Monday, 8 June 2009

Ecstatic Dance Temple

I went to
Ecstatic Dance Temple in a Church in Camden last night.

It unleashed something wild in me.

It was pretty psychedelic. There were about 20 young, fit hippies, some drummers, a woman with a mic and a DJ. It was in a church, with glowing fairy lights, dark corners, an Om sign and a statue of a Hindu God placed beneath the cross.

I liked the warm up but the part that really got me was the shaking. I've done shaking before with Jewls and it didn't get me like this. I think it was the live drummers this time. Their rhythms took my body. Actually, the rhythms were in a gentle tug of war for power with my head.

We'd been told to let the movement be led by the coxyx, and to encourage the hands and the head to shake too. The drums made my coxyx go mental. Mental. Powerful, violent argh what's the word – convulsions, that's it, but rhythmic convulsions starting in my coxyx, pelvorising up through my body and shaking my chest, really shaking it, totally within the rhythm, powered by the rhythm. The loss of control scared my mind a bit. It would come back in and say – 'ah ha! But look, I can wiggle my hips from side to side – isn't that good?' and my movement would change, the kind of possession would end, and I would feel in control again. Then the rhythm would dance back into my body and start dancing it again in it's violent, incredible convulsions. 'Warning: risk of whiplash' said head. It was true, my neck was starting to feel bad. I engaged my abs to stop my spine from wiggling so furiously, and the rhythm took me again.

I've had a shit week. And in that dark corner at the back of the church it was like all the power of it was coming out. And it came, and came, and came. I don't know how long the shaking continued for, maybe 15 minutes, maybe 30. I was drenched with sweat, and quietly glad to be able to let all this intensity move.

Some people have talked about feeling fear within a trance state, because it's an unknown territory without sense of direction or protection, like swimming in the deep sea and you don't know what monsters are in there.

I haven't felt that before. In the few trance states I've been taken into, I've only known bliss.

I didn't go into a trance last night. My friend Mark thinks he did. I didn't, but when the rhythm started to really take me and I let it, I went into darkness. I had to call for God to be with me. God be with me, I said. God be with me.

That brought me back from the darkness.

There was more darkness there overall last night than in other things, for me. There was something very Camden about it. It feels like, there are people who live in more innocence than others. Adults. I live with innocence and non innocence. I think last night, maybe those people lived in less innocence. There was maybe more chaos, darkness, cigarettes and alcohol in their lives. Less security. Maybe. I don't know. I'm making huge judgements. Maybe it was my week. My darkness. I lived in more darkness than normal this week.

Then we did a particular kind of breathing and had a free dance, for about forty minutes, to psychedelic music and live drumming. That was WICKED. I bounced around furiously and freely and I was delighted, delighted. I was happy and free. I had such intensity and so much energy. It felt like an endless enormous torrent of energy. I felt so alive. London has been making me feel half dead. Last night I felt so alive.

Some of the rhythms got me shaking again, and this time it was Sexy. Powerful, powerful, fast, big gyrations of the hips and body like an African mama, like those kids on the streets of New York you see in the videos, but like nothing learnt or copied, something instinctive coming out of the body. And I was free to just let it go and it went and it went.

Then we lay on the floor, they played rain sticks and sung songs to calm us, we had a small meditation circle, Om'd three times and drank tea, and left feeling so clean and clear and good, really good, unflutterable.

At about 1am as I got into the shower, my skin felt so very soft, and I can't help but tell you that my breasts and bottom were really firm and smooth and round and, dare I say it, pert. The skin on my face was taught and I looked beautiful to myself. This is not my usual self perception. My body felt really different, lifted, infused with some kind of primal sexy animal woman earth spirit. Was that coincidence? Did the Ecstatic dance somehow produce it?

Digging around online, all the imagery around trance dance seems to involve nearly naked women dancing to drums. Is there something about female sexual energy and real drums and the feeling I had in my body during and after the trance dance - is there something about that that's common experience - hence the images? Or is it simply that sexy scantily clad women make things look attractive to women who want to look like that and men who want to look at women who look like that?

Overall, my questions are:
Does it have to be that dark?
Does it have to be that psychedelic? Can it be a bit dehippyfied and a bit more accessible?
It was similar to Anna Halprin but more intense and wild, and more dark.
Who can and can't enjoy this?
Was I duped all those years thinking it was the drugs that made me feel so high and actually it was just the dancing I did on the drugs?
Should the kids be doing this instead? :)

I reckon the live drummers made all the difference.


She said that the shaking practice comes from Ratu Bagus. He's based in Indonesia. The people in this video don't seem to have experienced that darkness. I have to say though, like a lot of this stuff, it looks more than a little bit mental...

And that Frank Natale is the father of contemporary ecstatic trance dance. He's dead now, but according to his website "The last years of his work were dedicated to a large extent towards the study of extraordinary states of consciousness." Who knows what he was thinking?

I did Ecstatic dance for the first time with Jewls Wingfield at Buddhafield festival in 2005. At the end I somehow managed to fall in love with most people in the room. Most of them were strangers. The dancing dissolved into endless embraces. Jewls knows some magic.

Wierdly I just found a picture of me in there in flickr while looking for pics of ecstatic dance for this post. i'm the short haired one right in the middle.

1 comment:

  1. Hannah and I have been shaking. I also spent a week in Spain shaking every morning with the fools as one of them is a big Ratu fan and has followed him all over the world. We shook in the early morning light in a beautiful wood fired room in the mountains all to the rhythms from an organ. Bossa nova was the favourite.