HALIFAX — If you gaze into the sky and spin, that is, truly spin, round and around, do you feel you can fly? And if you feel that you can, do the clouds carry you away into the blue high above the world? And as you sail upon a cloud beneath the sun are you still aware that you are dancing?
Such questions aren’t always asked in day-to-day life, but at each ecstatic dance event held in Halifax, NS, they are front and centre in everyone’s mind. The events are held every month or so, and to those who have attended, many swear that one dance has changed their lives.
"Ecstatic dance is not the place to bring any dance moves you've been practicing, though you could," says Gaelle McNeil, one of the founding Halifax Barefoot Ecstatic dancers. “It's about discovering what is hidden. Releasing what doesn't serve you in your life. About being in a spiritual place with others — strangers and friends. It's about listening to amazing music and allowing whatever is below the surface to express itself through your dance. It's cleansing, like a sweat lodge."
Ecstatic dancing is done barefoot, and there is no talking. The ecstatic dance begins in a circular, seated position. The circle is made up of between 20 and 40 dancers. As feet move upon the floor, stomping, trotting, gliding, slipping or tripping, such motions become notes of music. Each note a vessel laden with song and each vessel becomes a reason to dance.
As you unleash this joy within you, one thing is clear, this is a dance like no other, for it lets the light of your soul shine. As you dance, light is scattered within, without and all around you. In these moments, the experience of having a free mind is created by simply taking off your shoes, and allowing yourself to dance.
McNeil, and the community of people who love to ecstatic dance, are readying themselves for their next event. Mid-summer, around the end of July or early August, there will be an ecstatic dance with Oka, a tribal music group from Australia. They have played in Halifax at the International Busker Festival for several years and are very popular on the waterfront. They have also played under early morning starlight at the Evolve Music and Awareness Festival.
In a city where the streets are paved and the windows are glassed, often the message conveyed is that you cannot be free. If you feel this, then like many ecstatic dancers before you, a moment — a moment that has been said to culminate magic — will become you. If so then you as so many like you will find there is only one thing left to do: return for more. Remember, it is so easy to forget the message of the forests and the sigh of the sea, but when you dance barefoot you know who you are because you are free.
The Barefoot Ecstatic Dance events in Halifax mainly occur Saturdays. The events take place between 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the DANSpace, 1531 Grafton Street, 3rd floor. The charge is $10 per adult or what you can afford. Children are welcome. For the next event, Oka is confirmed for Tuesday, July 31. It will likely be $20, starting at 8 p.m.