In the world of ecstatic dance, you can dance how you want to.Throw your hands in the air. Jump around euphorically. Or just sway. Shoot, maybe you don’t want to move at all but just sit and meditate. That’s cool, too.
The idea is to do whatever the body feels compelled to do, and do it in a way that’s freeform, without worry of judgment from onlookers.
But when it comes to being a person of color in Portland’s predominantly white ecstatic dance scene, that’s easier said than done. It’s why massage therapist and lifelong dance aficionado Andrea Thompson created a series exclusively for Black, indigenous and other people of color.
“We live in a city where most people of color feel like they are boxed in by stereotypes, white gaze, and all the ways they are expected to act, think and feel,” Thompson says.
Soul Revival: Ecstatic Dance for PoC happens at Flying Tortoise Academy, a yoga and martial arts studio in Northeast Portland. An in-house DJ spins a mix of music by POC artists, chosen in connection with themes that differ from session to session—“Effervescence,” “Resilience,” “Seeds,” and the newcomer-friendly “Why We Dance” are a few of the most recent themes. Whatever guests want to do from there is entirely up to them, whether it’s a two-step, twerking or even letting out a primal scream.
Besides creating the space, facilitating the opening and closing circle, and keeping the environment safe and rooted for dancers, Thompson takes a hands-off approach so dancers are free to direct their own individual experience.
“It feels particularly relevant to have a POC space that lets you just be you and explore different aspects of yourself,” Thompson says, “or new ways of being without fear.”