The History and Purpose of the Trance Dance

The History and Purpose of the Trance Dance


Trance dancing and indeed the Trance Dance has been around for many thousands of years. It is practiced by Shamans who use it as a healing tool and its roots are found within a variety of ancient cultures.

Musical dance is a journey in the Shamanic tradition of the Native American people, and their knowledge and insights into the power and magic of the animal archetypes, the healing of others and the healing of Mother Earth.

Simply put, the Trance Dance is the practice of dancing to the beat of a tribal drum allowing the dancer to ‘let go’ and thereby reaching a state of ecstasy and connecting with primal energy.

tribal dance

The journey of the Trance Dance is divided into three stages;

Firstly there is a building of trust – getting to know the other members in the group. This is done physically with movement and mirroring games which allows people to start revealing who and how they are. Next it is important to find a partner who will be with us during the trance dance experience as a kind of ‘carer’, keeping watch for what we need and keeping us safe.

Then we move to the dance itself. Whilst dancing one or two at a time with their eyes closed the dancers accept the safety provided by the rest of the group. As they go deeper into the dance their bodies spontaneously express whatever it is that needs releasing. The dancer’s chosen partner and two or three others surround them to prevent them from colliding. It is the supporter’s job to use their intuition to decide what it is the dancer needs; perhaps more space in which to dance or arms ready to catch them if they happen to lose their balance or maybe just shouts of encouragement.

tribal dance

Often the dancers will come to a ‘point of resistance’ when they lose their energy or balance. With help they can push through these barriers until they have gone as far as they want to.

The role of the drummers is similar, to match the dancers energy with their drumming. Not pushing the beats but watching closely for when a shift or breakthrough comes in the dancer’s movement and then following them accordingly. The energy creates a union between the dancer, supporter and drummer, sometimes moving slowly, sometimes reaching a peak of passionate release and then following this flow back down to stillness.

tribal drummers

It can be looked at as a perfect embodiment of love and relationship through acceptance, intuition, support and the exchanging of energy. The dancer is given the safe space to show parts of themselves they may have found difficult to express which thereby moves them deeper into a love of themselves.

The Trance Dance ends at the point when the dancer has gone as far as they are able to and it is at this point that they are helped to a comfortable space/comfort zone by their partner who stays with them to nurture them and offer them support.

When all the people who wished to participate have danced, the final stage of the ritual begins. The group comes back together, with people taking a place either in the centre of the group or on the outskirts, depending on their inner needs.

A quiet time is then needed for the re-centring of oneself. Many people have moved energy that has lain stagnant within them for a long time; this culture doesn’t offer many safe spaces for releases of strong passion – whatever type of emotion it contains. Without a proper outlet for release this energy blockage often leads to unhappiness and illness.

In today’s modern Trance Dance culture many of the deeper spiritual aspects are overlooked but at its core the elements are the same, just modernised, i.e;

trance dance

Shamans = Electronic dance music artists and also dj’s (see further down for a different interpretation). (Goa trance and psytrance artists hold the traditions dearer than most electronic dance music producers)

Dancers = Clubbers / ravers / party goers

Supporters = Friends and other like minded party goers

Tribal Drummers = Dj’s

Although the modern Trance Dance may not necessarily be entered into as a healing ritual, going out with the intention of spending a night dancing to a beat and feeling that release of happiness and energy is in essence the same. I’m quite sure that the majority of people who have done this would testify to feeling better for having done it so it can be argued that they have, to an extent, been ‘healed’.


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