Ecstatic Dance

When Raven and Pia opened the door to the empty Mahonia Community Center, its characteristic stuffy smell assailed them. It would soon be alleviated when the other doors were opened. Such a dear familiar space. How many times had it been transformed into how many different magical settings?

They lugged in a couple of bags of supplies and a basket of scarves and skirts as well as bags of Christmas lights and things for an altar. Raven hooked up his laptop to the sound system and cued up the play list he’d organized including Gabrielle Roth, Bob Holroyd, and James Asher. While he did that, Pia laid red, orange and blue strings of lights around the perimeter creating a circle within which to dance. In unspoken agreement they pulled down the window shades to give privacy.

Pia dug in the bags and found a red-and-orange-stripped square of silk embroidered with flowers to drape over the piano stool. A large mandala painted on silk by one of the young people went on the wall behind it. She reached in for the small trash art statue Raven had made of Shiva Nataraj – the dancing, many-armed masculine deity who graced so many Hindu temples – and put it in the center flanked by prismed glass candle jars that would refract the light. A series of small dancing figures went in a semi circle around the larger central figure – a Sufi whirling dervish, a belly dancer, a hula girl and a Native American fancy dancer. Pia stood back with her hands on her hips to survey the effect. Satisfied, she took a deep breath, bowed and began to move her body sensuously to the slow strains of Margo Anand’s, “Calling the Sacred Yoni.”

Meanwhile, Raven donned a sparkly shirt, tied an orange silk scarf turban-wise on his head, and added a half-mask with peacock feathers sticking up along the top. He too began to dance, his arms reaching out to swirl around him. The two of them moved to dance together, not touching physically but with the energy shimmering delicately between them, especially between their palms mirroring each other, inches apart. This was an important moment, one they’d been dreaming of for months, maybe even for years. Lifetimes?

Of course, with the arrival of others, the spell shifted, but they grinned with the promise of group energy to build on in a bit.

“I couldn’t get Charley to come,” announced Ursula as she came in the door. “But I did bring the spring water you requested. And some plastic cups in case you didn’t have any. People can put their names on them so we don’t have to throw them away.”

“Or wash them even,” said Pia. “Thanks.”

“Owen is not coming either,” said Thea who had gotten a ride with Ursula and the young people. “We stopped by but he was reading up on animal symbolism and didn’t want to go anywhere.”

“I thought you’d like a little male support,” said Carlos as he swept dramatically into the room in a purple cape under which, it soon became apparent he wore a gypsy skirt and blouse.

“Thanks. Nice outfit,” Raven grinned, his eyes twinkling behind his mask.

Rhea was decked out as well in a swirling cobalt blue rayon dress with a low neckline. She had bright ribbons braided into her hair.

“You look smashing,” Thea said, hugging Pia admiring her sexy black top with sparkles all over it and her swishy full skirt that flashed with bands of sequins. “I wasn’t sure what people would be wearing….” She was a little embarrassed at her plain black yoga pants and top.

“Have at the basket there. All sorts of things to play with.”

Thea dug in and found a jingly belly dance belt and a rainbow colored skirt. She’d had the forethought to put a tank top under her long sleeved shirt. No matter what this type of dancing was, she couldn’t imagine not getting sweaty and wanting to shed a layer.

Molly had walked to the community center with Mariposa, her new tenant. Dressed in her usual plaid flannel shirt and jeans, she soon found a blue headband and picked up a purple scarf to tie over her shoulders. She felt pretty self-conscious but maybe in a bit she would put on one of the gauzy skirts in the basket.

Pia lit the candles. “Let’s gather in a circle,” she instructed. “The candles bring fire to the circle. Let’s feel our roots going deep into the ground, the blood flowing in our veins, and our wings beginning to sprout. I call in Crane and Heron to help us with the dance, as well as Shiva and Shakti. Our intention for tonight is to be fully in our bodies. I’m convinced that eventually, if we keep playing with it, we can find our true selves that way. Feel free to move uninhibitedly. As your body wishes. Nobody can see in the windows if that’s a concern for you. Sit if you want, roll on the floor, play. But no talking. Let’s stay out of our heads. We’ll dance for an hour. The music will start slowly and build to a crescendo before it gentles again to softness. I’m imagining ending in silence.”

“But let’s see what happens,” interjected Raven. “I’ll start the play list I’ve put together.”


“I’m scared,” thought Mariposa as she donned a sequined skirt from Pia’s basket. “Next time I’ll dude it up with an outfit anyway. I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing.” She watched surreptitiously as people began to move with the slow dreamy music. Some stretched, doing standing twists and backbends. Some twirled gracefully. Others were stiff and self-conscious. That made her feel better. She wasn’t the only one unsure of herself. She spun a little to see if her skirt would swirl and was captivated by the sparkle of it. Pretty soon she was in her own little world.

