WHILE some people were saying hail marys in Church on Sunday morning, a motley crew were wildly dancing and rejoicing on the lawns beside the Round House in Fremantle.
They weren’t stragglers from an all-night rave or beach bums having a breakfast party, but folk taking part in the first ever Ecstatic Dance Church, a silent disco that uses dance as prayer and celebrates life through movement and rejoicing.
The lively congregation wear headphones, so they don’t disturb passers-by, and boogie to a wide range of music with everything from electronica, classical, folk and world to jazz and spoken word.
The quirky alternative to church was organised by Spearwood-based Dancing Dhevas, which for the past 12 years have been running ecstatic dances throughout Greater Fremantle.
All their events are alcohol, drug and smoke free, and dancing is barefoot and you’re not allowed to talk.
As dancers surrender themselves to the rhythm and move more freely, they often describe being in a trance-like state or feeling a type of “ecstasy”.
Dancing Dhevas founder Theva Indrasenan says dancing is one of the best types of all-round exercise and a great de-stresser and mood enhancer.
“The free form (no choreography) aspect of conscious dance stimulates neural pathways that has been studied to support the prevention of Alzheimer’s and other conditions,” he says.
“The no talking part is a slight challenge for newcomers, as talking is our first go to when we get self conscious, but after a while the dance comes into its own and people have a great time.”
Indrasenan says ecstatic dance is the first step towards learning more advanced conscious dance practices like open floor movement, a lively form of meditation that builds muscular and emotional intelligence through unchoreographed movement.
“In the open floor dance we focus on the four dimensions of embodiment – physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual,” he says. “Balancing these supports health and vitality.”
“Ecstatic dance and conscious dance have been around for 40 years or so and the essence of it is to dance like no one is watching.”
Up to 100 people attend Dancing Dhevas regular classes, with most aged between 25 and 60, and some regulars have been coming since 2010, citing the mental health benefits. So will the Ecstatic Dance Church become a regular fixture on the lawns at Arthur Head?
“The ‘Church’ event at the Round House lawn was a one off, but we may run it again as it was so much fun,” Indrasenan says. “The location has a lovely view for dancing with access to the beach afterwards. It’s not our regular location as it can get quite windy up there.
“Dancing outdoors has its benefits – the fresh air, feet feeling the earth and we can enjoy a swim afterwards.”
Dancing Dhevas run fortnightly ecstatic dance classes at the Fremantle PCYC and open floor classes at the North Coogee Dog Beach Park. For more info see dancingdhevas.com
By STEPHEN POLLOCK