Dancing it out: A taste of the trance dance

Cards are splayed out before the beginning of the trance dance.

For this blog, I have compiled a list of more than 100 experiences to pursue.

But for my first “experience,” I undertook something I hadn’t even heard of a week earlier: a trance dance.

I was treating myself to a deliciously relaxing Swedish massage when the therapist began telling me about the new class her shop was offering.

I can’t pretend that her explanation — which included music, dancing, blindfolds and a talking stick — made me understand exactly what was going to transpire.

But, in my mellow state, I thought, “Why not?”

It is entirely possible some of the worst ideas ever — subprime mortgages and waffle tacos, for example — were launched with a casual “Why not?”

The trance dance was not a disaster. But if your mind leans toward the left brain, demanding logic and analytics to make sense of the world, you might want to stop reading before your head explodes.

Because the trance dance is not about measurable achievements; it is about a state of mind.

The 75-minute class at Body Wisdom Healing Group in Clintonville combines music, movement and introspection to promote “spiritual awakenings, mental clarity, physical stamina and emotional well-being,” according to its website.

That is asking quite a bit from a class, and I won’t say I achieved all (or even any) of those goals. But it was rather relaxing.

It was similar to a guided meditation, with a bit of movement melded in.

My friend Rebecca and I were the sole students in the first trance dance class at the Indianola Avenue studio. Instructor Rita Carnevale has a long history in holistic health applications and has studied with one of the premier teachers of the trance dance form.

She opened the class by burning a bit of sage to cleanse the room, a serene cork-floored, gray-walled space typical of yoga studios.

The three of us sat on mats around a small arrangement – a candle, which served as our central fire; a deck of animal cards fanned out; and maracas.

We each drew a card to find the animal that was to be our ally during our dance, a guide to help us find the answer to whatever question we pondered as we moved. I panicked; I didn’t have a question in mind. Was I supposed to have prepared for this class?

I pulled the prairie dog, which I interpreted as a reference to activity, curiosity and community, but Rita said it was associated with the word “retreat.”

Suddenly I had much to ponder, because in my new chapter in life, retreat is the last option I’m considering. Is the universe saying I should calm the heck down?

Shaking a hand rattle in each of the four directions, Rita called to the spirits: serpent, jaguar, hummingbird and eagle. She called to the spirits of earth and sky as well before getting to business.

Rebecca and I tied scarves across our eyes as Rita began a CD of music over which her voice guided our minds through a forest and onward. The music overpowered her voice at times, and I missed the cue to begin dancing, but I rose as I heard Rebecca moving about.

I can’t say how enthusiastically Rebecca danced, being blindfolded and all, but my movements were definitely on the conservative side.

Being blindfolded is probably supposed to reduce the self-consciousness factor, but I kept thinking, “I’m blindfolded in a dim room, and kind of swaying like a drunk at a Buffett concert. I really hope I don’t bounce off the wall.”

I didn’t get fully lost in the moment, but the activity was calming. Anytime you have a chance to think without distraction, a kind of peace will settle. There aren’t many times in our day when we are alone with our thoughts.

The dance portion of the class lasted about 30 minutes, and the time passed quickly.

After the dance, we passed the talking stick and had the opportunity to share our thoughts. I had no great insights, given how I had been fixated on not falling down.

Am I glad to have taken the class? Yes. I love the way meditation makes me feel, and I don’t do it often enough. This class was along those lines.

Would I take it again? Maybe. Only next time, I’ll have a question in mind.

Conclusion: Worth the effort












2 Replies to “Dancing it out: A taste of the trance dance”

  1. You sure this wasn’t a dream? I guess I remember a time doing something that I wouldn’t have normally done and after all was said and done the experience was worth the journey.
    Chaucer class in High School comes to mind!

  2. Cindy, I think this might have been more fun if someone had levitated. But I agree, anything that promotes quiet thought and introspection can’t be a bad thing unless Tom Cruise is involved.

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