Sean and Kristin Carter let the spirit of Dance Church move them.
“It’s a place for people to laugh, to cry, to see each other, to find some solace on the floor.” And with that, Owl Swan rolls off the mat we share in the corner of the studio to claim his own space on the floor, sweeping it clean with his body to a meditative New Age soundtrack.
Every Sunday morning for the past 10 years, the back room of the 418 Project has been home to a welcoming space for ecstatic dancing, and the community that keeps its energy afloat. Dance Church is where the DJ is the minister, the music is the sermon, and the dancers are the congregation.
Serena, a member of the nine-person Dance Church counsel that organizes events and holds the vision for the space, calls it “Sacred Living Room Dancing,” an interpretation of the free dancing we do in the privacy of our own homes. Beyond that, she proposes Dance Church is the fusion of bars and churches, taking the best of both and letting go of the worst. One participant explains it’s all about “just follow bliss and do whatever feels good,” while student Arianna puts a more historical spin on it: “It’s been around since the beginning of time. So that’s one thing they got right—dancing. And fire.”
People enter and people dance, moving freely throughout the space for the most part, though a business-looking man with sunglasses and a pair of skateboarding middle-schoolers take a deep breath before walking across the room as fast as they can to get to the doors on the other side.
When I divulge that I’m a first-timer, I get some nice eyebrow raises and little smirks suggesting I’m in for a surprise that I’m not ready for. The assumption is correct.
“There’s nothing I haven’t seen happen on that floor,” says Dance Church veteran Daniel Mollner.
In the interest of preparing the uninitiated, here’s a primer of some things you can expect on your first pilgrimage to Dance Church:
Screaming: Because spiritual awakenings happen in the vocal cords, too. Some of the outbursts are in response to the music, but more often than not they’re exclamations of overwhelming, unconventional religious experience.
Props: Dancing is dancing, but Dance Church dancing also involves advanced hula-hooping, bouncing on exercise balls and passing energy crystals around. I witness one exchange in which two people take turns holding a crystal to their chests, faces lighting up in awe as they stare at each other and yell, “I know!”
Not a lot of clothes: Way more active than regular church, so some people get sweaty, and within 10 minutes of their arrival, start taking off their shirts. And pants.
Rolling around on the floor: Some people are stretching, some are taking a rest, some are engaged in what I would call “spiritual mopping.” This is a big deal, even though the floor seems like the most dangerous place to be when people are jumping around and flailing about. But I guess sometimes you’ve just gotta have a little faith that you won’t get stomped on at church.
Dance Church is held every Sundays at 9am at the 418 Project.