One of my practices is ecstatic dance. I discovered it in 1995 in Austin, and it became part of my life. Gabrielle was my primary teacher, through teachers she trained and also in person.
Gabrielle was, well, not the inventor of ecstatic dance, since I’m pretty sure it was happening the moment humans began creating rhythm, perhaps even before then in response to nature’s rhythms, shapes, sounds.
She named these rhythms and sequenced them: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness. A wave.
If you’re not familiar with it, ecstatic dance is not performative. It is about connecting with your own body, moving from the inside out. We dance like nobody is watching.
I have danced with several of the people in this video: Kathy, Lori, Andrea, Vincent, Ya’acov, Jo, Michael, Amara, and I met Robert.
Watch Gabrielle move at the end.
Most of my ecstatic dancing has been here in Austin, which offers many choices now, though we started as Sweat Your Prayers, dancing the 5 rhythms.
I’ve danced in Dallas, Santa Fe, Taos, Mill Valley, Santa Cruz, London, Montreal, and DC.
My primary teachers have been Claire Alexander, Lisa DeLand, and Oscar Madera.
Ecstatic dance helped me get into my body and move in an authentic and pleasurable way, challenging myself to find all the movements, developing finer coordination and balance, being able to hold my space in a room full of dancers, connecting, becoming part of a community.
Over these many years through this practice, I developed an auditory-kinesthetic synesthesia, in which sound and movement are one. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to tune into my body and let what wants to move, to move with the music.
Dancers enjoy the fun of dancing. It’s not intellectual. It’s not serious. We are present and full of vitality, aware and responsive. We show up with who we are. We communicate nonverbally, inviting another to move with us, or moving into our own solo dance, with eye contact (or lack of it), using prayer hands, touch (with explicit consent), bows, moving toward or away, expressing with body language.
We tend to hug a lot, and we’re pretty good at it.
I’m so grateful to have found ecstatic dance and to have practiced it for nearly 30 years. I believe it’s helping to keep me young, and the older I get, the younger I get!
For more of Gabrielle herself, she spoke at the Breath of Life Conference in London in 2009. Here’s the video.