July 23, 2016

What Happened when I replaced Online Dating with Ecstatic Dance.

Emma Roberts / YouTube screenshot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-ms3y4it9g

A few weeks ago, without a whole lot of adult interaction at night, I was feeling the two years of being single creep up on me.

I’d been so busy with new and purposeful work projects the six months prior that I really didn’t have time to notice the aloneness I experienced at night, after my daughter went to bed or after a crazy long day seeing clients at my studio.

With the busy-ness lifting, I noticed the empty space, as well as both recent and older heartache in need of some TLC.

One night, I found myself on OkCupid constructing an online dating profile.

Simultaneously, I watched myself from a distance, knowing that it was a bad idea given how I was feeling. I was pretty good at writing an online profile. Throw in words like “independent,” “hard-working” and “physically active,” along with the right dose of cultural literacy, and the messages started flowing in immediately.

In the following day, I spent a total of three hours mulling through the options and conversing with dating prospects via instant messaging. I began to realize I just wasn’t serious about finding a mate, and that I was really craving connection, fun and finding my “womanness” again.

I wanted to find a way to recharge and play.

I actually had no intention of going on date after date to find “the one.” I wasn’t looking for someone to share my life with, nor to have casual sex with. I didn’t do casual sex well, and didn’t plan to get good at it.

I needed to fill myself up with fun, community and a sense of living my life beyond my work and daughter.

I shut down my online dating profile within 24 hours of setting it up, and then sat with what I was feeling to see where it would guide me.

As part of the work I do with trauma and the body, I have suggested to several of my clients that they try an ecstatic dance event—a super fun and free sober dance party—which happens a couple times a week in my neighborhood. The freedom we can experience by moving without censorship or thinking with our minds is one of the most healing things we can do after a period of suffering, trauma or just too much work and not enough play. At these events, we have permission to move as little or as much as we want.

It’s widely accepted that dancing in groups to a rhythm is extremely beneficial for nervous system regulation after traumatic stress. We get carried by a rhythm to which everyone in the room is moving—a beat that can basically override a nervous system unable to return to a regulated, calm place. It’s a giant act of co-regulation, an hour where we might have moments of feeling completely free of our traumas, worries or hardships.

On a night after teaching an online coaching session about anxiety management, I headed over to ecstatic dance at the Dovercourt House in Toronto. The night had been underway for an hour by the time I got there—right when the energy and happiness in the room started to peak.

I found myself jumping around, pounding my feet, smiling ear-to-ear and moving freely without thinking, just feeling my way into the music. The room was well-balanced in terms of gender—only consensual touching, no getting hit on like in online dating, and was the exact energy I needed to fill that empty space.

I enjoyed some contact dance with a guy who brought a sense of safe physical intimacy (which would be hard to find in the online dating world—no strings attached, in a way that I hadn’t experienced in years, with no sex involved).

I needed to recharge like that after all the stories I’d heard during the day. Working with trauma in myself and others required a commitment to finding joy without looking for someone else to replenish my reserves and make me feel alive—a dangerous road to walk.

The ecstatic dance parties have become a part of my movement-as-medicine practice. I often feel every cell in my body smile and dance when I’m there. I become more aware of the freedom I have to be truly joyful, and I see this mirrored back by other faces and bodies.

For the time people gather in these dance spaces, it’s a community and a space to be free, as well as an effective purgative for the need to date online.

Having experiences that replenish our spirit is an essential way to prevent the all-too-common impulse to escape into someone else.



5Rhythms Dance: a Moving Meditation. {Video}


Author: Jane Clapp

Image: Emma Roberts / YouTube screenshot // sima dimitric/Flickr

Apprentice Editor: Natalia Lusinski; Editor: Toby Israel


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