Movement as Meditation: Community Dance Events Flourish

While dance is timeless and universal, during the past decade new movement practices have exploded around the world as healing modalities, spiritual practice and collective act of self-expression. Descriptors like conscious, mindful, meditative, therapeutic, healing, embodied, expressive, authentic, intuitive and ecstatic invoke the flavors and various styles of dance which explore moving from the inside out. Across Connecticut one can find classes, meet-ups and community events including Ecstatic Dance, Journey Dance, Yoga Dance, Chakra Dance, Shake Your Soul, Contact Improvisation and other forms of meditative movement, which view dance as a language to connect with our heart and soul.

Unlike other dance forms where there are prescriptive techniques, choreography and directions, in meditative movement there is minimal instruction, no steps to learn and no way to do it right or wrong. All you need is a willingness to move and an openness to be moved.

While meditation practice in general arises from the longing to connect with spirit, movement meditation engages the body’s sensations and gestures, which become the language to commune with spirit incarnate in the fleshy substance of humanity. The dance is a prayer, of which each movement is an offering. Rather than sitting still and withdrawing the senses into a detached, witness posture, we tune in to the constantly moving inner impulses and allow them to rise up and through the body, expressed as movement, sensation and feelings, free from mental judgment.

The spontaneous and authentic movement itself becomes the body-spirit dialogue, inviting an organic flow and release, and honors the body as a sacred vessel. This world view recognizes our fundamental, inherent divinity, expressed through our sacred body, as the dance makes the invisible visible.

“The human condition is that we are spiritual beings in a human body. Regularly and predictably, we forget that we are divine in nature, and this is why we dance. It helps us to remember the divinity of us, the bigness of us,” says Kathy Altman, founder of Open Floor International (OpenFloor.org).

Moving meditation also helps us move past isolation and grow our awareness of an interconnected, bigger body. As with any meditation practice, we expand our consciousness and feel that we are connected with the earth, the elements, and all of life, not just on a spiritual or metaphysical plane, but literally through sound, energy and flow. The whole universe is based on rhythms, through our breath, our heart beat and subtle vibrations pulsing within our cells. Dynamic, kinetic change is the only constant principle of life.

The famous philosopher Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

On the dance floor, a key to the practice is to give space to the full spectrum of feelings, thoughts and sensations as they move through you. When your body moves, everything starts to open up and arise in a flood or surge of emotions and thoughts. At times it can feel vibrant and joyful, and other times you experience the pain and limiting beliefs. When we hear the internalized “should” voices which can be exhausting and depleting, we explore how it feels to deeply listen to our body, and relax into what feels organic and natural. When we uncover and surrender to our own body language, it feels effortless, refueling and enlivening. Ultimately it is a joyful practice of release and surrender.

Kelli Joy, producer of a monthly Ecstatic Dance Hartford event, shares this perspective, “For me, ecstatic dance is about freedom, freeing my mind of thoughts and judgments, and letting go into the wisdom of the body to heal through that movement. It is a sacred dance, an expression of being fully ourselves and fully alive.”

Movement meditation is a fundamental and radical shift from seekingspirit (which implies separation) to being spirit in motion.

Humans have always gathered to dance, as movement is our birth right, our nature, our language and our medicine. In the current world of rapid change and chaos, community gatherings of conscious dance are a potent path to connect with ourselves and others, community and spirit, as it connects us to something deeper within and larger than our limited and isolated sense of ourselves.

Marie Lavendier, a certified qigong and Journey Dance teacher in Farmington, emphasizes movement as therapy. She explains, “As we move our bodies spontaneously, we dissolve energy blockages, allowing ourselves to connect, heal and celebrate.”

As science is documenting the health benefits of meditation, studies have concluded that people who dance regularly have keener minds, greater emotional intelligence and a calmer presence. According to CharisLindrooth.com, recent studies examining the neurological impact of dance have documented that the sound and movement coordination, or rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS), creates powerful health benefits, especially for brain health—not to mention the organic stimulation of the naturally arising feel-good hormone oxytocin, so vital for a sense of joy, belonging and connection.

Who said spirituality needs to be serious? Excessive seriousness can block the creative spark of life. Fortunately in Connecticut there are many opportunities to join a meditative movement gathering where all bodies and abilities are welcome, and there is no experience necessary to directly experience the joy of letting go of form, connect body-mind-spirit and feel fully alive in the pure pleasure of movement exploration.

Katherine Allen offers her own style of movement meditation called Free Spirit Dance, held every Tuesday night from 7 to 8pm at Luna & Lotus, in Collinsville. For more information, visit Free Spirit Dance CT on Facebook or email FreeSpiritDanceCT@gmail.com.