Good Living March 2014

Ecstatic about dancing

By From page GLV2 | March 05, 2014

“I’m happy dancin’, I’m dancin’, I’ll dance on my own.” — Robert Plant

It used to be that you’d go to a nightclub, and even though the music was irresistible, you’d sit alone if someone wasn’t willing to dance with you. That’s not the norm so much today but if you’re still the type who shies from kicking up your heels solo, check out Ecstatic Dance in Placerville.

Not only is it OK to dance on your own, it’s actually the only thing to do.

“You can’t do it wrong,” said Summer Egland, who began Ecstatic Dance inside the old Odd Fellows building on Main Street last June. “People have always loved to move to music and this allows your body to move in new ways.”

Just follow the pounding bass beat up the stairs at 467 Main St. on any given Sunday and join the dozen or so others who are finding their groove dancing on the historical spring-loaded hardwood floor of the International Order of Odd Fellows building.


Individual dance

What you’ll notice right away is that they aren’t dancing with a partner but yet seem to be a cohesive bunch who all are finding individual interpretations of the music presented by a professional DJ.

During a recent session, for example, one man used his shoulders to translate the message he was receiving, while a woman nearby traveled in flowing circles around him and others, moving her arms in expansive gestures that all but took flight.

“Freeform dancing retrains your body into moving in new ways and that translates into a healthy, happy attitude,” said Egland, who also is a state and nationally certified massage therapist in Placerville. “There’s no instruction; you simply move however you wish.”

Every Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. attendees make their way to the upstairs, spacious hardwood-floor dance studio, which also contains a meditation “altar space” that allows one to seek shelter from life’s emotional storms.

If quiet contemplation leads to the dance floor, or provides a respite afterward, then the mission is accomplished, according to Egland.

“We start out slowly with the music,” she added, “allowing us to get into our bodies, to get into that space. Then the music picks up and we go into real exercise mode.”

One woman participant on a recent late Sunday morning said she has been coming to Ecstatic Dance for seven months but she laughed and asked not to be identified in the Mountain Democrat story because “I’m supposed to be in church.”

“It’s a healing process for me,” said the woman, who added she is soon to turn 60. “They have different DJs and they’re all good.

“I just love the freeform dancing and it’s really great exercise,” she said, flitting back to the floor after dabbing her face with a soft towel.

Egland’s mom, Valerie Johanson, collects the fees for the Ecstatic Dance sessions, which are $15 for one day of dance, three sessions for $35 or six for $60.

When Johanson mentioned that her lovely daughter is 37, it was remarked that Summer appears quite a bit younger.

“This is what she does to keep in shape,” Johanson explained.


Something for everyone

Ecstatic Dance is not just for those who want to stay trim and youthful, however.
“It allows me to be free,” said Travis Warner, a 27-year-old from Placerville. “I love having that free space where I can move around and express myself. I just let the music flow through my body and it helps me understand that it’s a lesson for life — to go with the flow.”

Warner said he began attending the Sunday sessions after his sister Brandi “initiated me.”

As the adults danced their way through their own personal flow, two or three kids also found their means of expression, crawling like Ninjas across the dance floor, ever mindful not to crowd or disturb those dancing.

“We allow children, as long as they can ‘hang,’” said Egland.


Part of a bigger organization

Egland said the local Ecstatic Dance is part of a larger, open organization of ecstatic dancers worldwide, with the largest dance held in uptown Oakland at the historical Sweet’s Ballroom.

That dance draws more than 300 people twice a week and organizers say it is “without drugs or alcohol.”

In fact Ecstatic Dance not only does not allow drugs or alcohol, participants also are asked not to wear shoes and to refrain from wearing perfumes, colognes or other scents.

And … no talking, please.

That’s to ensure the serenity of the experience, Egland said, all with the goal of a healthier mind and body.

“It’s a type of ‘movement medicine’ that heals people by taking them out of their thinking minds and into their bodies,” she elaborated. “It brings people into an altered state where healing can happen.

“Similar to yoga or meditation, this form of dance is spreading like wildfire as people discover its benefits of increased freedom, flexibility, health, happiness and a greater sense of community connection.”


The floor

Placerville participants in Ecstatic Dance are blessed with one of the last remaining spring-loaded dance floors in the country, Egland pointed out. The floor “gives” with pressure, kind of like a trampoline, she said.

Egland added that each dance session inside the IOOF building is unique.

“Every dance is different, with the interplay between the dancers, the music and the DJ creating its own mood and experience,” she said. “What remains, though, is the healing factor. When you move your body in new and different ways, it ‘rewires’ your nervous system and creates new pathways that affect your thinking and way of being.”

Egland said that her lifelong love of dance “has set me free.”

“The inner freedom, strength and flexibility I’ve gained through dance has spread to all aspects of my life. The natural high I feel is amazing.”

For more information visit Ecstatic Dance Placerville on Facebook or call Summer Egland at 530-626-6030 or mobile 530-313-8906.

Pat Lakey

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