There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen.
The word ecstatic comes from the Greek ekstasis, from ek- "out," and stasis "a standing still”. The Greeks used the word ecstasy to describe how a person’s soul would leave (ek) its bodily home (stasis) and enter into union with higher powers. Ecstasy is about transcending normal consciousness.
You were wild once. Don't let them tame you
~ Isadora Duncan
the story of conscious dance
our mother tongue
There is a long lost language, a form of communication that breaks through language barriers and that pierces through social games. A language that has no past or future tense, and that only speaks in here and now. A language in which we cannot lie. Where the act of speaking becomes a process of unveiling, peeling off layer after layer, until there is nothing left.
To learn this magical language, we have to listen first. Our mother tongue, however, does not use words. Therefore, we cannot rely on our usual ways of knowing and grasping the world. We, actually, have to sink beneath our reasoning, categorizing and analyzing mind to a terrain so familiar and natural that most of us have learned to ignore it. It is a return to our bodies, our breath, our sensations and feelings: a return to the raw, living material that we are made of.
For the longest time in our human history, ecstatic practices and conscious dance were central to the human experience. Cave art gives an impression of what our ancestors valued, and cave as old as 20.000 years frequently depicts our ancestors dancing. Anthropologists estimate that 92% of small-scale societies practiced some sort of religious trance, most often through ecstatic group rituals. Dance was everywhere. In ancient Greece, Dionysus was the god of Ecstasy and his widespread cult had people dancing in ecstasy in forests, on mountains and in the first theater performances. Dance slowly lost its central role with the advent of written history, and faded more and more into the background.
In prehistory, most social systems were based on a partnership model, writes the scientist Riane Eisler. Tribes and groups were centered around caring connections. Dance & music enabled tribe members to connect and attune emotionally. Furthermore, through dance they could enter the spirit world and find guidance and healing. Around 5000 years ago, according to Eisler, this shifted toward a domination model based on hierarchy and control, with tribes invading and conquering, giving rise to large scale empires. It now was to dominate or to be dominated. Dance was dangerous as it equalized relations and gave direct access to the divine; which went against the established hierarchies and institutionalized religion.
Through the course of our history our bodies language, the voice of nature, and the know-how of getting into ecstasy and traveling through trance have been silenced. It took centuries of repression by those in power- the church, kings, and later much of mainstream science - to alienate ourselves from the living world and install a view on the world that is mechanical and detached. This tragedy is repeated within our own lifetimes in which we learn to sit still and value a so-called objective view of life, making us outsiders to our own lives.
Conscious dance revival
Conscious dance and other ecstatic practices have been banned, but never eradicated. It went underground in the many mystic cults of the Roman empire. In the middle ages, dance broke out in the streets during Europe's dancing plagues, with thousands of people compulsively dancing for days. Later, the church allowed these outbreaks as carnival. Ecstatic dance also managed to survive when tribes around the world infused and disguised their practices as the Christian faith of their conquerors. And in the West, conscious dance experienced a revival around the turn of the 20th century when pioneers as Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Mary Starks Whitehouse, Gabrielle Roth, and many others, refined the pathways back into our bodies, and back into the living fabric that we are part of.