Although Bress is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be eventually open again, which makes this the perfect time to learn about the fun but unexpected sports you can do at Bress. In the line of acro yoga, aerial silk, krav maga, pole dancing and many others, an activity that especially catches attention is ecstatic dance, a sport not known by many. We have interviewed facilitator Marty and ceremony leader Chantal to give you information about this sport and hopefully get you hyped for the time when Bress will be open again.
How would you define ecstatic dance?
First of all, it's fun. It's liberating. Nobody judges you. It gives you the opportunity to move without setting a goal. You don't have to learn some steps to be great at the dance. You don't have to evolve in muscle power to be good, like in some sports, but you can still move. And you can enjoy that movement without the pressure that's on you and clear your mind. It's complete freedom. There are a few basic guidelines though. We dance barefoot and have no chit chat during the dance.
What really makes this kind of ‘work out’ special is, that there is always music by a live DJ! So no playlist repeated over and over. The DJ takes you on a musical journey to guide the dance. It’s a sort of a wave, with slow 60 BPM’s up to wild 160 BPM’s. Mostly electronic music and world music with a beat under it. But also soundscapes. Always a surprise, and you’ll never get what you expect.
Marty: ‘What I explain to people when they come in, is that in ecstatic dance they are free to dance and move in any way they want. They can go into the corner and dance alone, or they can dance together with other six people. It’s their choice.’
It's a safe space. There are no cameras, no mirrors and there's no alcohol. There's just dancing and being the way you are. It really doesn’t matter how it looks like. It's all about how it feels, how you express yourself, what is what you need in the moment, listening to your body and breathing.
As long as you respect the space and the people around you, you can dance however you wish. I think that's actually the most important thing of ecstatic dance. You can totally be yourself.
How did you get into ecstatic dancing?
Marty: ‘Many years ago, I was at a dance workshop where I got to learn about a lot of different kinds of conscious dances, including ecstatic dance. The word “ecstatic” got into my mind, I went home, Googled it and found one in Antwerp. I went there. There were a hundred people, huge hall and amazing music. It was one of the most beautiful ecstatic dances I’ve ever experienced. Then I realized that I wanted to do this and went to different ecstatic dance events in the Netherlands and in Belgium. I was making a lot of miles with my car, constantly travelling. Then I thought: If I would organize it in Breda, I could dance in Breda! And now I’m like 90% organising and only 10% dancing, so mission not accomplished.
Chantal: I was dancing since I was 3 years old. I tried lots of different things and ended up dancing Argentine tango, which I’ve been doing for 21 years now. Dance is also a big part of my work as I am coaching people though dance and body awareness. Ecstatic dance popped up a few times on my Facebook timeline but for some reason I canceling on it. Then I got a message from Marty around 2,5 years ago that he was looking for a ceremony leader. I thought “I could do this” and went to try ecstatic dancing for the first time. I absolutely loved it and the next time I was already leading the opening ceremony. (*Ecstatic dance starts with a small warming up, called opening ceremony.)
Do you consider ecstatic dance a sport?
Marty: ‘You need to be in a good physical condition and you move a lot but it's not like doing sport with a goal. It’s not like wanting to run five miles or build these-and-those muscles within the next six weeks. It is more like entertainment than sport. But in one line, I see it as 50% sport and 50% meditation.’
If you move around for two hours, that will clear your mind and your brain is not “active” anymore. Of course, there are still some underlying thoughts in your head, but when you start moving - can be running or walking as well - this rational, thinking part of your brain is just not so loud anymore. You stop noticing it, you're just too busy with movement, your body and the connection. So that's the meditative part. And as for the sports part, have you ever tried dancing for two hours? It’s definitely a workout. Is ecstatic dancing connected to spirituality?
Marty: The answer depends on who you ask. Of course, there are some facilitators and members that have a more spiritual understanding of ecstatic dancing and there is nothing wrong with that. Personally, I don’t, as I’m just not an “airy fairy” guy. I do admit that I had to reconsider some of my thoughts over the past few years. But for me, for me, spirituality is just trying to be a good person. That’s it.
If you want to learn more about Ecstatic dance, you can find more information at this link below: http://www.ecstaticdancebreda.nl or https://www.bress.nl/sports/ecstatic-dance/