2013 - 2014, Arts & Community
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Ecstatic Dance: A Gathering to Strengthen Connections, Individually and Collectively

By Maria Karin Walczuk, Arts & Community Editor

ecstatic dance photoEcstatic dancing may sound like a hippy drug fest, however it is to quite the contrary. Devahuti Bott, the leader and organizer of ecstatic dance at UH Hilo, has been sharing this unique experience this past Sept. Ecstatic dance presents a drug and alcohol free space in a respectful environment, bringing all ages together and open to both the university and community. Ecstatic dance was originally held at the old gym on the UH Hilo upper campus every Wed. It will now be residing in a Hilo venue for the month of Nov., featuring local DJs sharing their musical styles.

Here on the Big Island in Puna, ecstatic dance is popular at the Kalani Retreat Center, bringing in 200-300 participants on average. However, the Kalani venue is not accessible for many, which is partly why Bott initiated this for the UH Hilo and Hilo community.

Bott is in her final year of studies at UH Hilo: a sociology major receiving two certificates in education and women’s studies. Years back Bott had never been involved in dancing, but was rather self-conscious and insecure of herself, “I avoided it; I didn’t dance,” Bott explains.

Curiosity got the best of Bott and one day she experienced ecstatic dance herself. Since then she has been devoutly involved, finding deeper meaning with her own personal evolution and connections with others.

“People don’t attend [here] to party, or create mischief, a different kind of crowd is drawn.” Bott said, “This is more like a dance workshop at heart.”

Bott continues, “Essentially, there is no room for judgement.” Guidelines are followed, talking is only spoken outside the building -though creative, vocal expression is allowed.

Bott wants to provide a place in which the university community can connect more with each other, “We are such a diverse campus, though we don’t necessarily know each other; there are so many people coming and going.”

The original founder of ecstatic dance was Gabrielle Roth who was a dance teacher herself. Roth created what is known as the 5rhythms, implementing her teachings into the ecstatic dance of now. “Dance is an art form and movement is a life form,” Roth says. She observed patterns in the way people moved and created the forum in which people could come together to express themselves and connect with others. (According to The Guardian newspaper).

However the initial inspiration for Bott was generated by Dr. Noelie Rodriguez, a UH Hilo Communications Professor. She has helped Bott to better understand the physiological and sociological dynamics that movement has within groups. Bott spoke,“[Dr. Rodriguez] is a mover and shaker and she creates movers and shakers.”

On that note, Bott believes UH Hilo’s team spirit can be strengthened through ecstatic dance, “[Ecstatic dance] is a creative, spiritual and emotional journey. The connections we form have a powerful effect within [yourself], and as a force of people.”

The month of Oct. will be dedicated to preparing the new Hilo venue for ecstatic dance. Volunteers willing to contribute painting a mural or help in any way, are encouraged to enquire further. In Nov., a donation of $5 at the door are accepted for the ecstatic dance participation.

For more information, email Bott at devahuti@hawaii.edu or call  (808) 345-4733.

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