“A man in trance carries God in himself.” – Anna Misopolinou1
Eric R. Dodds, an ancient Greece civilization scholar, spoke of ecstasy as a state implying overwhelming joy and rapture; it may involve feeling outside of oneself or possessing a profound change in one’s personality.
Abraham Maslow termed these states peak experiences.³ During these experiences, people will feel like their true selves.4 Experiences that are less intense can lead to pure enjoyment and happiness, but the more intense ones can lead to a symbolic death and rebirth.8
Returning to an inner truth or self (or root) is at the heart of Grotowski’s third phase (and last phase) of theatre known as the Theatre of Sources or “active culture.” This phase occupied itself with sacred performance. The term “source” denotes origination such as what some may view as God, nature, spirit or presence (and if one wishes to be secular, then genes). Techniques were developed for returning to this “source” which took inspiration from eastern and shamanic techniques but were not to be copied.5 Rather, the actor was to become a visionary of techniques. In Grotowski’s words: “Let us say that there exist techniques of sources [e.g. qi-gong, kundalini yoga]. But what we search for in this Project are the sources of the techniques of sources, and these sources must be extremely unsophisticated.6
To Grotowski, achieving a connection to source was also like returning to childhood: “When I talk about return to the state of the child, I have in the background of my mind some indefinable memory: plunging into the world full of colors, sounds, the dazzling world, unknown, amazing, the world in which we are carried by curiosity, by enchantment, experience of the mysterious, of the secret.7
The workshops of Kazuo Ohno often had spiritual themes. When foreigners came to his workshops, he would often give theme lines such as “Dance in the heavens. Dance in hell. Dance in the heart;” or even “dance in konpaku,” a Japanese concept of a riverbank where the dead and living peacefully cross (similar if not the same place near death experience people describe that is an transitioning place and timeless).10
Exercise: Life Drugs, High On Life
One way to reach an ecstatic state is to see life itself as a drug. Life drugs can be administered in various ways which can be snorting, huffing, or smoking. Concentrate your nowness and snort, huff, or smoke it. Dance the result.
Can dance be a prayer?
Bhakti is one avenue to the ecstatic body. Bhakti as a term that originates from Indian spirituality and denotes divine love. It is one pathway/technique to source.
Bhakti can be expressed through pooja, which is a ritual offering of one’s self. When somebody is engaging in something 100%, they will be offering their entirety. It is a surrender/sacrifice and where being moved comes into place. This is sacred performance and what Grotowski called the work of the holy actor.9
When this is especially directed at one’s view of a totality or an origination (e.g. Life itself, God/Source it/her/himself), it is called bhakti.
Can the altar be the dance floor/dance space?
Yoshito Ohno once noted about his father that expressions such as “God is great” or “Thank you” are not vocalized by Kazuo, but show from his butoh.11
The (typically) Afro-Christian devotional phenomena of the praise break is a great example of how ecstasy can come from bhakti.
Exercise: Source and/or Higher Self Moving You
We move as if we were controlled by our higher self, guardian angels, ancestors, or even Source/God. We can be moved as if we were a puppet or conduit.