Ecstatic Dance at Judson Church- NYC

I wasn’t sure if I should include this or not. The dilemma has prompted notes for a future post about what counts as a show. My initial thought was a “show” means live music. This is mostly a DJ scenario but does entail acoustic elements. The deciding factor was I felt as energized, happy, and clear headed as I do at any other live show. So what the hell is Ecstatic Dance anyway? According to their site, “Ecstatic Dance is what you make of it… a freeform movement space where:. dance expands, spirit activates, boundaries melt, boredom ceases, creativity breaks out, hope happens, beauty flows, communities collaborate, ritual is reinvented, harmony resonates, The beat deepens, as an electronic tapestry of world rhythms weave us together as individuals within a greater family.” And they have some rules.
I have attended the NY Ecstatic Dance about 5 times since the 2016 summer. A typical evening starts at 6:30 when you can enter the space, put your things away, and get ready. At 7 an hour of “warm up” starts which can include movement, moving meditation, embodied dance activities, and more. Sometimes they’re dance assignments, play, yoga, or community building. At 8, the DJs start. The music is a mix of electronic and tribal music. Mid-eastern drums over a digital 6/8 bass thump, nature sounds woven into deep house, and even some things I’ve heard before. At the end of the night is a cooldown. Live music, kirtan, meditation, or any combination of. After a few announcements of the next events and acknowledgments of the volunteers, musicians, and family, we are ready to part ways till the next adventure.

(Click to Zoom)

This session was lovely. Flower and I met on Phish tour last summer. It sounds like the name of someone you’d meet at a phish show but it’s a placeholder in this instance. Tonight’s dance was at a new venue, the Judson church on the south side of Washington Square Park in NYC. Not sure how to enter, Flower and I mingled with other cold dancers in our native New York coats and hats (all cheerful black, the essential palette of NYC). The growing crowd grew anxious as the volunteers inside sought a way to unlock the door from the inside. That was a unique issue. Once in we queued up the double-wide wooden staircase to the main room above. The second-floor balcony featured a community board to post upcoming events, an alter, and a bar of elixirs (water infusions, and yummy snacks). It also served as a platform for the amazing projections sent across the space over the dancers to the far wall. This is a much bigger space than the previous venue below ground near Union Square. High ceiling, large dance floor, open, and the sprawling main hall to fill with intention, sweat, and love (this post will over-index for crunchy-munchy).

Warm up time! This is the first time at an Ecstatic Dance event where I’ve recognized the music. Choice cuts from Dead Can Dance and Bobby McFerrin’s Circlesongs album (I highly recommend both). We played and moved through an evolution. First dancing as a single cell, then a cephalopod, then a vertebrate, monkey, hominid, and finally as a human. Next a call and response dance and finally, the seed dance. The seed dance was magical. We were to picture a flower and start on the floor as a seed. The 6-minute song began and during the course of the music, we were to grow, bloom, retract, then die. People cried. I was a Passion flower.
Dj time, awesome. The dance floor was as full as you would want while still being able to dance as much and as free as you would like. The scene upstairs was wonderful too. I’ve never actually had one of the elixirs or the snacks as I prefer to keep money off me in that space. I did, however, take a meditation break at the altar which was delicately arranged by volunteers earlier. As I sat two djembes took over the music below. I walked to the balcony to watch the entire crowd circle them and pulsate with each beat. Back downstairs to sweat more.
Flower had left at some point in the evening. I noticed while scanning the faces but could not confirm till the end of the night when I finally found my cell phone under a pile of black coats. Something about waking up early, gainful employment, and showering.
The night ended with kirtan, singing bowls, and a still, yet smiling mind. Ecstatic Dance is amazing and probably in a town near you. In NY it comes once a month and I’ll be at as many as I can. I hope you’ll join me.

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1 Comment

  • Pam 3 years ago Reply

    HAHA – I am Flower! I was a hyacinth, and I almost cried. (And yes I had to leave because my body was tired and needed a shower. #showerpower?) So glad to have a cameo role in this musical experiment 🙂

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