This was an ecstatic dance session at Dance Camp, facilitated very elegantly by Philip Novotny. Not better than our own ecstatic dance star, Jewls, but different, and equally wonderful.
Filming and photography was allowed in the middle section, so I've got no documentation of the beautiful warm up and cool down. Here's what I sketched in my notebook.
1. warm up dance
2. gender polarity - women to the soft-floored space. men to the music (hard dance floor).
"take a stroll, see who's there. Saying hello to our tribe. Invite a practice of noticing how we invite connection with another. Duo, trio, quartet. How do we invite without words, through gesture, through mimicking, through passing in adjacency. Allow yourself to choose or be chosen. Notice how we say yes, how we suggest. Relaxing into the not knowing. If you haven't switched partners yet, explore that. How do we transition out of connection? How do we invite someone new? Notice how effective a pause is, how light we can touch as we suggest and invite."
giving interactive dance skills. great emphasis - notice, explore, invite
the small boys watch the men dance. this is feeding their understanding of masculinity, their comfort zones and boundaries for their own behaviour and identity
It's important for them to be able to see this.
Somehow watching the men dance together moves me to tears.
It's amazing how the women touch one another. They're wiggly and caress
the men are more straight and strong. They lift each other.
The men are half playfighting, half dancing.
Two women stand amid all the movement massaging one another's necks and grinning sublimely.
this has got to be one of the most beautiful things i've ever seen
somehow this space seems to hold it all, the LA divas, the gender queer bisexual stomper, the masculine men, the feminine men, old, young, mostly slenderish, attractive
(eye contact is really scary if you don't feel good about your face)
they joy on everyone's faces is clear to behold
After filming, I sit next to Steve on the edge of the dance floor. He's a 40-something man weighing maybe 18 stone, maybe 20. I ask him what he thinks about this.
"Ecstatic dance?" Pause. "Life doesn't get much better than this. This makes my soul feel alive again."
Naomi comes up to me. She's a pretty blonde woman in her late 30s, and she's been dancing most of the session. "I just love your smile!" she says. "It's so angelic!" I thank her warmly. "I get a bit intimidated by all this eye contact," I say. "Hearing things like that really helps."
I ask her about coming to dance camp.
"I came by accident for the first time last year. It pulled me in! I feel so much joy here. I have two metal rods in my back. I realised that my perceived limitations were just that - perceptions. It's been amazing to find out what my body can really do and feel."
I ask her about the metal. She turns around and lifts her shirt. A scar traces the full length of her spine.
The warm down is soft and slow and gentle and the group end draped over one another in pairs and piles and stillness.
Then when it's really over about half the group - oldies and youngens all - strip naked and run into the lake under the glorious midday sun.