Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Ecstatic Dance Worship: Attention to Now

Workshop Number: 
Tommy Poole-Frank
Who may register?: 
Open to All (adult & high school)
Experiential Activities: 
part time-attenders welcome
half gathering attenders welcome
First half (Monday-Wednesday)

Ecstatic Dance worship with attention to right now combines aspects of Ecstatic Dance with aspects of Quaker worship, and invites in new and experimental ways to express our faith to try and reach new understandings that might not be found in silent worship.

Workshop Description

When thinking of the word ‘meditation’ it is easy to conjure up an image of a peaceful and reflective state of being similar to our own Quaker Worship. Quaker Worship has shares so many things in common with many forms of traditional meditation, that one might almost thing of the two terms as synonymous. However, this image does not paint a complete picture of all that meditation is, for not all meditation is still and not all meditation is silent. For untold thousands of years people around the world have used practices ranging from Sufi dance to Tai Chi to find a meditative state of mind through movement and often music. By many, Ecstatic Dance could be seen as a continuation of this trend. Ecstatic Dance is a modern moving meditation that combines the frenetic energy of a dance party with the spiritual safety of a worshipful setting. By combining the practice of Ecstatic Dance with aspects of Quaker worship and personal leadings, we will search for new ways to explore our faith and find understanding.

This workshop is focused primarily on experiential activities, with some time for worship and worship sharing given. This is not a worskhop for dicussion of Ecstatic Dance or moving meditation in general, however, I will happily provide any resources I can to those who wish to explore these topics further.

This workshop is all about discovery, with my attempts to adhere to a format frequently (and happily) being overruled by the personal leadings of participants. This year, I want to embrace that further by making exploration a major theme/goal for the week. Another theme for the workshop is the titular "Right Now". The goal with this theme is to create a space where we can try to be present in the moment through open-ness. Participants will be asked to share questions, concerns, thoughts, and feelings of all types in worship sharing, which will occour both before and after the dancing each day after the first.

On the first day, we will begin with grounding worship, followed by introductions and orientation including ground rules. We will spend some time sharing with one another about how music and art has influenced our spiritual journies. Past introductions, we will use a few (probably unconventional) icebreakers to help participants get to know each other and relieve any self-conscious feelings still remaining. From here we will go into a short period of dance, followed by worship sharing, which will conclude the first day.

The following days will consist of a basic format of worship sharing that evolves into dance, followed by worship sharing. However, each day will feature different forms of interaction for participants. Participants will have opportunities to dance together, create art together, and explore various forms of playful worship with the group. Participants are encouraged to bring art supplies and other interactive items of their own to the workshop, but plenty will also be provided.

On the final day, we will spend extra time in sharing at the end to share feelings about the whole week, but it will otherwise follow the same format as the other days. In addition, I will be happy to provide resources for those who are looking for more ways to learn more about and experience Ecstatic Dance and things like it on that day.

Leader Experience

For the past two years I have lead a similar workshop, titled "Leadings in Ecstatic Dance", at FGC Gathering. These workshops have incorporated aspects of Quaker worship with aspects of the modern tradition of ecstatic dance, while also pursuing new forms of worship that arise naturally over the their course. In these workshops I've had the opportunity to meet and interact with a variety of people and share in their growth as we break down barriers through the medium of dance and other experession. I've worked with participants over these two years to create an environment that is safe, but also encourages people to branch out their faith into new directions as we explore together.

In addition, I have lead other, smaller events in other places, including leading an evening of dance at Haverford's spiritual life week in 2012. These smaller events have centered around the same kind of ecstatic worship as my Gathering workshops.