Dance in Ancient Times
Across time and culture, dance has long been revered for its power to heal body, mind, and soul, strengthen the bonds of community, and to commune with spirit and nature allowing us to discover deeper aspects of who we are as human beings. Dance was also used as a form of worship, celebration, story-telling and myth-making, and to commemorate important rites of passage. We can glean some of the significance dance held in ancient tribal life, for next to hunting, it is the second most common activity shown in cave paintings.
For our ancestors and for many hunting & gathering tribes today, dance is:
A community activity. It brings together the young and the old for a joined purpose and it strengthens friendships and fosters bonds of all. Everyone participates in dance, and it is accepted as a natural part of life, just as walking or breathing are.
A celebration. There are wedding dances, birth dances, and harvest dances. There are dances for the full moon, the changing of seasons, the coming of a feast.
A personal expression. There are dances for grief after the death of a community member or other tragic occurrences.
A way to connect with and release emotions, release stress/tensions, connect with one’s friends and neighbors – and ultimately is a way to more deeply connect with spirituality and yourself.
What is “Ecstatic Dance”?
Ecstatic Dance is the oldest form of healing and spiritual practice. It dates back over 30,000 years, to ancient traditions of shamanism. Ecstatic Dance is a form of active meditation or prayer, where rhythm and music are used to move the mind into non-ordinary states of awareness, commonly associated with deep relaxation, meditative, and highly creative states. It’s also a way to travel between the worlds, and journey into the deeper realms of the psyche as the shaman does.
There are 2 primary tenets of Ecstatic Dance.
Dream Change. Shaman believe that by entering into a trance-like state, they can purposely change reality. Typically the goal of such journeys is to heal someone of a disease or ailment.
True Self. Shaman believe that each of us has a vast knowledge about ourselves and our role within the universe within us. The only way to tap into this vast knowledge is through Ecstatic Dance.
Dance in Modern Culture
Cut off from its healing roots, our culture has reduced dance to a form of entertainment, a way to socialize, or to attract a mate. It’s generally not thought of as a way to pray, meditate, evoke visionary experience, or commune with spirit and nature.
In the past decade or so, it seems that the ancient understandings of dance as a healing and spiritual modality are impressing themselves upon the modern mind, as if welling up from old, vibrant memories of the tribal soul within. The idea of dance as a symbolic language of the psyche that can initiate healing, visionary, and ecstatic experience through rhythm and movement is being explored by increasing numbers of people searching for new levels of health, wholeness, and spiritual connection.