Ecstatic Dance is a modern spiritual practice that invites the frenetic energy of a dance party into a safe, spiritual setting. Leadings in Ecstatic Dance combines this practice with queries and other aspects of Quaker worship to try to reach new understandings that might not be found in silent worship. (PT, HG1, HG2)
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 queries, worship sharing and other traditional Quaker practices we will seek to form new understandings that may never been reached through silence.
The workshop’s primary focus will be on the dance experience, with time giving for processing the experiences and for discussion as well. This workshop will not be focused on discussion of ecstatic dance or of other forms of moving meditation, however, as last year resources will be available at the end of the workshop for those who wish to explore some of these topics further.
On the first day we will begin with a period of grounding worship, followed by a brief discussion of the ground rules and format of the workshop. From there we will launch into a discussion of how music and dance have influenced each us of spiritually and the participants will all share what they hope to gain from this workshop. Once the discussion has concluded we will settle back into worship that will lead directly into a dance with no query to allow everyone to get comfortable with the format. We will conclude with a brief time for discussion of anything that arose during the first day’s dance. The query for the next day’s dance will be presented as we wrap up, to allow participants to begin to sit with the query ahead of the next day.
On the second day, there will be music playing from the time participants enter and we will settle into a worshipful state. The query will be re-stated and there will be a brief time to address any concerns that may have arisen. Once the participants are secure and settled the music will slowly increase in intensity and volume and the dance will begin. The first day’s dance will be completely individual, with participants not interacting with one another in any way during the dance. Eventually the music will begin to reduce in volume and intensity and we will settle back into a grounded state. At this time participants will be encouraged to journal, do art, or do any other activities to help them process their experience. At the end of this time we will move into a worship sharing/discussion time to share our experiences, thoughts and feelings. At the end of the day, the next day’s query will be presented.
The third, fourth and fifth day will all follow similar formats to the second day with some variations. On the third day, participants will be assigned a partner that they will dance ‘with’ (what this means is entirely subjective), on the fourth day participants will be assigned a group, and on the fifth day all participants will be free to interact with everyone. These interactions will be non-verbal, and will be done in a way that promotes safety and comfort above all else. In addition, these interactions will be reflections of the query in some way, with the idea being that the query will deepen the interactions and vice-versa.
On the fifth day the time for the dance will be somewhat abbreviated to allow for an extended discussion time to talk about not just things that arose during that day, but also to discuss the week as a whole and what we are ultimately taking away from the workshop. In addition to that, on the fifth day some materials for further exploring ecstatic dance will be provided to those who want it.
About the leader :
I have only lead one Gathering workshop so far, which was last year's Leadings in Ecstatic Dance. The workshop, which was largely the same as the workshop I intend to lead this year, was based around incorporating some traditional Quaker practice into the modern spiritual tradition of Ecstatic Dance. Over the course of the five day workshop I was able to see my participants grow and change as we steadily pursued more and more difficult (and subsequently more rewarding) spiritual undertakings through the medium of dance. I too grew a lot as I listened to feedback from the participants, and worked with them to create a safe, comfortable and fun setting for the workshop. Through times of intensity, fear and joy I worked with the participants, and our workshop's elder, to create an environment that pushed the boundaries of our faith into new and exciting directions. Leading this workshop was one of the most challenging and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I hope to lead many workshops like it in years to come.