Dance, ecstasy, Pina, play

Today I had three dance experiences, which made it a wonderfully memorable day.

  1. I participated in Ecstatic Dance Austin this morning.
  2. I saw the film Pina by Wim Wenders, about the late German dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch, her work, and her dancers.
  3. My friend Peggy and I walked and played our way around Town Lake.

There is a shortcut to ecstasy. It’s called dance. ~ Gabrielle Roth

I am in love with Ecstatic Dance Austin, feeling so grateful that I have two hours every Sunday morning as an outlet for my energy, movement, physicality, playfulness, experimentation, and connection.

Today it occurred to me that if I didn’t have this, I’d curl up in a ball and die, or at least be really depressed. When I’m struggling over relationships, finances, work, decisions, politics, life, this is a place where I can give all that heaviness over to Spirit and just move, feel, connect, play, and be present. Life becomes a dance.

It is joy to walk into a big dance studio with a great sound system playing the kind of music that invites movement. I move out onto the floor. I begin moving.

Because there’s no talking, I connect with people using eye contact, smiles, and sometimes hugs. Sometimes I create my own space by closing my eyes and dancing.

I smile a lot because I feel so radiant and happy. There’s joy in the present moment, of course. My more personal joy is that I’ve worked on my health for years with bodywork, yoga, and a clean diet, and I feel great. My stamina is good — I stay moving, even through the burning fire of dancing all-out chaos. My creativity is good — there’s no end to discovering rewarding movements that morph into new grooves. My capacity for living and dancing from joy is good — although I have moments when heavy thoughts arise in my awareness during dance, I can move through them and return to joy.

I find ecstatic dance to be a great healing antidote. If I’m suffering relationship woes, I can dance with men who appreciate me, move with me, play with me, honor me. They don’t know my story, and I don’t know theirs. We just dance. A couple of dances can restore my sense of being valued as a woman by the other sex.

And for days when I’m fed up with male egos, I can have playful, fun dances with women.

And of course, I can have dances with men or women, or men and women, any time for no reason at all except that we’re together in the studio, there’s some great music playing, and we share the joy.

The physicality of it, the improvisational nature of ecstatic dance, the freedom and goodness I feel in my body, the wave of rhythms that peaks somewhere in the middle just clear me out until nothing is left but sweat, breath, and oneness.

Afterward we sit or lie spent in a big circle on the floor and give ourselves a couple of minutes of silence. We say names. We have announcements. We mingle and leave.


Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost. ~ Pina Bausch

Pina, the film written, directed, and produced by Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Buena Vista Social Club), is showing at the Violet Crown in downtown Austin. The film has been nominated for Best Documentary for the Academy Awards. (Click the link to view the awesome trailer.)

Pina Bausch worked with Tanztheater Wuppertal in Berlin from 1973 until her sudden death in 2009. Rather than being a biographical documentary, Pina shows her choreographic work and the dancers who danced her work speaking about her.

Here’s a clip (it’s in 3D, by the way — first dance film in 3D, that I know of — thanks, Wim Wenders!):

And here’s another:

And another:

She painted with dancers, movement, costumes. Her dances are not ecstatic dance — they are choreographed — but from what I could tell, she started with improvisation, asking for instance for a dancer to show her joy. Although some of the dance is highly structured, it retains its aliveness.

The film is a revelation — about life, love, pain, loneliness, longing. And creativity and playfulness.

No, there was no hurricane that swept across the stage,
there were just … people performing
who moved differently then I knew
and who moved me as I had never been moved before.
After only a few moments I had a lump in my throat,
and after a few minutes of unbelieving amazement
I simply let go of my feelings
and cried unrestrainedly.
This had never happened to me before…
maybe in life, sometimes in the cinema,
but not when watching a rehearsed production,
let alone choreography.
This was not theatre, nor pantomime,
nor ballet and not at all opera.
Pina is, as you know,
the creator of a new art.
Dance theatre.

I loved seeing the dances, dancers, costumes, settings. This film inspires me. I want colorful, flowing, sexy evening gowns to dance in. I want to play with movement, to experiment, to have fun.


I can trust my friends. These people force me to examine, encourage me to grow. ~ Cher

Peggy is a dancer and choreographer and a dear friend of mine for years. Having just seen the film and danced our way out of the theater, we walked around Town Lake incorporating playful movements — stepping stylishly between two trees, walking on benches, doing asana on bridges, mimicking the arm gestures we saw in the film, striking poses, waving arms, adding twirls and hops into our walk.

We made our walk into a dance, and you know I’m such a sucker for dancing in unlikely places. The hike and bike trail is as good a place as any, maybe better than most.

It was a beautiful cloudy cool winter afternoon, and people were out enjoying themselves on the trail, walking, running, biking. Our play gave them a little extra enjoyment. People can be so serious, it’s like an illness. We put smiles on their faces.

As we played, we talked about creating dances. We shared some hilarious, outrageous, fun, engaging ideas for dances.

I hope we do them. I’m moved!

2 thoughts on “Dance, ecstasy, Pina, play

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.