Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s I was a club promoter, running club nights, raves and warehouse parties in London. It was cool, it was fun…it was also a bit depressing to see how many people fell apart after taking too many drugs; how the very late nights were unsustainable and incompatible with family and working life.
I trained as a Transpersonal Psychotherapist and became intrigued by the overlaps of what I was experiencing on the dance floor and the topics that I was studying on my training course: altered states, the dissolving of ego boundaries, the human need for connection and belonging, expanded states of consciousness, alignment with a bigger picture and purpose.
Spirit in the House
I created a therapeutic workshop, Spirit in the House, to explore the rave scene from a sober perspective and to see if the dance floor magic could happen away from substances, strobe lights and staying-up-all night. The results were interesting: it seemed that it was possible to re-create the rave experience through visualisation, drawing, selecting favourite rave music, dancing to it and sharing in a safe and held space.
Spirit in the House was about capturing the magic of dancing with a million people in large, disused spaces (such as an industrial warehouse or aircraft hanger) regardless of the drugs involved. A sea of moving bodies, fresh sounds and a booming base, minimal chat on the dancefloor, and a complete cross section of people: class, race and social groups… this was new and rich experience for many young people in the 1980s.
In the News
The Independent on Sunday got wind of Spirit in the House, and asked me for an interview. They published an article ‘all funned out? You need therapy’ apparently to cure ‘post-rave syndrome’. In the article, there is focus on the use of the drug Ecstasy:
‘Ecstasy [also] arrived en masse at the end of the 1980s, leading to a generation that was phonily enlightened, then often disheartened.’
After news reports of deaths from taking Ecstasy and fears of social unrest, laws were introduced to eliminate the rave culture and the drugs that went with it. It seemed to me that that this generation were looking for enlightenment and the rave scene opened a door. It just wasn’t one that could reliably stay open.
Here’s another excerpt from the Independent on Sunday article:
‘By the second day of the workshop, Franks's therapy rooms resemble a rave club. "Clients" play a favourite piece of music, and she guides them through an "Ecstasy process", with lots of dancing. "They say, 'I could feel the rush'," rhapsodises Franks, who set up an ad-hoc chill-out room behind the sofa. One woman podium-danced on a chair. "She wanted to connect with the joy of the experience, and find a place of empowerment."’
You might ask, why pay attention to something that happened nearly 30 years ago? In many ways, Spirit in the House was a prototype for Flomotion, the conscious dance practice that takes place bi-weekly in Archway, North London.
I still believe there is much to be gained through collective dance experience without the use of drugs or alcohol. And since the 80s, a considerable amount of scientific evidence has backed this up. We have also seen the emergence of Ecstatic Dance on a global level, whose success has partly been fuelled by people hungry for dance floor experience and connection in a sober setting.