An interview with Soul Dance founder Alisha Das by Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens.
Alisha Das is a professional spiritual counselor, former DJ, and holds a doctorate in Spiritual Science. Sixteen years ago she created Soul Dance and has been facilitating these events twice a month, free of charge, as a volunteer. We recently interviewed Alisha. Here are some highlights from our chat.
PALG: What gave you the idea for Soul Dance?
AH: I asked my spiritual teacher, John-Roger, while I was on a trip to Israel and Egypt, How can I learn to have more conscious experiences while meditating? His answer: “Do sit-ups while chanting your spiritual tone.” I did this for an hour and a half to two hours straight without stopping. In so doing, I moved into bliss and more conscious awareness. I wasn’t even sore after doing sit-ups for that long! I now had a technique of using outer movement to enhance inner movement which I continued to utilize and explore. I later expanded that practice to using other forms of physical movement such as dance.
I had always been terrified to dance in public but on that same trip to the Middle East, I found myself spontaneously dancing in temples in Israel and on pyramids in Egypt. At the pyramids in Giza, I began spontaneously dancing while attuning inwardly and started making subtle movements, eventually leaping into the air, though I had never before felt free or comfortable dancing. This dancing came from the inside; this dancing was movement straight from my soul.
After this journey, I found myself wanting to dance with a spiritual focus more. I wanted to dance free-form with others in communion with God. I tried many dance classes and gatherings all over LA but didn’t find anything close to what I was seeking. Since I had been a former pro DJ for several years and a trained sound volunteer, a former PALG Administrator asked me to create a dance class here.
I wanted to play uplifting music in a spiritual environment, but I also wanted fun dance music. My skills as a former professional DJ and live sound technician helped Soul Dance. (A key to DJing is the art of knowing what music to play to keep the crowd dancing.) I play a very wide range of music-from current pop to world music. It just all has to be uplifting (which means I have to listen to a LOT of music to find Soul Dance worthy tunes). I have two kids, teenagers now, who keep my musical awareness current which helps.
PALG: How has Soul Dance evolved?
AH: In the beginning, Â I simply played great music. Then I was inwardly led to do more things, such as gently guiding people to be freer as the music played. I watched people to see what they liked and what seemed to â€œmoveâ€ them, both inwardly and outwardly. Later, I added playing short audio meditations, excerpts and soul moments. I tell folks that if they want me to stop talking, all they have to do is dance freely and blissfully. When they are doing so, I let the music, their bodies, and Spirit do the talking.
AH: I thought, “Now that I’m facilitating Soul Dance, I should learn to dance.” But I really did not like choreographed dance classes. The Spirit was not there for me like I was seeking.
I said to John-Roger, before a dance performance (I decided that was my next big stretch-to dance with folks watching rather than dancing with me), “I should have gone to dance school to learn to dance to facilitate Soul Dance.” He said that no, in a choreographed dance, you learn the steps but the Spirit may want to do different steps. He said you don’t follow the Spirit– you are one with Spirit. ‘You can’t do that in choreographed dance classes the same way. That inspired me so at the beginning of my performance I determined that I would not move until the Spirit moved me. I stood and stared at the audience until Spirit started moving me. I have no idea what steps I did but I came off stage to a standing ovation. J-R looked at me and said repeatedly, “Very, very good”. That experience was transformational for me and reinforced what I am doing with Soul Dance.
My facilitating became to help people discover how to let themselves be danced by Spirit-to use dance as a spiritual exercise to allow Spirit to move them.
PALG: What makes Soul Dance special or different?
AH: My whole intention of Soul Dance is to support people to reach into their Soul or True Self and let their Soul Â guide them. Of assisting people to be present and spontaneous. For me, itâ€™s about staying in the moment and in that Divine unknowing, trusting that Spirit will come through and guide me with the words and music that need to be heard at that time.
Soul Dance quiets the mind, the body, the emotions, and releases deep-seated blocks to freedom and awareness. Then bliss and deep peace comes. I love to see people transformed, joyous and free.
PALG: How to get free? What would you say is the key to get free through dance?
AH: I tell people, You’re safe. Just keep moving, don’t think, dance. Allow each move to be discovered by you. Allow each move to be healing. I am endeavoring to guide you into a moving meditation, into a dance with the Beloved. They start to forget what they look like. I keep the lights low so people feel safer and go within. People realize they are really dancing with God and discover how they move.
I tell everyone, “If you want me to stop talking, dance in free, Spirit-led ways.“ I usually talk much less as the evening goes on and folks get freer.Â I guide until folks let God take over.
People express more when they feel safe and they feel safe at Soul Dance. I tell them, If you just keep moving outwardly, it will move you inwardly.
Sometimes folks say they’re too tired to come dance. John-Roger used to say, If you want more energy, demand more energy. I tell them, just come call in the light with us. Almost invariably, if they dance one dance, they will stay the entire hour and a half.
PALG: What quote would describe Soul Dance?
AH: Life is a dance floor, God is the DJ, Love is the music.
PALG: What keys has Soul Dance given you that you take into your life?
AH: Leaping into the Divine Unknowing and allowing God to dance me through my life. Surrendering to God’s will, God’s life for me. Getting out of my head. Risking looking stupid. Waiting, not moving until I feel Spirit move me. I use this in my work as a counselor. That we are all one people. One of my favorite Soul Dance memories was watching a really Goth-looking guy with tons of body piercings and tattoos dancing with Muslim women dressed in full robes and a headpiece. Love is the healer. Seeing different types of people dancing in communion with one another is uplifting.
PALG: How do people respond to Soul Dance?
AH: At every class I get people sharing with me with tears in their eyes sharing gratefully about their experiences. Some just come to be in the energy and maybe don’t even dance that much but meditate the whole time.
People share with me about their emotional release, mental release, or that physical things miraculously start to clear. People tell me about a spiritual attunement they experience, about feelings of intimacy with others. People often spontaneously “puppy pile” on top of one another after class or stay to share with one another.
One woman works with terminally ill children. She said Soul Dance keeps her going. With every move, she lets go. Another person told me she came in the deepest, darkest hole, suicidal and by the end of class, she was joyous and hopeful.
Many people share, I stay in deep peace long after I stop dancing.
Every Soul Dance people wind up laying on the floor at the end. They go into the Spirit. People want to stay there for quite a while, the room is so still and quiet at the end.
PALG: What would you like to tell people who haven’t come before?
AH: I play fun, current, and danceable music. Soul Dance gets a range of people anywhere from terrified to dance, to professional dancers. Every class has new people attending, and people from all walks of life. I tell people, “You might come nervous, but you’ll leave in bliss. It’s about dance, but it’s much more about letting God and Spirit move you. Let Go, and Let God.”
Soul Dance takes place the 1st Thursday of the month at Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens, and the 3rd Wednesday of the month in Santa Monica. For more information, email the PALG Registrar at Registrar@peacelabyrinth.org.