' Ecstatic Dance ' Is a Lesson in Letting Go
The class began tinted with the light of a fading sundown.
I learned the “ecstatic dance” after a gentle yoga class overlooking the morning waves on Tulum beach. “Let’s do it,” I told my friend, soon to discover a new form of meditation on the go that would immerse me even more deeply into an already relaxing Mexican vacation. If you want to try something new, in Tulum you can do it. ‘Ecstatic Dance’ Is a Lesson in Letting Go.
This Monday evening, we arrived in Alaya, an eco-responsible hotel that calls itself a “Mecca” for artists and musicians. The ecstatic dance was supposed to start at 6:30 pm. We paid $ 15 dollars at the front desk, even though locals were only invited to attend with a donation and crowded around the stairs to the cabin. Soon the instructor informed us that it would take another 10 minutes to settle down and chased us away to enjoy the sand and sunset.
Twenty minutes later, he gathered us up the stairs. Our sandals were piled on top. Inside, several people had spread blankets. Some are lying on their backs like insects, their hands and feet pawing in the air. Others crouched and gently rocked their hips. We had to start on the floor, the instructor whispered, and warm the body in a way that made us feel good.
The lesson began with the light of a fading sundown. The DJ performed soft, earthy beats so as not to cushion the fall of the ocean.
After about 10 minutes no one asked us to get up – it just happened. The music got louder. Even though it was sunset, the participants began to look at each other – curious but respectful, open. One couple wore a bikini; a man with long hair and shirtless chose stretchy sports pants. A woman whirled two small children around the edge of the circle. When it got dark, they curled up in the blankets and fell asleep to the sound of sticky feet rustling on the floor.
The Yucatán Peninsula is known to have the largest number of underwater sinkholes, or cenotes, in the world. Once revered as sacred by the ancient Mayans, they now attract both travelers and adventurers. Formed when limestone gradually erodes over hundreds of years, cenotes are a great place for swimming, snorkeling or diving. Here is our guide to exploring the most beautiful cenotes in and around Tulum.
At first, I felt uncomfortable. I am not a dancer and the members of the people did things I had never tried before. Not advanced, but different. They pushed their arms out and folded their hands like waterfalls. They rode the air and quietly delimited invisible rocks.
The guide asked us to cooperate. She was already standing next to my friend, so I slipped past the woman on my right, who agreed with a nod and a smile. One of us had to play a puppet while the other followed their movements with his hands, the instructor said before falling into my friend’s arms, limp like a doll. My partner simply leaned towards her feet, her long hair almost touching her toes beneath her. As she rocked, I lightly placed her hands on her lower back, hoping she would feel reassured and safe. After several minutes, we got up and looked into her eyes (which is no small feat) and massaged our faces. I watched her as she pushed her skin out and her cheeks curled around her nose and eyelids.
We dispersed as the beats of the music sped up. Some people have found new partners, for a few minutes or even just for an instant, as if they entered into individual energy spheres. Eventually, I left the edge of the circle and moved into the dark air to another location across the room. I raised my arms and bounced, turned and stretched against the bark of the tree. Four or five dancers in the middle yelled and cooed. Many smiled with their eyes closed. I let it go.
We danced for over an hour. At various times, I felt what was sinking, like the sensation of a long run or a float in the ocean. It wasn’t sustained, as the needles of self-awareness continued to pierce my first ecstatic dance experience. But as the music softened and slowed down, I felt a little exhausted and lighter at the same time. Eventually I connected with the others in the room, never talking to them.
Ecstatic dance is practiced all over the world as a form of therapeutic movement and has its roots in the sacred and ceremonial dance practiced by antique cultures. The approach took hold in Hawaii around the millennium, steeped in the musical culture of the West Coast and Burning Man festival circuit. It forms a spoken word of the broader umbrella of “conscious dance,” which includes other interpretations, such as Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms, a more guided exploration of meditative healing through movement. Most of the disciplines of the genre specify an environment free of substances and perfumes and are almost always barefoot. Otherwise, there are few rules in ecstatic dance other than inclusion and freedom.
In Tulum, the experience emptied my ego. Afterwards, walking along the beach with my friend, I was physically loose and open to the experiences that awaited me. In our case, it was fish tacos and laughter on the beach, and later, the sweetest night sleep of the entire trip. Also try salsa, it´s very good and fun.