Ecstatic dance events are differentiated by being a talk free space. Some events feature a live DJ while other events feature curated music playlists, crafted by DJs. The music that is offered ranges from electronic dance music (EDM) to World Music with a wide variety of musical genres, often with little to no direction from facilitators to what ways community members should dance. The events are inclusive of all ages and are drug and alcohol free.
Ecstatic Dance is used to describe intentional dance events all over the world. There is no single format or guidelines that all events called Ecstatic Dance adhere to.
Ecstatic dancing is a collective practice has been cultivated throughout human history. There are many different formats of Ecstatic Dance that have developed today. Gabrielle Roth brought the awareness of term "Ecstatic Dance" back into existence in the 1970s with her dance called 5Rhythms and her first book Maps to Ecstasy. Roth never referred to 5Rhythms as Ecstatic Dance, rather Conscious Dance. Some of the first Ecstatic Dances were in Austin, Texas known as:"Body Choir" which was a non-for-profit organization developed in 1990s by Carola Marashi and friends. Max Fathom was a dancer who attended Austin's "Body Choir" and took its concept to Hawaii in the early 2000s. He became a volunteer at Kalani Honua, in Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii. He formed an Ecstatic Dance at Kalani that was a Community hosted event until 2009. Originally, his dance was spelled Ex-Static Dance and eventually was known by either spelling as the same event. Around the same time Ecstatic Dance Seattle also arose on the west coast.
Another dancer who was inspired by "Body Choir", Sydney 'Samadhi' Strahan, founded an Ecstatic Dance in Houston, Texas in 2003 which is known Ecstatic Dance Evolution for-profit business and branding. Strahan's format of Ecstatic Dance focuses on community unity, personal, and group transformation. It adheres to the musical structures of the Wave, 9 Vedic chakras, and the 8 Vedic Rasa (aesthetics) in every dance. Strahan has been training facilitators and ecstatic music curators since 2005. Since 2014 she has been offering training sessions to open other locations around the globe. Her training includes: one-on-one sessions and groups for facilitation, business, and Samadhi's style of music curation.
In 2006, Julia Ray started Tribal Dance Community (an Ecstatic Dance event in Toronto, Canada which emerged from years of teaching yoga and the desire to access our human potential in a more expanded way. For 5 years free-form movement, sounding, theatre, art installations and live and recorded music were all ways of exploring what is alive and wanting to be expressed organically. This format was simplified with the intention of creating a space that is more accessible with free-form movement and recorded and live music as central elements and with that Ecstatic Dance Toronto was born in 2012.
In 2008, Tyler Blank and Donna Carroll co-founded an Ecstatic Dance event in Oakland, California. Due to the central location and popularity of the Oakland Ecstatic Dance events, Oakland's Ecstatic Dance format has spread around the world. Blank founded an Ecstatic Dance non-for-profit organization with the mission of connecting communities and teaching how to start Ecstatic Dance events around the world, free of charge. Carroll started an Ecstatic Dance for-profit business and branding for Ecstatic Dance, focused on gaining income from training sessions, workshops, and merchandise. In 2012, Blank and Craig Kohland aka Sahuna of Shaman's Dream Music and Liquid Bloom held the 1st Annual Ecstatic Dance Retreat, at Kalani. The event has continued to be held every year since 2012.
Many Ecstatic Dance events have a format composed of 5 parts.
- Warmup (Music)
- Opening Circle with Guidelines and Agreements
- Program (Music)
- Closing Circle and Share-Back
Ecstatic Dance is described as a free form dance event, guided by a DJ'ed, crafted musical journey. The music selections and timeline of the journey should compose a bell curve or wave. The bell curve starts out calm, increases intensity until it comes to a peak, then returns to calmness.
- The Warmup music is very calm, with at least 15 or 20 minutes of Ambient or Acoustic music without a drum beat. After then, music with a drum beat or motivating rhythm is introduced. The Warmup in itself may be an entire journey, coming to a peak and back to calm. Or, it may only come to a peak without calm near the end, increasing the group energy before the Opening Circle.
- The Opening Circle is created by the Community Members when the Warmup is complete. At this time, the Facilitator in the role of the Voice of the Circle will speak to guide the group. Community Members typically sit making a circle in or around the dance space. The Voice of the Circle will welcome the Community Members, then explain and encourage Community Members to adhere to the Guidelines which create the container and essence of the event. The Voice of the Circle will either present an Invocation or introduce Community Members who will offer the Invocation.
- The Invocation consists of an original performance by one or several Community Members in cooperation, which may be composed of a poem, a prayer, a song, a combination, or another type of performance art.
