I recently attended an Ecstatic Dance workshop in Gillingham, Kent. Ecstatic Dance is an active meditation method using movement, music and breath. This is my second session. There are ten participants. All women.
We’ve been through the warm up and the shake and are dancing to music that sounds almost tribal, with drumming and rattles and a hint of the Celtic.
As I move my body, with eyes closed, a memory comes back to me of a night out in Lincoln many years ago.
I’m in a nightclub dancing. A man approaches me. I assume he’s going to ask me to dance. He leans towards me and shouts over the music. ‘Hey. Me and my mates over there,’ he points towards the bar. ‘We want you to know that you’ve won the prize … for being the worst dancer on the dance floor.’
He hesitates for a moment, then laughs and walks away.
I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face. I fight back tears and carry on dancing, feeling awkward and exposed.
I’d completely forgotten about this incident until now. In the remembering I feel once again the tears.
Now I let them come. I let them flow down my cheeks. I feel the emotional pain and the embarrassment and move my body to connect with them instead of pushing them away. I hear , the workshop facilitator, reminding us to breathe and realise that I’m holding my breath.
I drag my body around. Anger comes up. I stamp my feet and punch the air with fists. I become aware that this has affected me deeply. I have accepted a comment from a half-drunk man, and his friends, all those years ago, as proof that I am a terrible dancer. I see that a big part of me still believes it.
One good thing about it happening to me, I suddenly realise, is that because I won the prize, nobody else had to. Not on that night at least.
I decide to dance the worst dance I possibly can.
I breathe in and channel the emotion into my movements. I dance embarrassment. I drop my head, bend forward and move with hunched shoulders. The music helps me, as does the breath. I take the feeling of ‘awkward’ and dance it, jerking my arms around and stepping from side to side out of time.
I notice that the memory is connected to tension in my body, and heaviness. It makes me feel tired. Makes my energy drain away. It is taking a lot of effort to be the worst dancer.
But as I dance and breathe, something begins to change. It becomes harder and harder to stay out of time. Trying to be the worst dancer is as much of a struggle as trying to be the best dancer. So I give up. I stop trying to be anything and concentrate on the breath instead. I listen to the music. I let my body do what it wants.
I allow myself to let go. There are no rules. Anything goes. Movements begin to flow. They become easy. I’m spinning, flying. No effort is needed. I feel light and notice myself smiling.
And suddenly I am saying to myself, ‘I can dance. I can dance. I can dance.’ Over and over again.
I can feel the energy in the room. It’s supportive and positive.
The music slows and Evi is instructing us to lie on the floor on a blanket and relax. We’ve been dancing for almost an hour and yet it seems as though we only just started.
Something interesting happens to my perception of time during this process.
And something even more interesting is happening to my ability to let go and dance.
For more information about the method and details of classes visit FreedOm