A few times a month, a group of Charlestonians gather together to dance. Most of these events are held at the St. Julian Devine Center downtown — others events are pop-up dance parties on the beach or in a yoga studio. It’s never at a club, though, and there’s no substance or alcohol use involved. The movement is intentional, freeing and transformative. It’s called ecstatic dance.
“I say sometimes that ecstatic dance is about as simple as it gets: We invite professional DJs to craft a 90-minute set. It’s a mindful set. It’s intentional,” said Alexandra Seaman, who founded Ecstatic Dance Charleston in 2015.
Seaman said the movement represents a fusion of conscious dance and DJ culture.
“The DJ’s job really is to create the journey and to take the dancers on an experience that gets them out of their head and into their body,” she said.
There are two upcoming chances to dance on Feb. 10 and Feb. 24.
The Feb. 10 event features out-of-town guest DJ James Nasty of Baltimore City, who will craft the music for the dance at the St. Julian Devine Center. Nasty has won Baltimore City Paper’s Best DJ category and facilitated ecstatic dances in Baltimore and Washington D.C.
“Even if it means I have to break the rules, I just want to make people feel some kind of way,” DJ Nasty said when asked about his creative goals. “I’m a DJ for the people.”
Charleston native, Kiante’ Lopez, a Gullah Geechee graphic designer, dancer and artist, will act as the Feb. 10 event’s facilitator.
Both the Feb. 10 event with DJ Nasty and the upcoming Feb. 24 ecstatic dance with Charleston’s DJ Mukti are $20, but Seaman said no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Seaman said ecstatic dance is an intended as a community event, so inviting community members to facilitate dances and curate music is integral to the mission. It’s also why she prioritizes making ecstatic dance accessible to everyone.
“What it’s done for the community is create a very unpretentious, very raw, very real space where you trust that you’re welcomed,” Seaman told the City Paper. “You’re actually encouraged to show up exactly how you are.”
Ecstatic Dance Charleston will offer weekly dances in March and continue to host its monthly Friday night dance event.
The ecstatic dance events only have a few rules: No shoes on the dance floor, no talking on the dance floor, and no substances.
“We’re really intending to connect with the body and get out of that thinking mind and also to learn to communicate with one another without words using that universal unspoken language of the body and soul,” Seaman said.
For Seaman, and many of the dancers who attend these events, ecstatic dance is a form of therapy that complements traditional approaches such as talk therapy.
“I respect the thinking mind and I respect the power of talk therapy,” she said. “But I find that with the weight of what we’re living through at this moment in time, individually and collectively, there are some things that we can’t think our way out of. To find freedom from suffering in movement and music is profound.”
As the founder and organizer of Ecstatic Dance Charleston, Seaman has created an accessible, affordable space for self expression in her community.
Even if you don’t want to dance, Seaman encourages newcomers to come check out the ecstatic dance happenings.
“You don’t have to dance to show up … even if you just come with a journal and a pen, or with canvas and paints, or with a meditative mind to listen, you’re welcome in the space,” she said.
“I hope to reignite childlike play and to remind everybody that we can move. I think, sometimes, with yoga practice and some of these more formal movement practices, there’s an idea that we have to look a certain way, or our bodies have to move in some kind of way to feel welcome, and ecstatic dance shatters all of that expectation. If you have a body, you can dance.”
Learn more by visiting ecstaticdance.org. To make the event more accessible, there are also work-trades available. Interested parties can sign-up by contacting Seaman by email at email@example.com.
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