Soul Sanctuary Dance, Berkeley CA

After many months of wanting to go, I finally made it out to Soul Sanctuary Dance at Ashkenaz. I had seen the flyer around town, vibrant blue quoting, “freestyle dance, community-oriented, conscious hip-hop.” What drew me in was the name, Soul Sanctuary, and I knew the event was perfect for Sacred Dance Trends. Surprised at the amount of people and ages, from young adults and babies waddling, to the elderly and those with disabilities, the dance floor bursted with bodies gracing the space, sweating and dancing to the DJ’s music. An aftermath of the nightclub, the next morning settled in and filled up with those who woke up early to get their dance praise on and perhaps those that never slept.

I came in while a funky 90’s classic blared and people grooved in their own way. I smiled, it is Sunday, and while others are in the pews listening to sermons, meditating or doing their own type of worship, the dancers were making their own heaven here at Ashkenaz.  I read the guidelines on the table that suggested participants connect with themselves first. “Stretch, dance…and connect within yourself before dancing with others.” That sounded good to me. I found my corner to join. Embracing the trained studio dancer in me I made my way to the mirror. I began moving with breath and stretching. Not before long the wave of music and moving bodies came over me and I found myself dancing to the beat and rhythm of the music. It felt good and the space around me felt free and non-judgmental. Children were running around dragging long pieces of fabric, spinning, hula hooping, and climbing. Everyone appeared satisfied with their own enjoyment, so what I was doing in my corner made me feel invisible yet not, and nothing more extraordinary than the man on the stage standing on his head.

My ecstatic moments came in this freedom to be and connect to my timing and way of moving and expressing spirit. The surrounding community was always present and respectful of my and their environment. I’d catch a smile or nod from across the room, witness two or more dancers move together, but I never felt pressure to dance with anyone or move towards more attention.

DJ Farzana did a nice job blending fun dance tunes with spiritual music. Everyone’s energy rose to an upbeat song praising Hare Krishna. I enjoyed celebrating in unity. The power of the songs and the open space to dance brought us together magnificently. As I was twirlin, swirlin, extending, and undulating I felt my mind, body and soul relax and give in to the dancing. I thought, “Isn’t this what God wants us to do? In all religions don’t they teach to love your fellow human?” At the sanctuary the soul dances deep, nourished by  a community of supporters. I am happy to have found this sacred dance gem in Berkeley, Ca and I look forward to future visits!


Cherie Hill is a creative artist, dancer, performer, teacher and scholar, whose art explores human expression and how it is conveyed through the body in collaboration with nature, music and visual imagery. She teaches creative dance and modern dance improvisation at Luna Dance Institute, is former Co-Vice President of the Sacred Dance Guild, and a research assistant for Hip-hop dance legend, Rennie Harris. She holds a BA in Dance and Performance studies from UC Berkeley, and a MFA from the University of CO Boulder. To read more about her upcoming projects visit

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Posted in Dance, ecstatic dance, Sacred Dance, Sacred Dance Trends, Spritual dance
One comment on “Soul Sanctuary Dance, Berkeley CA
  1. pulelehua says:

    Aloha I also love the ecstatic dance experience! I am grateful for leaders of the Gabriel Roth 5 rythms is my community!

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