By JAY K. HONG
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Once a week on Southern California’s most famous beach, right before the sun sets in the Pacific, dozens of people gather and dance in silence as if no one is watching.
Swaying in the sand in wireless headphones with decorative LED lighting, listening to music from a nearby DJ, they practice an ecstatic dance. By moving their bodies and immersed in the music, the participants describe an almost spiritual experience.
Meetings held in Venice Beach and hosted by Ecstatic Dance LA are usually held indoors and in accordance with clear rules, in part designed to prevent participants from fainting.
“Be free. Dance how you want. No judgment,” says the dance community’s promotional materials.
But when the coronavirus closed indoor meetings, the community moved the meetings to the beach. While they ditched privacy and leveraged live music, community co-founder Robin Parrish says the move was a success and sunset was a fair compromise.
Like all of their events, there are no drugs or alcohol here. Cameras and telephones are not allowed, but pets and children may accompany you. Conversations are discouraged.
For some of the members who are trapped inside during the pandemic, a quiet dance is the only thing they do, Parrish said.
Among them is Chase Beckerman, a regular mother of two.
“I was not interested in coming when it was indoors. In fact, being here in Venice Beach and being at sea is what made me try ecstatic dance for the first time, ”she said.
“This is my church. It helped me a lot to get through this pandemic. ”
As twilight turns to darkness, the DJ switches from dance tracks to quieter “healing music” and meditation begins.
Some future events will sooner or later return indoors. Parrish said that just as dancers love ocean views, people lack the vibe of live music and dancing on parquet floors.
“We will have an option for both, because some people may not be ready to go inside,” he said.