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What is Ecstatic Dance?

Learn what ecstatic dance is, what ecstatic dancing does for your health, what ecstatic dances look like, how to prepare for an ecstatic dance and why you should gift yourself an ecstatic dance event or retreat. 

How did the ecstatic dance movement start? 

Ecstatic dance can be traced back to ancient shamanic and spiritual practices that used dance as a form of healing and communion with the divine. In many cultures, dance was seen as a way to connect with the rhythms of nature and the cosmos, and to enter into altered states of consciousness.

In the modern era, ecstatic dance emerged as a form of rebellion against traditional dance forms that were seen as restrictive and overly structured. Some 1990s and early 2000s rave culture also migrated also migrated to ecstatic dance since mainstream growth commercialized that dance culture. But, the origins of the modern ecstatic dance movement can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s, when a number of alternative dance forms emerged, including contact improvisation, trance dance, and other forms of free-form movement.


In the 1980s and 1990s, the ecstatic dance movement began to take shape as a distinct practice, with the establishment of dedicated dance communities and the development of specific dance styles and techniques. Today, ecstatic dance is practiced around the world and is often associated with spiritual and new age communities, as well as with the broader wellness and self-expression movements.

To learn more about ecstatic dance in San Luis Obispo, visit here.

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What-is-Ecstatic Dance-4.webp

What is ecstatic dance?

Ecstatic dance is a form of dance that emphasizes free movement and expression, often accompanied by music with a strong beat. It is a contemporary practice that has evolved over time, drawing on elements of various cultural and spiritual traditions.


Learn more about ecstatic dance in central California here.

"The fastest way to still the mind is to move the body."

Gabrielle Roth

How does ecstatic dance impact your health?

Ecstatic dance has been shown to have a number of potential health benefits, both physical and mental. Here are a few ways in which ecstatic dance may improve health:

  1. Ecstatic dance boosts cardiovascular health: Ecstatic dance is a form of aerobic exercise that can help to improve cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate and blood flow. It can also help to strengthen the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease.

  2. Ecstatic dance reduces stress and anxiety: Ecstatic dance can be a powerful stress-reliever, helping to release tension and anxiety from the body. By allowing for free expression and movement, ecstatic dance can also help to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

  3. Ecstatic dance improves flexibility and coordination: Ecstatic dance involves a wide range of movements, which can help to improve flexibility and coordination over time. This can help to reduce the risk of injury and improve overall physical performance.

  4. Ecstatic dance enhances mindfulness and self-awareness: Ecstatic dance can be a meditative practice that promotes mindfulness and self-awareness. By focusing on the body and the present moment, dancers can learn to better understand and connect with their own physical and emotional experiences.

  5. Ecstatic dance fosters social connection: Ecstatic dance is often practiced in a group setting, which can foster a sense of social connection and community. This can be particularly beneficial for those who struggle with loneliness or isolation.

  6. Ecstatic dancing improves our mind, body and longevity. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, regular social dancing can help to reduce the risk of dementia by up to 76%.

Overall, ecstatic dance can be a fun and invigorating way to improve overall health, connection to community and well-being, both physically and mentally.


What does ecstatic dance feel like?

Ecstatic dance can feel different for everyone, but it is often described as a liberating and transformative experience. Here are some common experiences that people report during ecstatic dance:

A sense of freedom: Ecstatic dance is often characterized by a lack of structure or choreography, allowing for free movement and expression. This can create a sense of freedom and release that is not always present in other forms of dance.

An altered state of consciousness: Some people report feeling a sense of transcendence or altered state of consciousness during ecstatic dance. This may be due to the rhythmic music, the physical exertion, or a combination of factors.

A connection to others: Ecstatic dance is often practiced in a group setting, which can foster a sense of connection and community. This can be particularly powerful for those who may feel isolated or disconnected in other areas of their lives.

An emotional release: Ecstatic dance can be a powerful way to release pent-up emotions or energy. Some people report feeling a sense of catharsis or release during or after the dance.

A sense of joy and well-being: Overall, ecstatic dance is often associated with a sense of joy, vitality, and well-being. Many people report feeling energized, alive, and more connected to their bodies and emotions after a session of ecstatic dance.

Of course, everyone's experience of ecstatic dance is unique, and your own experience may vary depending on a variety of factors, including the music, the environment, and your own emotional state. However, many people find that ecstatic dance is a powerful and transformative way to connect with themselves, others, and the world around them.



“Peace is wonderful, but ecstatic dance is more fun and less narcissistic."

Gabrielle Roth

"If you don't do your dance, who will?

James Brown

"The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing."

Additional Resources About Ecstatic Dance

These resources will educate you deeper as you explore ecstatic dance and continue your journey to be a more authentic, free, confident and nurturing version of yourself. To learn more about ecstatic dance and related topics, please consider visiting these educational resources:


San Luis Obispo has a growing ecstatic dance scene. There are several local ecstatic dance events, community events, and retreats along the central coast. To learn more, please visit our homepage. You can learn about local ecstatic dance events, additional information about the local music scene, live ecstatic dance mixes, and more. 

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Dance has been proven to help your brain and body, as well as slow down the progress of aging. Yes, dancing is an anti-aging offering. Enjoy this Harvard study on the notable positive impacts that dancing offers. Scientists gave little thought to the neurological effects of dance until relatively recently, when researchers began to investigate the complex mental coordination that dance requires.

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The 5 Rhythms is a form of movement meditation and ecstatic dance that was developed by Gabrielle Roth in the 1970s. The 5 Rhythms practice is typically done in a group setting, with a facilitator guiding participants through the different phases. It is often accompanied by music, which is carefully selected to match the energy of each rhythm.

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