- The Program is composed of music in a similar bell curve as the Warmup. However, the Program timeline is often longer than the Warmup and may include music selections of higher intensity for a longer, higher peak of the bell curve.
- The Closing Circle is similar to the Opening Circle. The Voice of the Circle will gently guide Community Members from a meditative state, often experienced near the end of the event, back to awareness of their surroundings. Then, Community Members typically sit in a circle in or around the dance space, as in the Opening Circle.
The Closing Circle is composed of 3 parts:
- Names: Community Members are encouraged to go around the circle, sharing their names.
- Share-Back: Share-Back (explanation below), is a unique and important part of the experience, and happens with random succession in a popcorn-style rather than going around the circle.
- Community Announcements: Community announcements allow Community Members to announce other events, goods for sale or personal offerings/requests.
Share-Back, occurring in The Closing Circle, is a significant part of the Ecstatic Dance experience.
Share Back is voluntary. In Share-Back, Community Members are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings about what they experienced at the event. Before the Share-Back section of the Closing Circle, the Voice of the Circle will explain the Guidelines of Share-Back. Community Members are encouraged to listen actively and to only respond with quiet, affirmative gestures. Share-Back from Community Members should only be about their experience at that particular Ecstatic Dance event.
Ecstatic Dance is collectively created by Community Members adhering to several Guidelines. By creating limitations, a container for transformation is created. Signing in and committing to be being self liable, as well at taking care of the space are typically the only hard requirements; Hosts and Facilitators attempt to be as inclusive as possible. Those who don’t follow the guidelines are treated with patience and respect, gently reminded of the guidelines/requirements. The guidelines are:
- Sign in and commit to being self-liable
- Make a contribution
- Keep the space talk free (and camera free)
- Take care of yourself and each other
- Take care of the space
- Sign in and commit to being self-liable:
In order to assure the event coordinators and the building owners that they are free of liability in circumstances of personal injury or death while participants are at Ecstatic Dance, signing a liability waiver is typically mandatory.
- Make a contribution:
Ecstatic Dance was originally supported by donation and volunteers and may still be done this way at some events. It was created and supported by the Hosts, Community, Founders, and Facilitators. Community Members are encouraged to give money or offer to contribute in other ways, in order to make the event financially and physically sustainable. A minimum financial contribution or time contribution may be requested. No one should be turned away due to lack of funds or ability.
- Keep the space talk free:
The Guideline to keep the space talk free is possibly the most memorable of the guidelines, and the one on which some Ecstatic Dance events hold as their primary or sole requirement. Keeping the space free of conversation is paramount to the experience of Ecstatic Dance; It allows Community Members to move into a meditative state, and to be in the moment. The prohibition of cameras and cellphones (unless with consensus permission) is included for the same purpose. It should be clarified that noises and vocalizations such as hoots, laughter, crying and other non-talk noises are okay. There are some exceptions, including clear use of the word, “No.” It may be necessary to speak, in order to be assertive with personal boundaries.
- Take care of yourself and each other:
Community Members are encouraged to embrace the journey they might encounter while at the event. Ecstatic Dance events can induce strong emotions. The event is meant to be a judgement free space for Community Members to embrace parts of themselves they may not normally feel safe to experience, and to support each other in their experiences. Community Members are encouraged to make nonverbal gestures in order to gain agreement before initiating partner or interactive dance. Community Members are also encouraged to maintain consciousness of their own movement in relationship to others, so as to avoid collisions.
- Take care of the space:
This guideline is intended to encourage Community Members to respect the rules of the venue. Depending on the venue, drinks or food, as well as glass bottles and other items may not be allowed. Certain shoes meant for dancing may or may not be allowed. Sweat is often a normal occurrence, and bringing towels to clean up after one’s self may be a requirement.
- Rooke, Jacques. "The Restorative Effects of Ecstatic Dance: A Qualitative Study" (PDF). Retrieved 29 March 2018.
- Kalani.com Blog
- Ecstatic Dance Evolution Mini-Documentary
- Ecstatic Dance (Elizabeth at Opening Circle) Part - 1 of 2 (video)
- Ecstatic Dance (Elizabeth at Opening Circle) Part - 2 of 2 (video)
- Mini Documentary of Ecstatic Dance in Toronto (video)
- Ecstatic Dance Promo (video)
- Community Insight: Ecstatic Dance Defined (video)
- Community Insight: Benefits of Ecstatic Dance (video)
- What to expect at an Ecstatic Dance (video)
- Leave Your Shoes at the Door – A Conscious Dance Documentary
This article needs additional or more specific categories. (August 2017)