The supermoon is out and i’m covered in sweat. We’ve been dancing for the past hour, all twenty of us women. And I mean, we’re really going for it. The ground is vibrating with the stomps of feet. We’re passionate, and it’s tangible. Limbs are everywhere, each woman on her own trip, in her own universe. A guttural voice screams “we’re alive!” and there are resounding cheers, cries and warcries. It’s wild.
Did I mention that we’re all completely sober?
I’d heard about Mylène Bergeron’s ecstatic dance nights about a year before I dared commit to one. Originally from Montreal, Mylène has been practicing and teaching the body, mind, and breath connection for fifteen years. Ten years ago she founded Deep Flow, an alignment-based approach to bodywork working in conjunction with the mind and spirit. (She is also running two Deep Flow digital detox retreats in February here in El Salva… Check her out!)
The aim of conscious dance, she says, is to break habits that limit us and our bodies.
“By expanding the body, the mind goes to new places and resets nervous systems. This process leads us towards making clearer choices. The aim is to make the unconscious conscious. To raise self awareness and expand people toward their true potential.”
On this night we start in a circle, passing around two steaming jars of hot and spicy cacao. Some girls say that they are anxious, others stressed. Some are excited, some are curious. Either way, it is clear the concept of dancing in front of people without having the cloak of inebriation draws strong reactions out of people. I’ll admit I too can’t remember a time I threw myself into dancing without being completely fuck eyed. At 5’11 I am tall and conspicuous, so I often mind myself hyper conscious of how i’m standing and moving and taking up space in the world… so dancing? Is usually a thing I just avoid. But why are we as a society so hyper conscious of what we look like when we are dancing? Why are we so afraid to let go?
“So many people live from the outside in and so stay stuck on what the eye sees, so have a hard time being authentic,” Mylène says.
“But when the energy from within is alive, the outside manifestation of the internal activity becomes natural, free and beautiful in its rawness, instead of following what society feeds us which is measured by performance, approval.”
We are instructed that the dance will move through five categories, which we will be guided through. Mylene is not a Five Rhythms instructor but is inspired by their wave approach to create therapeutic dance events and so the five stages will be as follows. Flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. Each require a different kind of movement, a different kind of emotion, a different kind of beat.
It’s a process that will require a whole lot of vulnerability and self love and no judgement. It can be transformative, if we want it to be. We are instructed that transformation comes from the equal effort of two people, the instructor and the person. If we want some magic to happen, there has to be equal open mindedness and open heartedness on both sides.
We start with ‘flowing’, long, sweeping limbs, feminine, curled and rounded movements.
Dope, I think, this shouldn’t be too hard. I know how ‘feminine’ is meant to look. My brain goes on autopilot as I mimic the women around me, thinking that i’m killing it at this. Dainty, sweeping fingers, long, loose limbs. I got this.
As long as I look like everyone else, no one else will know I have no rhythm of my own.
But as though staring straight into the inside of my brain, Mylène calls across the crowd, “Don’t dance how you think it’s meant to look. Move from the base of your spine. Let every movement come from there. From the inside out.”
I feel like a student who just got busted copying answers off the smart kids test sitting next to me.
So I try to move my focus inward, my attention to my spine. Okay, spine. Where do you wanna go? Weirdly, it starts showing me where it wants to go, and it’s not where I thought. Before I even know I want it to go there. It doesn’t look like the ‘feminine’ I had pictured. But it feels feminine. I feel feminine as fuck.
“Imagine your vagina is a gate,” we’re instructed. “It is open. You are woman.”
And weirdly, I feel it. That thing is open, and not in a ‘mama just got out of a long term relationship and ready to go on a rampage’ kind of way. Open in a way that energy is pouring from my pelvis. This powerful vagina of mine, creator of life, provider of pleasure.
I’m starting to really like this conscious dancing thing.
Next we move into staccato phase. Staccato is focusing on the masculine side of ourselves. Strong, square, punchy movements. Long sweeping arms, slicing air like machetes. Strangely enough I feel more at home in the masculine movements than the feminine ones.
We are making a statement, with our whole fucking being… Establishing our territory, our boundaries, saying : I’m in charge. It’s courage, fierce, and power.
Next we move into chaos. Already sweating from flowing and staccato, chaos steps it up to the next level. We’re ready for it. We throw ourselves across that dance floor as though possessed. Punches, kicks, spins, it’s nuts. I go to close my eyes, ready to give into the chaos. But I am stopped.
“In life, we don’t close our eyes in chaos. We keep them wide open.”
For some reason this makes a knot form in my throat.
Almost like i’m about to cry.
We’re instructed to buddy up with someone, and energetically hold our partner by raising our arms wide above her, creating a safe, protected space for her to dance out whatever poison it is she is trying to purge. The whole exercise reminds me of a Mia Hollow poem I read once and loved
Bring me your suffering,
The rattle roar of broken bones
Bring me the riot in your heart,
Angry wild and raw.
Bring it all,
I am not afraid of the dark.
Some are trying to purge their not enoughness, some, their fear, some, an old love, some, ‘just all the bullshit’, while other woman shields her, protects her, and draws more out of here than she previously ever thought she would be able to express. We’re holding on another while not even touching, getting it out, all of it. The way we’re so often not allowed to in society. Bigger movements, we urge our partner, more sweat. Give it to me, Mama. Give it all to me.
Stage four of the dance is lyrical. We’ve reached the peak of the mountain of madness and energy, and now we’re sliding back down the other side. Heartbeats start slowing, everyone is slowly trying to catch their breath. This is where a lot of tears fall, a lot of people spent in their catharsis. The theme of lyrical feels like love. We are guided to pull love out of our chests by the fingertips, stretching our arms long and painting that love across the underbelly of the night sky. Soon, this lyrical gives way to the fifth and final stage…
We’re slowing down. Our movements are getting smaller again. We pause here and there, then for longer stages at a time. In time, we all come to laying on the floor, in our own time, to come completely still.
I know how easily I could have come into this event and been the cynical journalist making wisecracks about estrogen and witches and hippies. I can do that kind of sarcastic, social commentary journalism in my sleep. Maybe a year ago I would have.
But you get to a point where you ask yourself, do I want to step back into safety right now, or do I want to grow? Do I want to be that girl who was popular in high school cause she never stuck her neck out and did dumb shit outside what was acceptable dumb shit, or do I want to evolve, awaken, stare down my own darkness and accept the fact that this perception I have of myself might not be myself at all?
A while ago I decided that spiritually, I’m ready to go. I want to wake up, I want to elevate. I don’t give a shit what it takes our how stupid I have to look in the process. Just take me.
I would say if you’re curious about something, even if it feels a little weird or kooky or ‘isn’t what you’d usually do’… just do it. You have nothing to lose by doing something and deciding it’s not you, and each situation that’s out of your comfort zone that you throw yourself into is an opportunity for growth. Keep your eyes open. Try anything.
You might even transform a little.