“Ecstatic dance is like all the great things about going clubbing without all the terrible things about going clubbing.”
So says Don Solo of Tampa, who hosts “ecstatic” dances for all ages every Sunday at sunset on Upham Beach – serene surroundings that provide the perfect environment for participants to relax and fully immerse themselves in the art of dance.
Ecstatic Dance is a judgment-free zone, says Solo. Participants wear headphones and let music guide their bodies. To guarantee dancers are in the moment, cellphones, recording and criticism are not permitted. Even talking is prohibited, but not noise: dancers frequently emit sounds and exclamations as they move.
“It’s a very focused, spiritual practice, when it comes down to it, where people are free to completely express themselves through movements, or dance, or not even dancing at all,” Solo said. “It’s really about finding your own unique flow with the music, which everyone has. It’s just sort of buried for a lot of people.”
Originally from Chicago, Solo started as a DJ at raves, festivals and larger music gatherings. His career trajectory shifted when he tried ecstatic dance for the first time.
“I was just ecstatic and said, ‘This is it, this is for me. This is what I want to put all my energy and dedicate all my efforts and the rest of my life to,’” Solo said. “The format is a really unique, conscious, freeform dance format that really attracts people who just love dance.”
Solo attended the Movement Sanctuary in St. Petersburg to practice ecstatic dance, before the venue closed because of COVID-19.
Stuck without an outlet for his passion, Solo asked himself how he could continue pursuing his passion despite the pandemic. He began by hosting dance jams on St. Pete Beach, which evolved into larger, ecstatic dance gatherings.
“We just encourage everyone to try ecstatic dance. Anyone who has ever enjoyed dancing in their lives as a small child or someone who feels like they can only dance once they’ve been to a bar or a club and had a few drinks,” Solo said.