Sarah Shannon Yoga



Ecstatically Dancing With StraNgers In West Cork


Friday night on the Beara


Dancing on my own for three hours. With no booze. No talking. No eye contact. Just dancing in a space with five other people I had never met before. This is how I spent a Friday night on the Beara Peninsula on my recent trip to West Cork.

The venue was down a one-way, winding grassy road on the edge of Castletownbeara. I drove to a lone house I had been given directions to over text message by Charlene. I got her details off a poster I saw in the Buddhist Centre I was staying at. I would make an easy victim.

On the text instructions, I parked outside the big iron gate and followed the mud path around the back of a stone house; to a new glass and wood building hiding amongst the trees and grass with the Atlantic in the distance.  

The five other people, two women and three men, were already dancing when I stepped into the room. I was the youngest there; a rare phenomenon at a dance event. They were making slow, flowy meditative movements. Warming up. Bare feet gently moving on the wooden floor.

I had a quick chat with Charlene, or Charlie as she was called. She was friendly and welcoming without saying too much. She asked me if I had danced before. I said yes. This wasn’t my first ecstatic dancing or dance meditation I had ever done. It was my third this Summer; and I had done something very similar in the Yoga Barn in Bali three years ago. I wondered what my answer would have been if I hadn’t done this type of thing before. Maybe yes I have danced before… pissed at my friend’s wedding. Or yes at a festival. Or occasionally in my apartment with the blinds down.

We don’t get many opportunities to dance. Nights out are usually spent tucked in the corner of a pub. The times to move and shake the limbs are limited.  So when the chance to dance comes around I embrace it with both arms waving.

Charlie gave a short, quietly spoken introduction from behind her DJ table and then we were off. The music was slow to begin; drumming tribal type music. There were no instructions on how or what to move. My movements were slow at the beginning, controlled and aware. I love dancing, but I felt self-conscious. I didn’t want to be too gregarious with my movement. I didn’t want to seem too confident or too extroverted amongst our small group. Which the fact that I was thinking these things suggests that I was neither of them at that moment.  

Feeling self-conscious is a funny thing. It only disappears when I remind myself that no-one on the planet is as interested in me as I am. No-one is observing me as much as I am; and that is true for every single person. If you find someone who is watching your every single dance step and flicker of your eye lid, that person is either in love with you or planning your demise. And they still wont be paying as much attention to you as you are.

My self-conscious feelings, when I remind myself these things, starts to slowly dissolve. I begin to move about the floor as the music starts to increase its rhythm. My movement is now more expressive and fluid. Not thinking anymore. Feeling at ease. Thankful I am wearing a flowy, loose style ensemble to allow me to connect with my inner gypsy.  

Everyone is dancing completely differently. Some are more stationed to their dancing post like a dutiful soldier. Some, in particular one local West Cork man, are fond of criss-crossing the dance floor. His movements take him to every corner of the room like he is looking for a lost shoe. We don’t engage eye contact with each other and we respect each other’s space. I go into my own world and dance and whirl for three hours.

After the session came to a low crescendo end. We sat on the floor. Most of us had ended up lying on the floor as the music ended. When you have been guided only by music for three hours this seems completely natural. We gathered, encouraged by Charlie, in a small circle holding hands and then shared our experience. We went around the group saying our name. A kind of backwards way of meeting new people.

We spoke only for a few minutes at the end as we made our way to cars and motorbikes. They were all living in West Cork, two locals and three ‘blow-ins’ from different parts of Europe. Charlie originally from South Africa but living in West Cork for the last few years. And then me, a girl from Dublin beginning to really love West Cork.

They say that “Dance is the hidden language of the soul”.

It is a primal and exposed way of connecting to each other. Going beyond what words can express. Through uninhibited dancing we reveal ourselves in a raw and unedited way. This is why I will never forget the people I danced with. They are etched into my memory because of this strange and beautiful experience we shared.

If you’re interested in this type of thing get in touch. Would love to hear about similar events like this in Dublin. There are loads of them, I have no doubt. I will share on Instagram as I discover more hidden gems like this one in West Cork.

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