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The history of Ecstatic Dance

For tens of thousands of years, “ecstatic dance,” which produces an altered state of mind, has been a popular spiritual movement.

Cave paintings from 40,000 years ago depict groups of people dancing wildly. Tribes often hold ceremonies and rituals with participants dancing themselves into the trance state. “Ecstatic Dance” as a movement is now growing rapidly across the Western world.

Ecstatic dance is a type of meditation that allows us to quiet the mind while celebrating the transforming effects of spontaneous movement.

Some ecstatic dancers are disillusioned ravers who want the rave high but in a drug-free way. It’s easy, automatic, and no dance experience is required.

Spontaneous dance is exploding in popularity. Early morning ecstatic dance groups have become very popular before work, some, such as ‘Morning Gloryville’ in London, starting as early as 6 a.m. It helps people to become “embodied” or in touch with their bodies in the here and now and to let go of stress.

“Trance is not just some mystical experience, which belongs to special people, it belongs to human beings who are prepared and willing to dance themselves into that state,” says Ya’ Acov Darling Khan, co-founder of the School of Movement Medicine.

Dancing is a deeply healing activity and his website explains the mechanisms by which healing can occur from conscious movement. The opening paragraph on the site states very simply:

Movement is Life, Movement is Change, Movement is Choice,

Movement is Creativity, Movement is Connection,

Movement is Presence, Movement is Medicine


During the dancing, a state of deep-body consciousness or “embodiment” displaces thinking. Ecstatic dance effortlessly induces a true meditation state. Although ecstatic dance is an ancient practice, it has only recently become extremely popular. Dance groups are often called “conscious dance”, “Chakradance”, “Music-Led Dance” or “Dance Church”.

Gabrielle Roth was an American dancer and musician in the trance dance genre, with a special interest in shamanism. She created the 5Rhythms approach to movement in the late 1970s. 5Rhythms is typically guided at various points during the dance, and there may be times when dancers are encouraged to interactively dance in a 5Rhythms tradition.

Many groups, such as the Dance Church and Music-Led Dance are spin-offs from 5Rhythms, created by and for people who want less guidance and more freedom.

All of the groups offer a safe place for dancing, following the guidelines established by the 5Rhythms tradition, where “no talking while dancing” is universal among these groups. Whichever form of ecstatic dance we prefer, it is important to give credit to the 5Rhythms school of dance which popularised trance dance and provided the basic foundation.

Kind words from previous participants

More about 'Full Spectrum Dance' ecstatic dance sessions

The history of Ecstatic Dance

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 Landa Love 2020