Open Floor - Mountain View
The Open Floor dance in Mountain View was my bread and butter for 5 years! I live in San Francisco now, but I hope I to still go there sometimes.
- What: Amazing free-style dancing event
- Cost: $20 at the door
- When: Monday Evenings 7:00-9:30 PM ... IMPORTANT: arrive before 8 or you'll probably be locked out!
- Where: Mountain View Masonic Lodge, 890 Church Street, Mountain View, CA (map)
- What to wear: Suitable dance attire, you'll be bear food... see more here.
- Website: ecstaticproductions.com
What is Open Floor
To answer what Open Floor is, please read my article Ecstatic Dance! It tells you all about these forms of dance! (open floor and ecstatic are very similar) :)
Eclectic music and dance
One of many things I love about Open Floor is the music. It sounds impossible, but after a year of going I still don't think I've ever heard a song I didn't enjoy. It's a lot of "world music" but honestly, you'll hear everything from classical, tribal drums, chill-out, trance, jazz, rock and then out of no-where a modern pop song with funny lyrics. You can expect anything from Bach, to Micheal Jackson, Toto, Enya, Adele, The Eagles and a hundred artists you've never heard of but wished you owned all their albums. And yet somehow all these different songs blend seamlessly together.... and they blend in "waves".
The class I go to (and talk about in this article) is:
It's basically a church-like building with a beautiful large white room with very high ceilings and a great wooden floor. The floor is very important, because we dance barefoot. Each week anywhere between 40 and 80 people show up but there's always a good amount of room for us all to dance round it other. The lady running the show and choosing the music each week is the lovely Claire. She does an amazing job!
DISCLAIMER: As of June 2015, this particular event has been renamed as Mountain View - Open Floor, which is slightly different, but the flavor is still very much the same. There's a wonderful article by Palo Alto Weekly which coincided with the new launch: "21st Century Tribe".
What to expect
If you decide to come, arriving at hippy dancing feel a little strange. If you arrive at 7pm you'll walk into a huge room with just a few other people - all of them stretching and flowing around the room like... well hippies. :)
If you arrive 15 minutes later the room is probably full with 40-80 people, and depending on the song we might all be dancing like maniacs - some people might even grunt. Arrive another 15 minutes later and these people might just be lying on the floor and some of them hugging. Warming up can take a while for many, but it's when you do start interacting with others that wonderful spontaneous things will happen. Whatever you're comfortable with.
Some instructors give more "instruction" than others, but what I love about Claire - aside from being an amazing woman with great taste in music - is that she is very gentle with instruction. For the first hour, you get none! That maybe intimidating for a new person to arrive to, but I loved it. I'm most used to Salsa, where you have patterns you need to follow, but it was immediately obvious to me that you do whatever you want. The other thing about Salsa is.... well, let's be honest, all the songs sound pretty much the same! Here every song is different and scrumptious in its own way.
About halfway through the session, you'll finally hear Claire's gentle voice, and she usually introduces has a theme you can participate in. Every week is different, but it's always a interesting journey.... maybe she'll ask you to explore your playfulness, balance, to dance only with your feet, to look at people, to not look at other people, to find a partner to dance with, to find a group, to be uncomfortable, to meditate, to explore or express a particular feeling, to tell someone a story without speaking, to play with breathing, or whatever else they dream up. She never warns of the theme ahead of time, so it's always fun to see what happens. I like the word "theme" better than instruction, because there are no steps to follow, and you don't have to participate. Some people opt out and do their own thing, but most people chose to join in and are excited as me to see what the theme is. After a few songs Claire will stop talk.... letting people feel free to do their own thing again, and allowing her to fully join in, since she loves to dance as much as the rest of us.
At the end, when you're exhausted Claire likes everyone to sit in what I call the "feelings circle". Again, this is an affectionate name I came up with - so I hope it doesn't sound like I'm being mean! Lots of people leave before the circle, but I like to stay because everyone says their name (week after week I usually forget - it's a lot of names to remember!) and has the chance to talk about anything they felt, discovered or have on their minds.
The Mountain View venue is that it's an older crowd than say Salsa dancing. At 30 (at time of writing), I'm was typically the youngest dancer there, but just recently I've notice a few others around my age - which is great! I appreciate the variety of age as much as the variety of personalities.
As you dance you'll notice a few people have had experience with some other form of dance - I like to guess who's done couple's dancing before. I'd say over half have never done any other form of dance. It really doesn't matter if you're good at dancing or terrible. If you want to do some weird yoga pose, spin in circles, or jump... it doesn't matter. You are not being judged... and that is very refreshing. I've been told I'm a good dancer, but at hippy dancing I embrace the freedom to do something weird, like crawl across the floor, or make a funny face at someone. It's the opposite of most other dancing where you're trying to look good and act like you have things figured out. It doesn't matter if you have two left feet, there are no steps to learn. In such an practice it's not about how you look, it's about how you feel and the energy you feed into the room. :)
What to wear
Please refer to Ecstatic Dance for what to wear - it's the same!
Communication without words
They don't have many rules, but aside from the hard shoes and being generally respectful of others (i.e: don't dance so recklessly you might hurt someone) the other big one is no talking. I think Claire knows I'm a little bad and break this sometimes - and I've been shhh'd a couple of times (*blush*). The rule exists because talking in the middle of a soft profound song kind of spoils the ambiance and experience for everyone else, so if you do have to say something make sure you whisper! I'm always tempted to tell people how much I loved dancing with them - and often I will - but after a while you realize that you can say everything you want with a simple nod, bow, hug.... or even just your eyes. Try all four at once or "something completely different" for bonus points. Use namaste hands to say no to someone if you don't want to dance.
TIP: Bart from our group has written a great article on inviting people to dance: non-verbally, with thoughtfulness and without agenda. As you might imagine, the methods / etiquette are very different to (verbally) asking for a dance in couples dancing.
The group itself has a facebook page and lots of little social events and/or meditation events all are invited too. Claire likes to call us a tribe - and it really is a very caring group of people and a unique bond we have. Sitting around chatting to people you've just danced with is always fun, because you get to realize just how wonderfully different and yet similar we all are.
Hope to see you there!
- ecstaticproductions.com Mountain View group.
- Palo Alto Weekly - 21st Century Tribe - a wonderful article by Palo Alto Weekly (June 2015) which coincided with the new launch of Mountain View Open Floor.