Finding catharsis in conscious clubbing: no alcohol, no drugs and over 70’s are welcome

Conscious clubbing in full swing. Pic: Marc JB

Conscious clubbing in full swing. Pic: Marc JB

It’s 6.30pm, Wednesday night, and I just broke up with my boyfriend. It was like all of my organs were busting, like my head was exploding and my chest was suffocating — possibly a little dramatic but it hurt. I did not want to go “heal my soul through dance” with a bunch of spiritually-guided hipsters. I wanted to stay home, eat ice cream and cry for the next five days.

But, I had to write this article.

So…I had to go.

I put on my (newly) ex-boyfriend’s t-shirt and pyjama pants and walked up the hill to St. Catherine’s Church on Pepys Road in New Cross in Lewisham.

I enter the church, the pews are pushed back. Three women are grooving in the corner, smiling to themselves. They are at least 70-years-old. The lights are dimmed, but there are alternating disco lights flashing.

I take off my socks and then my shoes. As I step around the middle-aged woman writhing on the floor doing pelvic thrusts into the air, I tell myself that since I made the effort to show up, I was going to do everything I could to fully immerse myself.

Welcome to Conscious Clubbing.

This event is the baby of DJ Marc JB, one of the silent kings in the electro-music world. He has recorded over 80 No 1 hits on the UK and US dance music charts, mostly as one half of the DJ duo Bimbo Jones. He worked with legends from the SugarHill Gang to Beverley Knight, headlined at Glastonbury and has been the DJ to hire for exclusive desert retreats and private island parties.

Marc JB welcomed each guest coming through the door with an embrace (if they wanted one) and explained what the event is all about. He told me that he was happy I came and smiled while showing me where to put my stuff.   

“The general guidelines of ecstatic dance are no talking on the dance floor, no mobile phones, invitation to dance barefoot. You can dance how you like,” Marc said. You are there to express yourself, to explore what you are feeling. Also, there is no alcohol, no drugs and no embarrassment. This is not a place to hook-up; it is a space for realization and healing.

As the music warmed up, I became fixated on a woman in her mid-30s who had her eyes closed, a soft smile on her face and was simply moving her body with no apparent rhythm or plan. Emboldened, I closed my eyes and started to sway.

The playlist plays on a variation of a 1970s meditation called the 5Rhythms. Gabrielle Roth originated it as a means to create a relationship between the mind and body. The belief is that if  you dance to five rhythms in order, there is a healing and connecting process within yourself that allows you to free the mind and connect the soul. Marc JB’s conscious clubbing was inspired by Roth but it is not meant to be just a spiritual experience nor attract only that crowd. This is a dance party celebrating freedom, good music and life.

Participant playing the gong during the after-dance sound bath. Pic: Marc JB

The music builds in an arc until it becomes very bass-heavy and intense. Then it simmers down again. My dance moves started small and embarrassed. I was hunched over, and my arms barely left my side. I was basically a Charlie Brown character shielding my face from everyone else.

The longer I danced, the bigger my movements became. I slowly straightened my back and as soon as the tempo increased and the bass dropped, I completely let go. I jumped and leapt and danced the hell out of that church.

I don’t know why or when I stopped caring, but I completely let go. Maybe it was because everyone else looked crazy too, but I ended up laughing and giggling at myself and my movements.

Then, the music slowed down. As the music calmed, my movements became slower and more intentional. That’s when the tears came. Out there under the blue and red stage lights, water was gushing out of my eyes and I could do nothing about it.

I know, I seem a bit out of control with the jumping and laughing and crying and the boyfriend’s t-shirt on…but no one cared. No one stepped into my space and tried to fix it or talk about it. I was safe to just feel what I was feeling, and I knew it did not matter. It was like they did not even notice, so I kept crying. It was not even an ugly cry; the tears streamed quietly down.

The dance was over. My body was not hurting, my heart was still sad, but it was not throbbing. I was calm, and I was going to be okay.

I left all my brokenness on the dance floor.

A portion of the guests who regularly enjoy conscious clubbing. Pic: Marc JB

Upcoming Conscious Clubbing events:

April 3 Conscious Clubbing at St Catherine’s
April 13 Joytribe Wellbeing Festival at St Catherine’s
May 1 Conscious Clubbing at St Catherine’s
May 18 Joytribe Ecstatic Dance in Brighton

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