I heard the term “collective effervescence” in a recent podcast and goose bumps rose on my skin. It resonated utterly familiar but ironically unnamed. We all know this: when the atmosphere magically crystallizes at a concert, a ballpark, a festival. Durkheim, a French sociologist, coined the term in reference to religious gatherings. He observed that song and rhythm connect people to create moments of unified transcendence. Any shared experience of collective emotion unifies a group.
The goose bumps were quickly followed by tears as it dawned on me that we have not had this, you have not had this, I have not had this healing prescription in any form in six months. We receive a vital medicine in live music venues, live theater, motion picture houses, houses of worship, crowd-filled celebrations. It happens in a yoga studio surrounded by embodied mat practitioners. Anywhere, anytime we authentically share an event with a group of fellow human beings, there is potential to generate collective effervescence. Consider life as it used to be: where did you receive this medicine?
For me, what really hit home, where the deficit feels deeply jarring in its absence, is the reliable dose I received twice a week for twenty years on the dance floor. Often more than that. Not only have I not received, my skill in creating the experience for others has lain dormant. What might surprise you is that the act of creating collective effervescence offers up double the medicinal dose. It is deeply unpleasant to be with my attachment to this, drift in and out of the pain of loss, acknowledge how my systemic health was regulated through this essential community practice.
Oh yes, we are dancing on Zoom. Maybe you’ve danced with a Zoom community; maybe not. I’ve heard more than my share of opinions about this experience from seasoned practitioners, but I only speak for myself here. It. Is. Not. The. Same. Zoom-land is always interesting, even intriguing. Often frustrating. It tickles me how the technology has offered opportunity for those too shy or intimidated or scared to show up in person to dance. First ever experience on Zoom. Amazing. Sometimes we move in our boxes and land in a shared zone of collective empathy. Which has value in these times. I know we are fortunate to have this technology; truly it offers us so much. But it is a whole different animal than body-to body, face-to-face live and, at least for me, does not provide the collective medicine on which I deeply depend.
Every summer we take a break from teaching Wednesday Waves and it was really good to stand in that tradition this year. Time to feel into what had come to pass and wonder how we might shape the fall, given this new experiential base. It’s a crazy world out there and we truly want to support you in staying aware, remaining awake, feeling alive and connected. Going into the pandemic, we felt blessed to lean into an established foothold in this transformative practice. Somehow we have to find a way to move alone together through this strange chapter.
But right here I want to name the humongous elephant in the Zoom room: the glory of together—partner and communal—is pretty much on hold right now. The current on-line practice supports our relationship with numero uno, our interior dance. Here’s the deal: if you’re a dancer who derives the most juice from taking a partner or bathing in the collective, this current practice will challenge you. And maybe that’s just what you need. Just a thought, who knows? For those who delight in dancing in the corner, cringe when the invitation is to take a partner, this will definitely reinforce that preference. It is what it is.
This fall we work with what is and flesh the internal exploration more fully. 5Rhythms is an exceptional map for that AND there are many other maps into that interior landscape. Both Majica and I have complementary skills we have been using in other formats uniquely applicable to the on-line experience. The rich world of art therapy, counseling, yoga and physical therapy combined with dance will illuminate our inner space. Alone together we’ll create a dynamic way to explore the body, open to feelings, become aware of thoughts. This is the map. As body, heart, mind align, a portal reveals a gateway to soul and spirit. Alone together.
This is an invitation to move in uncharted territory, practice for life in a world changing so rapidly. This dynamic practice of presence is not only revelatory, but revolutionary. It feels like it might be a matter of survival. Come with us as if your life depended on it and we’ll do this alone together.
And for now, the warm memory of collective effervescence will just have to be enough. Love, Bella