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  • Writer's pictureKaren Queller

Belonging in the Dance




Last night I went to an ecstatic dance that truly touched my heart. If you don’t know what ecstatic dance is, watch this video, made by my friend Arthur Moore. It will give you a glimpse into this gorgeous community that I am so grateful to be a part of. It can look a bit strange from the outside if you’ve never tried it. You will probably wonder what kinds of drugs these people are on. However, these are drug-free dances. Substance free, talking free, shoes free. These are their core 3 principles. Ecstatic dance is a dance where you get to just move as you, without needing to perform, or do things in the ‘right way’. You can just be, and dance through it as you discover who that being is.


Most places I find myself in the world, I can often find an ecstatic dance community. Suddenly I’m home. Home in my body, home in my heart, home with a community of like-minded individuals.


Last night was a particularly special Ecstatic Dance. As I am in Israel and it is the week of the Jewish New Year, the dance had an intention based around this holiday. The organizer had created an altar in the center with candles, flowers, and cushions all around it in the shape of a circle. She invited us to sit here at the altar when something came up in the dance. If we need to pray, to cry, to set intentions, to understand, to clean something from our hearts, we have this dedicated space to do so. In other ecstatic dances I’ve been to there are sometimes spaces like these but they are off to the side with some cushions or candles for people to chill and check in with themselves. At first, I thought this circle was a bit strange as it was taking up the main space of the dance floor.


Then she said something very beautiful. “Why did I put this alter here in the center as a circle?”, she asked. “It’s because even as you go through any difficulty you are still part of this space, you are with us, you are not separate”.


After this opening, the dance started. People were all naturally facing towards the center and it remained that way all night. I immediately went and sat on a cushion to set some intentions. I immediately felt the power of this central space she had offered us. As I set my intentions, it felt as though I was receiving all the love and energy of the people dancing around me. I could feel their footsteps and swift movements all around me. I could feel all of their love, all of their desires, all of their energy directed towards this center. It was incredibly healing. As I stood and also became part of this dancing space and watched others go sit in the center, I felt happy that they could also have some sort of experience of being in the circle.


Throughout the evening it felt that all of our collective love, sorrow, transformation, difficulty, questions, knowing, smiles, joy, and all the myriad of emotions that came into the space were all held by that circle, and nourishing its purpose. I felt as though we were giving the circle all of ourselves, all of our love, that I imagined was rippling out through the country, world, and universe. I imagine that this shared energy made us all a little bit stronger giving us more, courage and humility to go home with and share with our loved ones.


There have been so many times throughout my life where I felt I didn’t belong, or that I am not part of a particular circle. I would have thoughts like ‘I am too this or too that to be part of this. I can’t be my full self while being part of this space, I need to go off and find my own space.’ Although this thought pattern gave me courage, a sense of self-confidence, and self-reliance, it was also incredibly lonely and fragmenting. It gave me a skewed perception of what it is to be healthy, strong, and independent. As I moved between dancing and sitting in the circle last night, I felt a huge weight lifting off my shoulders. Something within felt like it was healing from many lonely moments of my past.


So if you are reading this, I want to tell you, you do belong, your suffering is OUR suffering, you are not alone, and we are all stronger together. We are here to help each other. To learn from each other. To grow together. To learn from one another.


You are invited into the center of the circle. And you are welcome, with whatever it is you are coming with, just as you are.


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