(What Dance Means to People)

Within our book we have include a few lovely little stories from dancers about their experience with dance. Usually just a couple of paragraphs. Here we have some longer lovely accounts of conscious dance from others. Enjoy!

Short Stories

Liberation in Dance -- Minnie Chu

To me, dancing is a form of liberation. It's a chance to connect with my body, feeling its strength and grace as I move through space. When I dance, I try to be both in control of my movements and also letting go, allowing myself to express and explore. Through dance, I've discovered new aspects of myself and felt a profound sense of connection with the world around me. It leaves me feeling alive and grateful, almost every single time.

-- Minnie Chu

Building Ecstatic Energy -- Tyler Blank

After attending the original ecstatic dance on the Big Island of Hawaii at Kalani, we were inspired to start the 2nd ever ecstatic dance in Oakland, CA. We asked permission from the founders on the Big Island to do so. They gave us their blessings, and the simple guidelines that create the container for ecstatic dance. We looked for an inspiring building to house the dancing community we envisioned, an urban version of Kalani, and found it in the historic Sweet’s Ballroom, in the heart of Oakland.

It didn’t matter that we were both homeless, living our of our vans, we just wanted a place to dance as our home. Despite having amazing, talented DJs, a great sound system, and an incredible space, we still struggled to pay rent each and every week for the first 6 months. But we were determined to be able to dance ecstatically in our own home town. We added ecstatic dance Wednesday nights, and slowly, very slowly…  we attracted a devoted community of freeform dance and electronic/world music lovers. Over the next 10 years we grew to over 300 dancers twice a week!  We made ecstatic dance a non-profit, and allowed anyone to follow in our footsteps, as long as they followed the simple guidelines laid out by ecstatic dance Big Island.

As a result, the “Open Source Dance Technology” that is ecstatic dance is now held in over 500 cities globally.

-- Tyler Blank     (founder of - Oakland, SF,  & Fairfax)

Opening Up My Eyes to Consent -- Kiiut Katt

Before to arrive to The Bay, I used to dance with my eyes close, all the time. That was my best way to set boundaries and keep myself safe. The first time that I did contact I was so surprised about the ownership of the no and that is ok to say it in any moment, when you feel it. That I was not obligated to continue any dance at least that I desire that, I stated to try different ways to say no, finish a dance or even say yes, because by keeping my eyes close, I was also missing super great possible dances!

Sounds silly but sometimes we underestimate how hard is to set our boundaries and how amazing feels when we respect them. Once that I learnt how to say No, I started to enjoy even more my yes! My dances were way more meaningful, my No were celebrated, respected, encouraged. And I actually got to dance with a lot of wonderful people instead of just myself!

-- Kiiut Katt

Dance as a Microcosm -- Patrick McConnell

Dance is a microcosm of everything happening in my world. It instantly reveals my soul’s truth of how I’m feeling on any given day and is a mirror for how I'm showing up in the world. It is as much a part of my spiritual practice as seated meditation. It is as much a part of my movement practice as hitting the gym. It is as much a part of my social life as meeting up with friends for dinner. In fact, it is the only practice I’ve found that consistently elevates my mind, body, and spirit.

Dance pushes me to my edges and well beyond my comfort zone. It’s a rocket ship for growth and confidence. It holds me in my most tender of moments, and lifts me up in my most courageous of triumphs. It is a vessel for play, silliness, and laughter. It is my creative teacher and personal tour guide through the essence of my being. Dance has made me a better friend, lover, and son, and it’s a constant reminder to not take life too seriously. Dance, in many ways, is my church, and I will continue to pray to the God of joy through goofy footwork and funky jams.

-- Patrick McConnell

Imagination in Dance -- Robin Munt

Ecstatic Dance has allowed me to open myself fully to my creativity and imagination. Having a safe space gives me the freedom to cut loose and dance my stories and dreams alive. And this has had a profound effect on my life outside of dance, my perspective and presence has shifted to allow myself to naturally bring this creative energy into my external world.

Two particular examples of dancing my imagination spring to mind. The first, an internal ritual of rooting myself to the Earth, giving my energy to Mother nature and receiving her abundance in return. A very powerful experience which I feel has been integral to feeling deeply settled in what I now think of as home. The second, a beautiful connection with another dancer, starting off just with a subtle mirroring of our hand movements and slowly evolving into a full on play session where we throwing 'balls of air' to each other across the whole dance floor! An amazing experience, bringing out the little kid in me to play was so exhilarating!

-- Robin Munt

Dance as Religion -- Brian Spears

Growing up Mormon, dance was one of the few permissible ways to maintain physical contact with those I found attractive. In college, I uncovered a passion which took on the forms of ballroom dance -- male dominated with correct and incorrect figures.

