Spirit in the House
Let’s go back in time; it’s the (Second) ‘Summer of Love’, 1988, a social phenomenon that took place in the UK where empty warehouses were filled with young people taking a new drug, Ecstasy or ‘E’ as it became known, and dancing to the new music of Acid House. The first ‘Summer of Love’ had taken place in West Coast America in 1967, hippies gathering in large numbers to spread peace, take hallucinogenic drugs and reject war and consumerism.
Summer of Love
I was lucky enough to be in my twenties and living in my hometown, London, when the Second Summer of Love exploded. As well as regularly going to fantastic nightclubs, such as the Wag in Soho, an increasing number of large warehouse parties had started up in disused industrial buildings around the city. It was incredibly exciting times. Everything was underground and on the edge of legality. No internet, no mobiles, news was spread by word of mouth, a flyer taken at 3am leaving the door of a club or party.
House Music Changed the Scene
It was also an exciting time for music. Hip hop was landing on the (record) decks in clubs and parties and then house music changed the scene. People started going around with smiley face t-shirts, calling out ‘acid’ to the beat of manic house music pumping out of speakers. Latin music also ignited in the clubs around London. The scene was fresh, new and intriguing. The night belonged to young people where we would gather to party, sometimes cramming into cars to find the parties held in fields around the M25 motorway.
Cranking up the Beats
I loved it all so much, I started to get involved with promoting club nights with well-known house music djs cranking up the beats to crowds, and jam sessions with musicians playing funk, reggae, jazz, rare groove. I would go out several times a week to give out flyers to people as they left the club or party in the early hours; people seemed to fall out on to the street, sweaty, happy, sometimes completely out of it.
Connecting with Each Other
‘Raving’ became a term for going to the big warehouse parties and dancing to ‘rave’ music, hi energy and euphoric. The crowd were ‘luvdup’ (loved up), connecting with each other on (and off) the dancefloor. There was a group feeling of togetherness that transcended race, class, gender, age. The 80s swung into the 90s, and the party kept going, despite hysterical tabloid headlines and police crackdowns.
States of Consciousness
By this time I had started a 4 year training in Transpersonal Psychotherapy. I learnt about altered states, holotropic breathwork, expanded states of consciousness, peak experiences, the dissolving of the ego and transpersonal (beyond the personal) states of being. I was still partying and intrigued by the parallels of what I was discovering in the therapy world and what I was experiencing on the dancefloor.
I knew that Ecstasy, or its clinical name MDMA, was originally designed for use in the therapy room to open people up emotionally and deepen empathy. However in the 1980s, research into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was stopped due to the fear of drug misuse. In the 21st century, interest in Psychedelic Psychotherapy is gaining interest again and MDMA has been successfully trialled in working with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Real Connection and Belonging
It’s true that to some degree the rave scene was fuelled by drugs, in particular Ecstasy. Music tracks such as ‘Everything Starts with an E’ left little to the imagination. Nevertheless, I also knew that what I was witnessing and experiencing - the feeling of deep connection and belonging - was real and clearly compelling for thousands of people. I was of the view that just because drugs were involved, the experience did not lack meaning. I was also interested to know if this feeling of unity and bonding could happen without the drugs particularly as stories were emerging of people who had died from hyperthermia and dehydration whilst raving and taking Ecstasy.
‘Spirit in the House’ Workshop
I devised a therapeutic workshop ‘Spirit in the House’ to investigate the rave phenomenon in a non-drug setting. There was guided meditation, drawing and participants were invited to bring along music that they had enjoyed whilst out raving. We danced to each other’s tracks and then discussed the experience. The media loved it and I ended up in the Sunday papers! A psychotherapist who was interested in the rave scene; they thought it was funny, even scandalous.
‘I Get High with a Little Help From my Friends’
Interestingly since that time, there has been more and more interest in Ecstasy, raving and the sense of community evoked by these practices. For example, a recent research paper from Kent University (Sept 2021) was titled: ‘I Get High With A Little Help From My Friends’ – How Raves Can Invoke Identity Fusion and Lasting Co-operation via Transformative Experiences. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.719596/full
For me this story is worth telling because it provides some of the hinterland to the creation of Flomotion.dance My interest in dancing together for healing and community has been formed by years of 5 Rhythms and Ecstatic dance practice, but the music I like to dance to and the sense of connection on the dancefloor are undoubtedly rooted in the sweaty soundscape of the Second Summer of Love.
Check out our Flomotion sessions. We dance on a regular basis and everyone is welcome!