I’m summarizing polyvagal theory, originated by Dr. Stephen Porges, from a 10:48-minute video interview of him. I’m doing this for my own understanding, and I want to share because it’s a new way of thinking about traumatic responses. It has major implications for my work, and I’ve added my own comments in brackets. I am sure I will continue to refine my understanding.
Dr. Porges says that polyvagal theory is the understanding of how our body reacts to various challenges. The autonomic nervous system [involuntary, like heart beat] has evolved in vertebrates, changing and adding new circuits that function in a hierarchy. The newer circuits can inhibit older circuits. The older circuits were circuits of defense. Continue reading →
I’ve been doing ecstatic dance since 1995, mostly in Austin. It’s brought me many gifts: a community of friends, inspiration, playfulness, release, sweat, cardio, deeper embodiment, awareness of my body/others/the space, hugs, a place to experiment with movement and energy, expression, connection, and the natural high that comes after dancing for an hour or two.
The availability of ecstatic dance in Austin has increased over the years, and the community evolves. I will list current opportunities here and update this blog post with changes when they occur.
At all of these dances, we dance barefoot in clothes we can move and sweat in. A facilitator puts together a program of danceable recorded music — and sometimes there’s live music. These dances take the form of a musical wave that usually follows the pattern of the 5 Rhythms wave (flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness) of the late Gabrielle Roth (shown above), starting slowly, building to a crescendo, and descending into stillness — a manifestation of the idea that each dance is a journey into yourself traversing different interior terrains.
The dance space is nonverbal — we take our conversations outside the space.
Boundaries are important. Not everyone wants to dance with a partner all the time or even to be touched. We read and use body language to say yes or no, and we don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want to dance with us. People dance alone, with partners (many or a few), or with groups of people.
The safety of all is important too. Some dances allow contact improv or acro-yoga (usually on the edges of the space) and others don’t. Some allow children and others don’t.
Courtesy: The New Yorker
Some facilitators offer a theme for the dance after a warmup. Some may offer a guided warmup, while others provide guidelines for newcomers.
All ages are welcome at most of these dances. I’ve danced with people that are nearing 80 and with babies in Snuglis on a parent’s chest. If you are considering bringing children, it’s probably a good idea to connect with the facilitator first. If you bring them, you will need to make sure they and the other dancers stay safe.
Also, most facilitators make earplugs or headphones available for those sensitive to loud music, children or adults — and you can always bring your own.
At the end there’s a closing circle, where OMs or a silent meditation may happen, people share their first names, and there may be some shareback about the experience and/or announcements from dancers, or not.
All of the founders and facilitators listed below are on Facebook, and some of the dances have their own Facebook page or website. Links are provided below for more details.
Tribal Joy meets Sunday mornings from 10-1 at The High Road, 700 Dawson (just south of the river with views of the downtown skyline). Oscar Madera is the founder and most frequent facilitator. $12, or buy 5 dances for $50 or 10 for $100. Tribal Joy and Ecstatic Soul Sessions honor each other’s dance cards.
Ecstatic Dance Austin (click here for website and to join email list) meets at Dark Clan Fight Lab, 1106 Smith Road #106 (near 183 and Bolm Rd. in east Austin) on Sundays, 9:30-12:30. David Baker and Ellen Evans are the founders and facilitators. $12.
Reset meets every Monday, 5:15-6:45 pm, at Dance International, 2417 Buell, in north Austin near Burnet and Steck. It was founded and is facilitated by Lisa DeLand, a 5 Rhythms teacher trained by Gabrielle Roth. $15.
Ecstatic Soul Sessions meets Tuesday evenings from 7:30-10 at The High Road. Mia E. Pem is the founder and frequent facilitator. On the first Tuesday of every month, there’s live music from Spirit Lab Music. $12 per dance, or buy 5 dances for $50 or 10 for $100. Tribal Joy and Ecstatic Soul Sessions honor each other’s dance cards.
Dance in the Park meets on Thursdays at Zilker Park (near Rock Island on the north side of Barton Springs Road) from 6:30-8 pm. Hosted by Jessica Rae Ellis. $10 suggested donation.
Indra’s Awarehouse, 7904 FM 969 (take MLK Blvd. east of Austin), offers ecstatic dance on Thursday nights, 7:30-10 pm, and Sunday nights, 6-9 pm. Randi Southard is the founder. $10.
Friday Ecstatic Dance is held on Fridays, 6:30-8:30, at Yoga Yoga Westgate, 4477 S. Lamar Unit 420. It starts with a guided meditation during warmup and offers a 5 Rhythms-based wave. Amparo Garcia-Crow is the founder, with Lisa DeLand, Donna Starnes, and others also facilitating. $10.
Step into Yes, for women only, meets the first Saturday of every month from 10:45 am-1 pm at the Life in the City sanctuary, 205 E. Monroe, off South Congress. Created and facilitated by 5 Rhythms teacher Lisa DeLand, Step into Yes includes a facilitated-by-a-dancer creative interlude sandwiched between a warmup and a 5 Rhythms wave. Sliding scale $15-25.
Rhythm Sanctuary is new to Austin, having taken root in the Boulder and Denver area. Shannon Gill-Jones is the founder, and Russ Ohlhausen facilitates. Dates TBD.