I wasn’t allowed to go to dances as a child, because my church was certain we would all be consumed in the fires of passion should we move sensually. I spent years in grade school, middle school and high school dancing in my room or with my little sister. We choreographed grand routines to terrible pop songs and performed them for our selves and our little brother. I longed to be “normal” like my friends and go to school dances, but it wasn’t happening under my father’s rule. Fortunately, I loved to dance and continued to do so in my own world.
Around the time of high school, I was already highly privatizing my inner self. Every day I feared being found out. I was terrified of being gay, and I had no frame of reference for what my internal world meant because it didn’t conform to what I was learning at school and church. I stopped dancing. I looked gay when I moved my hips and my waist, when I flipped my head this way and that, when I dared to get lost with my body in sound. Like so many joyous parts of myself, dancing was stuffed into the “don’t show this to anyone” category of my lonely mind.
I continued to deny myself dancing throughout my twenties, with the occasional exception of being completely drunk at a club. With a security blanket of alcohol and some friends, I moved my body again, but the childhood abandon, rocking-hard-all-over-the-house-good-time forever eluded me, it seemed. I told myself and others that I didn’t like to dance. I didn’t know how. It wasn’t my natural expression of a good time. Truthfully, I was still so scared of being seen as gay, as if dancing was inextricably tied to an inner essence I so desperately wanted to forget. Turns out, dancing is exactly that, the outer expression of the inner self.
I was invited to Ecstatic Dance in January of this year. I decided to check it out and see what it was all about, as I’d been invited so many times before and declined. Actually, that Sunday morning changed my life. I was astonished at the exaggerated movement, the freedom, the seeming lack of self inhibition these people exuded. In fact, I was confronted at how joyously embodied they were. I began to dance nervously, slowly at first, grounding myself as the musical waves passed until it culminated into a hard driving house beat. The dancers shouted with joy, laughed and jumped, and as they did, my childhood came back with every movement I made. These days, I am an openly proud queer man. I have not felt the stigma of being seen in my body for some time, so suddenly, my “I can’t and don’t want to dance” excuse evaporated. I danced harder than I had with my sister. I wished she was with me. I must have burned 1500 calories, because for two hours, I let my body be what it wants to be, an expression of joy and self-love at around 190 BPM heart-rate. The trainer in me has been hungry for movement that is not only linear. At the dance, I can explore explosive movements, new thresholds of cardiac output and total body stability.
No one is drinking or trying to get laid at Ecstatic Dance. Save that for the club. Instead, it is an inward journey from the feet to the crown in all planes of movement. All ages, races, orientations and types are encouraged to come and celebrate. It is now my Sunday morning practice, my dance church. There, I work out emotional stress, physical tightness and express gratitude and communion with fellow dancers. Give the dance a try to exercise your body and spirit simultaneously and experience the afterglow throughout the week as your inner essence is brought forth. Check out the link and come! First dance is free, and after that, $10 dollars per dance. You can even buy a discount card! It meets at 507 Calles St., 10am every Sunday morning, and 8pm on Wednesdays.