Music and the Movement of Ecstatic Dance

Over ten years ago I went to my first ecstatic dance in Seattle Wa. The experience changed the trajectory of my life and my music.  So wait… lets back up… what is Ecstatic Dance?

Ecstatic Dance is a freeform of authentic movement. The idea is there is a general formula you can follow to take dancers through a diverse journey, a wave if you will, that brings them from softness to an ecstatic revelatory place and back to stillness.

WHAT IS ECSTATIC DANCE?

Here is the general layout of an ecstatic dance. First of all, it’s drug-free, all ages, and generally a pretty short experience. 2-3 hours total. Think of it as a dance class more than a club.  The event usually starts with a warm-up. People come and stretch, roll on the floor, and get ready to shake it.  After the warm-up, there is an opening circle. Each ecstatic dance is different and I have seen a range from a circle with a 5minute welcoming, to a shared ritual/movement practice.  After the opening, the DJ, it’s usually one DJ for the whole evening, starts there set.

 

The music moves as a wave. From a softer buildup to a peak. At many ecstatic dances, it follows a “wave” where the energy builds to a peak, dips down, builds to another peak, and then lands into a softer place to end. For the past few years, I have been helping with Muse Dance in Portland OR, and the above image is what I made to help communicate that movement to DJ’s at our dance.

THE EXPERIENCE

So what is this all about? Well… this might sound hella woo-woo. One of the best descriptions I have found was from Ecstaticdance.com

Through dance, we believe everyone can discover, explore, unleash, and enhance their individual potential to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. By engaging our senses and listening to our bodies, we connect to others and shape a consciousness that extends beyond our own. – Ecstaticdance.com

When I dance and fully let myself go I find myself in space that lets me process my emotions. Not from a thinking place, but truly feel my emotions in my body. I have had life-changing revelations and moments of discovery.  As a facilitator and musician, I have seen thousands of people experience this same space in Ecstatic Dance. That is why it’s a growing movement. There are hundreds of dances worldwide. Portland alone has 5 dances a week! Some of them have 100-200 people regularly.  You can find a full list of Ecstatic Dances worldwide at Ecstaticdance.org.

THE MUSIC

A unique aspect of Ecstatic Dance is the eclectic music. during one dance you will hear sultry singer-songwriter, Latin funk, throbbing glitch music, and ambient strings.  Since the experience is all about dynamics and diversity, it gives you such a wide pallet as a DJ.  As a musician, this is one of my all time favorite places to perform. I find the dancers are deeply listening and can appreciate a wider range of possibilities.

It’s also been hard sometimes to find just the right kind of music. For instance, I want a soft loving vocal track for the end of my set, but to many times the lyrics are about a co-dependent relationship. To really respect the dance, I want to make sure the message is always one of growth.  You also have to think of music outside of genre but in terms of how it will affect the dancers and where it fits in the story arch.

It’s because of this that I was really excited when Peter Weinstein, aka Baron von Spirit, approached me about a new project.  Together we dreamed up a record label that would help connect the musical world with the dancers of ecstatic dance.  We saw how we could help curate music that holds a space at Ecstatic Dances, as well as introduce new music to the growing number of ecstatic dancers.  Thus, Ecstatic Dance Records was born.

ECSTATIC DANCE RECORDS LAUNCH

Today, well… as I am writing this, we launched the Record Label by releasing four EP’s. We worked with musicians from around the world. Including this amazing lineup: KaminandaDysphemicSubaqueousKR3TURETemple Step ProjectIlluminertiaEvan Fraser MusicSugarBeatsSilk DropEO • Eric OberthalerHigh Step SocietyDJ Taz RashidYogi PrateadoLiving Roots, and Tikki Masala.

Since ecstatic dance is based on a musical journey we wanted to showcase the music based on its placement in the phases of the Ecstatic Dance Journey. Peter has come up with and refined the six phases of the ecstatic dance journey over a decade of performance. The phases go as followed:

Arrival * Buildup * Peak * Cruise * Landing * Integration

The first four EP’s are Arrival, Buildup, Peak, and Cruise. Our concept was to help showcase the different states of the dancers and how music can be used to move people through the journey.



For the last year Peter and I have had weekly calls to discuss the philosophy, build strategic partnerships in the community, and gather an amazing list of musicians. I am elated to finally launch this project. Since Ecstatic Dance has been such a cornerstone of my life, this feels like a natural and beautiful new endeavor.

If your interested in what this project, please join us on our Ecstatic Dance Records facebook page and check out the music.  If you want to get involved in any way, feel free to message us. Now that this has launched, we have all sorts of visions we are working on. Just the beginning of an amazing journey.

One Comment

  1. Naofal November 15, 2018 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Great music. I enjoyed listening to these tracks.

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