Every art has its mystery, its spiritual rhythm. – D. T. Suzuki
At heart, we are all mystics searching for the divine.
Whether we perceive this divinity to exist in religion, culture, spirituality or some other form of human tradition, we all seek to be united with that which is beyond our limited minds and fragile bodies.
Dance is perhaps one of the oldest and most widespread practices known to man, which not only fulfills our need for free expression and leisurely catharsis, but also bridges a gap between the finite and infinite.
While most of us skim along the surface waters of life, superficially navigating our efforts here and there, we all tend to have a deep craving to plunge into the depth of the ocean of life and experience its true fluidity, its true mysticism. Dance in many ways is the ultimate route to the truth of who we are beyond our names, beliefs, titles, achievements, memories and identities.
Dance, in many ways, is the ultimate surrender.
If you would like to explore spiritual dancing, if you would like to open the door to experiential ecstasy and pure presence, keep reading.
Spiritual Dancing: 5 to Explore
I have never been much of a dancer. In fact, one of my earliest memories was of me crossing my arms and angrily refusing to dance the “Chicken Dance” because I thought it looked stupid (I was 5). But although I wasn’t born with tap-dancing feet, I have experienced the whirlwind bliss of dancing wildly and freely before.
Whether you are a graceful swan or an awkward elephant like me, spiritual dancing has something very valuable to offer.
1. The Mystical Dervish Dance
Also known as “Sufi whirling,” dervish dancing is a form of moving meditation channeled into a spinning dance. Tracing its roots back to Sufism; a mystical branch of Islam, and later influenced by Turkish culture, dervish dancing pays homage to the mysterious spinning and cyclical movements of existence. As we know, all of life follows a circular pattern; our blood, menstrual cycles, seasonal cycles, life cycles and planetary cycles. By aligning with the natural pattern inherent in existence, dervish dances also merge with the divine, often entering altered states of consciousness characterized by bliss and pure being.
2. 5Rhythms Dance
Created by dancer, musician and author Gabrielle Roth in the 1970’s, 5Rhythms is a fusion of gestalt therapy, transpersonal psychology, shamanism and eastern philosophy. The five rhythms included in this kind of dance include “flowing,” “staccato,” “chaos,” “lyrical” and “stillness.” When combined, these five elements form a “Wave” which can be clearly seen in the movements expressed in this kind of free-form dancing. Roth described the 5Rhythms Dance as a journey of the soul to freedom through the releasing of the heart, mind and body.
3. Folk Circle Dance
Circle dancing is perhaps one of the most primitive forms of spiritual dancing included in this list. Many cultures have some form of circle dance from the Native American Indians to the Grecians. As its names suggests, circle dancing is undertaken in a circle of people (whether open or closed) to rhythmic beats or folk tunes. Such a type of dancing fosters a deeper sense of interpersonal connection with others and a heightened state of consciousness. Circle dancing is sometimes structured and often free-form.
4. Middle Eastern Belly Dance
“Goddess” is the very first word that comes to mind for most of us when we picture belly dancing. With its undulations, shimmies and sinuous movements, this form of dance brings you directly in touch with the power of feminine energy. Many women report embracing their sexuality and accepting their bodies more after belly dancing.
5. 21st Century Trance Dance
When we think of trance dancing we think of rave parties and LSD, but trance dancing is much older than it looks. Having its roots in shamanistic tribal healing, trance dancing is always performed to the “trance like” beat of a drum (or in modern times, a DJ). By dancing free and unbridled, those who trance dance connect with the primal energy of life and often reach “spiritual” states of being characterized by inner freedom and expansiveness.
By allowing our minds to stay fully centered in the present moment; in the rhythm of the drum, in the thrust of the hip, in the catch of the breath, we shed away every thing we think we are just for a few moments. This opens up a doorway to fully experience what is beyond thought and form; a path to merge with our eternal nature.