It's a Sunday afternoon, and I'm screaming in a church basement with a group of strangers — and sweating my butt off. As music thumps, the instructor explains that by screaming, we're bringing energy to our "throat chakra." Everyone around me is playfully flailing their arms about, and yelling like they're in a horror movie spoof. No, this is not one of those dreams you have when you over do it on the Benadryl before bed. This is Dancorcism (pronounced like dance + exorcism). Dancorcism is a wild experience that’s part dance class, part spiritual healing, part freeing your inner child. It was founded in Miami by Debbie Attias, a spiritual healer, artist, and former member of the electro-clash band Avenue D. “It came about because I missed dancing,” Attias says. “I was growing out of that phase of going out to nightclubs all night.”
But she found a way to keep the best parts of dance in her life, while ditching the stressful parts — the sticky club floors and people spilling G&Ts — and Dancorcsim was born. Originally “danctasy” (like ecstasy), the concept moved from Miami to Brooklyn’s Park Church Co-Op with Attias in 2012. The hour-long sessions involve a series of dances that are tailored to the chakras.
The seven chakras, a concept with roots in traditional Chinese medicine and Indian yogic traditions, are believed to be centers in our body through which energy flows. There’s the throat chakra, which has to do with communication, and the heart chakra, which involves our ability to love. Each dance in Dancorcism is designed to keep energy flowing through the chakras so you can stay in touch with the emotions associated with them, Attias explains. The dances are fun, and arranged to a variety of songs, from Beyoncé to original tunes arranged by Attias.
The screaming dance involves the throat chakra. Melanie Whyte, a friend who screamed next to me in class, described it like this: "Any chance to scream as an adult is pretty great," she says. "We beat on our chest and screamed after dancing around at random. We skipped, then we spun around in a circle with another dancer. And then we stopped to scream.”
It sounds intense, and it is. Attias says that fuels the throat chakra. “What’s in your heart needs to come out of your mouth,” Attias explains. “The [throat] chakra’s about being able to speak your truth or ask for what you want. It covers being able to communicate well, setting boundaries, saying no… Even just screaming and beating your chest like that, you’re moving that energy, and that’s going to affect your life.”
And people get into it. As I look around between screams, I can almost feel the classic New York stress evaporating into the air. Another dancer from the class, 43-year-old Jeremy Wood, of Brooklyn, took the class for the first time last month. “Wow, I don’t know what in life brought me here today, but it makes me think I’m maybe making the right choices,” he said. “It felt like a family gathering.”
There are several other Dancorcism routines that get you out of your comfort zone. One involves flinging your body about the room, and making eye contact with as many people as possible. Attias says this one’s important because it forces you to interact with the other dancers in a deeper way. It’s not just about getting a sweat in. It’s about being a part of something akin to community.
“This is about human connection,” Attias says. “That’s what I’m in it for. We’re in a time where we spend more time looking at our phones that into each others’ eyes. Some people genuinely have a hard time making eye contact. But this makes them do it. It makes them feel seen.”
It’s true that the eye contact thing can be difficult. In most workout classes, you’re focused on you. It’s a time to block out the rest of the world and focus on nailing that Goddamn grapevine. But this is about something bigger. As I trotted around the room, making eye contact with different dancers, I felt like I actually connected with some of them. I’d start dancing one way, and adjust to their tempo. It was hard not to smile at each other — in a pleasant way, not a mocking one.
Although I have the rhythm of a deranged kangaroo, I never once felt judged in the class. It was like there was an unspoken agreement in the room that it was a judgement free zone, where you could frolic around and windmill your arms with childlike abandon.
“In some dance classes you’re competitive, but not here,” Attias said. “It’s about loving yourself, respecting the way you move, and appreciating yourself and your body.”
Dancorcism is held periodically in Brooklyn, New York. The next class will be held on Sunday, July 14, at 1:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25.