I often broke out into spontaneous dance with friends. A couple years ago, some recommended I try out ecstatic dance. One session I dropped in and had an experience I’d only previously had on psychedelics. Since then, I’ve learned how to let my mind go and be in my body, the music, and motion with others. Love, play, anger, bliss, fear, sadness, and connection with the infinite all emerge. The dance holds them all.

-- Brian Spears

What Dance Feels Like

You transcend the perception of time and space and drop through a portal when you enter an ecstatic dance. Time collapses and you travel inter-dimensionally. Every individual’s experience at a dance looks so different. It shows you a glimpse into your inner world as well as an expression of the totality of existence. How we are all unified despite our differing individual experience. It’s all energy pulsing together. Ecstatic dance is like the conscious choosing of energies to merge and come together in a free expression to see what transpires. You never really know what you are going to get but it is always the medicine you need. Everyone there are the conscious co-creators energetically agreeing to help heal each other through the experiences that carry out that day. For me, I let my body and the divine energy that moves through it, move me and speak to me. I put myself in the most intense vortex of energy, right up the front of the dance floor by the DJ and from there, I like to look out over everyone and play witness to the beauty of their truest expression. It all starts to feel like a dream to me. I experience myself as pure presence, light, and connection. That is the gift ecstatic dance brings to us and I feel so blessed to have it in my earthly existence.

-- Juju Wild

Dance Fundamentals -- Ethan Paul

As a bodyworker and movement coach my life is an exploration into the depths of the human body. What makes the body feel good? How does the body talk to us when something isn't right? What patterns repeat? Dance answers these questions and so much more.

For me, dance is the truest expression of the self. To be fundamentally me. To be fundamentally human. To be fundamentally a part of the universe witnessing itself. To explore the experience of the self as duality and non-duality simultaneously. 

When I dance I can be in my own body and feel its presence, awareness, abilities and limitations. I can become aware of the order and repeating patterns that keep me stuck. Or I can get lost in the chaos and surrender to the flow, the spirals and the freedom. I can bring joy to myself and others. Or I can explore the depths of my fears, sadness and anger. 

To dance is to get lost in the rhythm. To dance is to be human. To dance is to be primal. To shed the layers of civilized conditioning and return to all I am - particles of space dust swirling around in space.

-- Ethan Paul (physical therapist & movement coach)

Long-form Stories

Doing Nothing and Breaking Away - Erin Castelan

Once of the more profound and helpful experiences while attending Clare Alexander’s Monday night 5 Rhythms dance class weekly was noting all the different reasons I felt especially motivated to arrive. Varying reasons, like; 1) I want to seen and feel connected to my friends. 2) I am excited to be hugs or share dances with others. 3) I am hungry or starved for contact. 4) I want to know what is alive in me: I saw dance as counseling for the body. If I did not know what was up for me, it would come out through my authentic movement. 5) I want to get my yahayahs out. 6) I am looking forward to alone time to be myself within a group. 7) I am looking forward to showing Clare she is supported in her vision of putting on this class. Just because I wanted any of that going in to it… did not mean I would get that. Sometimes the more I wanted a particular aspect it might be the one time that did not happen or manifest. 

Another profound experience was breaking away from dancing with others once I discovered I too easily too on their rhythm and style in order to synchronize with them. I spent about a year mostly dancing with myself and only intermittently dancing with others and then breaking away to purposely reconnect with my rhythm and mown movements. After slowly reintroducing connection. With others and breaking off every time I lost myself and my rhythm, Eventually I could more easily retain me-ness while sharing a dance with others.

I liked the blending back and forth, dancing another’s dance then dancing my dance… so raw revealed how I shifted my focus, and the practice eventually helped me not lose myself so easily.

-- Erin Castelan

First Time Transcending Norms - Brian Firfer

Growing up, my enjoyment of dance was pretty limited. I could perform in musical theater, with extremely prescribed steps, or bounce around a mosh pit at a concert, but in all cases I was still hiding. Behind the bright lights, the lack of autonomy and personal expression, or in the case of a concert, the anonymity brought by the chaos.

It wasn't until I moved out to the pacific northwest and was introduced to the techno scene that my relationship with dance began to transform. Within the psytrance and burning man communities, I discovered a new kind of liberation, where being strange and playful was the norm, and bodies could move however they were called to. It was also here that I was first introduced to Contact Improv, which since has become a way of life.

