would be kid-free tonight, I had several choices of things to do. An art show. A festival to support women who can't afford personal products. Live music down by the river. A long bike ride. Ecstatic dance. I thought about trying to do everything, but that never works. Then I thought, What will get me out of my head that's close enough that I don't have to move my van out of my parking place in front of my house and lose it? All of them met the second criteria, but only ecstatic dance met the first. Ecstatic dance it was then.

I tried to find a video that would explain in images what ecstatic dance looks like, and it's one of those things that depends on who's running the show. I was first introduced to ecstatic dance years ago in a women's group where we danced to Gabrielle Roth's 5 rhythms, but the ecstatic dance we did tonight wasn't like that. So let's just say our ecstatic DJ, Max, played a mix of tribal and jazz  music, heavy on the percussion, and we danced in any way the music spirits moved us. Just the bass thumping, the drums beating, and bodies moving in whatever way we were moved to move.

I wanted to get outside of my own head tonight. I wanted to just move -- like I do when I'm riding my bike. But I wanted to be with people too. Not talking. Not fucking talking about all the shit that's happening -- both personal and out there. My mom fell and broke her hip a week ago, and had surgery today. I need to find a kindergarten for Coraline. My son's 4-year-old lab/boxer mix had cancer surgery and I'm taking care of him and his sister this weekend, trying not to let him get rowdy. My neighbors from 2 houses take up anywhere from 7-8 parking spaces every night and refuse to leave me just one for my van. And then there are the men out there killing and raping .... so many men killing. So many mothers' sons dying.

I wanted to shut it off for a couple of hours. Just feel my body moving, not feel helpless and angry and disgusted and afraid. Just bodies moving and sweating and swaying to music with a heavy, insistent beat. The sweet smell of Nag Champa in the air.

And move I did. I danced the entire time, using muscles that don't get used enough these days. Eyes closed, arms raised, hips swaying, feet pounding in the rotating disco lights, the music pulsing like a heart beat, like standing under a waterfall. I wanted it to wash me clean.

I tried to simply feel my body vibrating to the rhythm pounding, the energy of total acceptance in the room as we all did our own thing. No judgement. One man running through a series of what looked like a combination of yoga and martial arts moves, his muscles straining to hold the poses. It was hard not to watch him. A woman who barely moved to the rhythm, her eyes closed, just feeling her way. A man who put on a gossamer, transparent cloak that came down over his hands. In his hands, some kind of disco light balls that he moved in time to the music, gazing at them like a child with sparklers, dancing with just his hands. Others of us moving our bodies as we felt the music.

The only rules are 1. No talking. Vocalizing is OK. No talking. 2. If someone tries to dance with you and you don't want to, make prayer hands, bow, and say "namaste." I didn't see anybody try to dance with anybody else, but another time I was there a man came in late and was dancing with as many women as he could. That's another story. And that's it. Only 2 rules. Otherwise, just dance.

I thought I could dance out of my head -- out of all the bad news of the past days and weeks and months -- but try as I might, my body moved and my brain refused to just shut the fuck up. I looked around at these people -- most of them strangers to me -- and I thought how connected I felt to them. And how safe.

And then I thought how we would all have to leave, and some of us would not be safe after we walked out of the door. Some of us would need to be more cautious, because of the color of our skin or the vaginas between our legs or both. Try as I might, I couldn't let go of that thought.

After the dance was over, we all greeted each other, hugged in spite of our sweatiness and smiled and felt how the music and the dancing had connected us, even those of us who were strangers. Told our names to each other.

I said to a woman about my age, a Black woman, "I needed to dance tonight so I could be in my body instead of my head."

She said, "Yes. Me too. But it didn't happen tonight. I couldn't stop thinking."

"Me either," I said. And then we just looked at each other for a long moment, because there wasn't anything else to say. We both knew. We hugged again. We can only give small comfort.

If only we all danced more, and shot guns at each other .... never.


  1. This is such a great idea to do on a kid-free night!Did you find a video online? It'll be great if you could share a link.

    1. Here's one that's a mini documentary that I like.