Ursula stretched slowly to get herself warmed up. A forward bend became dog pose which, as she rose with her arms held out, turned into warrior pose. Strong and firm. But then, almost of their own accord, her arms began to flutter with birdlike movements. She went up on her tippy toes and then slowed like a heron coming in to land. How would a hummingbird dance? Flit, flit. Seeing Pia with a long iridescent scarf, gave her an idea and she went to get one to give herself wings.

“Can I let go of decades of Dancing and shift into Movement?” wondered Thea to herself. Though this music was different from her usual, her hips still fell automatically into the familiar shimmy and shake, egged on by the jingles tied there. She loved this feeling and went with it for a while. It had been another long painting day so it was good to get her wiggles out, but as the music went into Lorena McKennitt’s “Santiago,” even the belly dance figure eights and bicycles rolls began to feel too formal for tonight. “If I dance the same ol’ way, I’ll be the same ol’ person and I want to feel differently. How do I do that?”

Keep moving.” The notion from inside her head startled her, but the advice was sound and she had asked for help, after all. She moved faster as the music sped up and lightened. Noticing Ursula and Pia running playfully with bright scarves streaming behind them, Thea had an inspiration. She imagined her Cougar prancing beside her self as the little girl of her Soul Retrieval. She grabbed a huge veil and soon was leaping and skipping with the other two, enjoying giggles and flirty eyes as they swooped their veils over each other’s heads. Raven joined in with a scarf of his own, his mask making him both mysterious and fey. Ariel found a rainbow streamer on a stick and began to swirl it around them all. “What a lovely romp,” thought Thea breathlessly as the song ended. Surely, that counts as play,” she told her Higher Self as she got a drink of water. Then, “African drums. Yum.”

Draw your energy down into your second chakra.” That felt good. After a bit she noticed she was paying less attention to what others might be noticing about her and could tune into the ancient fire that her ancestors had danced around. The music changed again to a didgeridoo and some animal sounds. She liked it that there were no words to any of this music that she could understand. It wasn’t emotional music. Especially not all that lost and lonely whining about being done wrong. She was so over that co-dependent shit. This sound and beat hit her in the gut – right where she needed to be.


As the music sped up and became Middle Eastern again, Pia began to move in a pattern like the hora’s grapevine, familiar deep in her bones from her Jewish and Palestinian ancestors. But soon her movement became looser with a dipping motion that reminded her of the birds she’d called in. Others joined with her and they spun in a circular motion around the perimeter.


“Tribal,” thought Ursula, “What bliss.” As she began to tire from the strenuous dancing she entwined her arms like two snakes to conjure up a new sort of fire, which she could then feel rising sinuously from her root up to her belly towards her throat. Watching the tracery of lights through her fingers made her feel delightfully trancey, a feeling she was learning to enjoy.


Rhea and Carlos mirrored each other, their hands doing a kind of push pull. Rhea was conscious of how this was different than dancing in the barn. The floor was better for one thing, though they missed the live music. Experimental and rough as their jamming was, Arlo and Gabe’s drumming and Fern’s keyboarding added an aliveness even though off notes or children’s bounciness created jerky hesitations in their connections. It had been deepening lately, as they’d hoped, with the addition of Uri’s didge. Dancers and musicians increasingly were able to feed off of each other in a way that canned music could never do, but it was chill to hear the crazy beats of Brent Lewis. “Maybe I’ll borrow a few of Raven’s CD’s to inspire me.”


Raven felt flushed and sweaty after putting so much of his attention into tracking the energy of the group as he danced. Not that they needed much tracking he was happy to see, but he was curious how everyone would react to the music he had put together – how the flow would go. It was different, of course, than just he and Pia, but as he had hoped, the energy was magnified. No doubt there would be people who would distract from time to time but they definitely had a core here who could carry it. Assuming they all wanted to play again.

As the last piece started up, Ashana’s Embrace, he was pleased to hear others begin to tone with it. Most settled on the floor in the center of the room, a few still floated around. He lay down with his head towards the middle and soon others had shifted so they were the spokes of a wheel. The music faded but their toning continued – soaring voices, fed by the energy of their loosened bodies. When they finally settled into silence hands reached out around the circle and the energy buzzed clockwise around. He could feel his own and everyone else’s hearts soaring in a great cone of power into the sky.

“There spirits, take that. Take our energy and feed the hungry world.” Raven spoke aloud.

“Wow,” said someone, descending again into earth plane reality. “That was incredible.”

“Indeed, and it will only get better if we keep doing it. See you next week, I hope. Same time same place.”


“That went very well,” said Pia, as they drove home. Cleanup had been quick with several hands staying to help.

“Fabulous, if I do say so myself,” responded Raven. “I loved it that everyone got into the spirit of it. Or perhaps I should say, ‘let Spirit come into them.’ I saw some new looseness in a number of folks.”

“Wasn’t it great to see Molly cut up? Maybe next week we’ll get her into something flowing. I loved it that the kids from Benden Farm came already dressed to play.”

“And it wasn’t even Full Moon.”