Osiris, one of the DJs and main organizers of the Oracle Gatherings had posted an event. He was DJing for an intro to Contact Improv workshop, and though I had never heard of it, I found the concept intriguing. Partner dancing had never really been my thing, but my body craved to move in connection with others, something I only got tastes of in the chaos of a concert.

We began with some music and a guided meditation, dropping into our bodies, and grounding. Then we broke into pairs to start exploring the material. It started with a simple surrender, a challenge and a revelation. “Give me your weight” she said, holding me in an embrace. “No really, lean in, let go. Find our collective center of mass.”  My brain searched for the right move, the right stance, but as I closed my eyes and took a breath, I found myself at peace, leaning in to the sea of one. This was familiar, I knew this sensation. I was surrendering to the crowd of the concert, the organic ebb and flow of the chaos, only this was a new kind of chaos, one in which we both were listening. For the first time I knew what it was like to feel held, and to truly let my body move with another, following the gravity of the universe.

-- Brian Firfer

Ending a Dance with Beauty - Sam Kennedy

For me, the best dances end in a tired heap, sometimes alone -- feeling the beat of my heart, the movement of energy, of sensation coursing through my body -- sometimes enjoined and entwined, my skin soft as I melt together with my last dance partner (or partners).

I remember my final Sunday ecstatic dance at Gaia, as I prepared to close my time in Guatemala -- I had danced there every Sunday and today, I had no expectations, just a strong cup of cacao and a lot of curiosity. Quickly I found myself in a dance with a friend -- we had danced before, but mostly just fleeting exchanges. Today -- this dance stretched on. Song after song, we played, we explored. Moments of jubilation, our legs flinging wildly. Moments of tenderness, fingers tracing gently the edges of each other's faces. I lifted her, she lifted me. We rolled and bounced -- with little care for how we looked. We both knew how it felt -- connected, present -- and that's what mattered.

Even in moments of boredom -- teasing temptation to explore elsewhere -- I stayed, committed to see where we went. More moments of ecstasy -- the heavy beat of drums, flinging us frenzied. More moments of softness, our skin sweaty, wet beads mixing.

As the music slowed, we leaned together, our faces close. My fingers wound around the drops of sweat, her eyes closed. It felt like we'd lived a whole lifetime. As we slowly slipped to the ground, I sensed us in the twilight years of life, having grown old together -- sitting around, nothing left to do except savor. Our breath moved together, inhales pressing, exhales softening open. Nothing left to do, except savor.

-- Sam Kennedy (coauthor)

Conscious Dancing with Other Men - Andrew Noske

I had just moved to San Francisco I couldn’t have had a more “bay area” experience on a first date. She taught me two new (commonly associated) words: “poly” and “ecstatic dance”. My time ecstatic dance was a first date and after years of salsa dancing, I immediately loved the freedom of rolling around on the floor. Women at salsa had told me “you’re fun to dance with”, and so that gave me the confidence to ask women to dance right from the get-go, which I know now is rare. I was, however, nervous asking men to dance. What if was awkward... what if they thought I was gay and making a pass?! Since I imagined awkwardness, it showed up as lightly awkward.

So one day I simply decided “no, this will be fun”, and had my first deep experience eye gazing and dancing with another man. It was insanely beautiful. Both of us were straight, but in that moment of revelation, I realized our sexuality was irrelevant to the dance. It was just a dance. We were enjoying connection as humans. Ever since I’ve been able to ask pretty much anyone who makes eye contact with me for a dance and let go of any limiting thoughts. If they say no, I’m fantastic at receiving a no! If they say yes, even better.

-- Andrew Noske (coauthor)

A Mother's Memory - Susan Barclay

Nearly four decades ago, an imposing US Navy vessel berthed in a regional Australian city and hundreds gathered under the tropical stars for a varied and enthralling concert by their impressive naval band. An elderly indigenous man emerged dancing from the crowd and was quietly joined in the grassy shadows beside the band by a tentative 6-year-old boy. Both moved rhythmically, absorbed by the incredible music and oblivious to all else. Their entrapment by the rhythm and beat, ties to every note and connection with each other’s movement and pleasure was palpable. They moved with originality and skill – the man with the experience of culture and life, the boy with the

innocence of childhood and innate passion.

After the powerful finale the appreciative conductor beckoned to ask their names, thank them and invite them to dance whenever the band played. The dancers, tall and short, respectfully shook hands and humbly parted. At his mother’s side the young boy beamed softly “that man said we could dance with his band again”. She didn’t tell the shy child that hundreds heard that mic exchange and witnessed the infectious dancing of two strangers, distant in so many ways but as one with the intrinsic connection of dance. A lifelong joyous connection – that boy I proudly declare is my son, an author of this book.

-- Susan Barclay