A Greater Victoria dance collective is determined to keeping the community moving from the comfort of their own homes. Since groups of more than 50 people are no longer permitted due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Dance Temple Victoria started hosting ecstatic dance live streams.
Naomi Jason and Alex King-Harris, two of multiple facilitators in the Dance Temple collective, have been hosting the virtual ecstatic dance from their own home so people can still groove together without risking spreading the virus.
Ecstatic dance is a form of dance in which there is no direction, and people let the music guide them.
“Ecstatic dance took about 10 years after the rave scene to become a thing, people were maturing in the rave scene and wanted something a little more easier going,” says King-Harris. “It’s a free space to dance in for people looking for the kind of dance energy similar to a festival or club without the drugs or alcohol.”
The dance collective began on Salt Spring Island 10 years ago, and came to Victoria about six years ago.
“Dance Temple is a unique branch of the global ecstatic dance movement that’s rooted here in B.C., yet there are unaffiliated Dance Temple events elsewhere in the world,” said King-Harris.
About seven facilitators host and create music for the weekly dances.
“The only real guideline is no talking, so people can really drop in to their body and not snap back in to their minds,” said Jason.
King-Harris playfully chimed in, “It’s amazing as a musician because you have the full attention of the audience.”
The couple explained that ecstatic dance encourages freedom of expression, and allows a safe space for people to let loose and do dance moves they might not attempt at a concert or any other public setting.
“It’s certainly an innovative space as far as how people are moving their bodies on the dance floor,” said King-Harris. “It’s often quite contagious as well, once you see someone really going for it and getting fully embodied, others feel OK to do the same.”
Before the pandemic, ecstatic dance was held in Victoria on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings. Ecstatic dance is meant to be a safe space, and everyone is encouraged to attend, regardless of age, gender identity, or social background.
“We have had people who are completely paralyzed come in and just enjoy the vibe of the room. It’s truly open for anyone and just being in that space can be incredibly healing,” said Jason. “Once people get a taste of ecstatic dance I think it appeals extremely broadly.”
The couple said the feeling of ecstatic dance is similar to the setting of a yoga class. For many, ecstatic dance isn’t just about getting exercise, but helping heal their bodies on all levels, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
“It really is like a weekly therapy session for people,” said Jason. “You are exercising all levels of your being. Music can help people tune in to different emotional states and move through whatever they are going through.”
The virtual sessions are held via Zoom, a video conferencing app, and Mixlr an audio broadcast website. People can tune in to the audio portion on Mixlr by typing in “Dance Temple”, and can choose whether or not they would like to be on video by using Zoom.
Further instructions on how to tune in to the ecstatic dance live streams can be found on the Dance Temple Facebook page. The online sessions usually run for about two hours and are free or by donation on a sliding scale of $4 to $30 through Paypal or e-transfer.