This summer I went to an Ecstatic Dance Festival in Ukraine – the very first one of this kind. Looking back, I am so glad I could be part of this unique experience, of this experiment that turned out so beautifully. Dancing, workshops about self-discovery and more turned this festival into something truly magical.
What is Ecstatic Dance?
But why did I even want to go to an Ecstatic Dance Festival? And what exactly does it stand for? Ecstatic Dance basically means dancing without the being under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any other substances. There´s nothing to get you “high” but the music. You are free to experience and feel the music in a way you are only able to when being truly present. When your head and thoughts are clear and right there, in the present moment. Once you feel the music, you start to dance. To dance like you want to, to dance like you feel. In Ecstatic Dance, there is not right or wrong. You simply just flow with the music. You let it guide yourself and your body starts moving on its own. This might be hard to believe at first as a lot of us might even need alcohol to fully let go and dance freely. If that´s the case, however, – have you ever wondered why you might need it? Have you ever questioned if you can even dance without being under the influence of any kind of substances?
Fear of judgement
I still remember that I was having a hard time dancing when I first started going out. I felt like everybody´s eyes where on me, like everyone was watching me and I didn´t want to make a fool out of myself. So, I didn´t dare to dance – at least not like I would have liked to. Alcohol then helped to loosen up the tenseness, but I still couldn´t express myself in the way I would have liked. Even with consuming alcohol there was a barrier which prevented me from jumping around like I actually wanted to. Lack of self-confidence and fear of judgement stopped me from doing whatever I liked and not giving a fuck.
Now, I don´t drink alcohol anymore and through Ecstatic Dance I actually learned that I could express myself however I liked. I learned how to dance without fearing to be judged. During this festival, I encountered amazing people who created such a welcoming, loving and non-judgemental space that everyone could let losoe and just dance. It didn´t matter if you were jumping around like a maniac or just nodding your head slightly. Nothing was wrong and nothing was right.
“Are these people truly sober?”
If you were watching the dancefloor from outside you might even wonder what kind of drugs all these people must be on as almost everyone went crazy. I still remember some jam sessions where some talented musicians from all over the regions played. Guitar, hang drum, digeridoo – all these different sounds got me in the mood to dance. The jam session got more and more intense, the music got us going all over the dancefloor. It was in moments like this when I stopped thinking what others might think about me – I knew it didn´t matter there anymore. I knew that I wouldn´t be looked at crazily. I also found myself observing others just finding it beautiful that everyone had their unique style of dancing and expressing their feelings in this very moment. It was beautiful, it was wild and it was free. We all went wild. Completely sober and without drugs. In the middle of the woods under the moonlight. Do you even need more to feel high? Do you even need more to be happy and content with what you have? In this very moment, this was all I needed. The people around me created such a loving atmosphere that I captured and held in my heart for as long as I possibly could.
On festivals like that, you meet very special people. People make this place a good or a bad one, people create a welcoming or non-welcoming atmosphere. And in this atmosphere I felt welcome instantly. We were a big family from the first day I arrived and I still kept these people in my heart to this day.
When I go out to dance now, everything has changed compared to when I started. I simply don´t care what others think anymore. I might not be the best dancer in the world or even look funny sometimes – whatever that even means – but I´m surely having a blast. If I feel the music I can just let go and dance. Getting goose bumps when the music starts taking over my entire body and I just start and dance. You can even enter a state of trance through the music where you stop thinking and just act. You´re only focused on your dance and the music. On the vibrations that go through your body a dozen times. Nothing else mattes but you and the music. That´s also why I now prefer to dance alone. On my own I only have to listen to myself and my body which is easier than focusing on another person as well. Ecstatic Dance can be fun with a partner as well – but only if you´re both listening to each other, joining your rhythm. Then dancing together is truly beautiful.
All in all, I can say that ecstatic dance has helped me greatly to gain confidence in myself and my dancing abilities – and the fact that it´s completely okay to jump around crazily when others look at you strangely. Isn´t that the fun in it. The world would be a little more boring without judging and strange looks from other people.