Inspirational dance may become trance dance but trance dance is always inspirational but not necessarily improvisational. However, improvisational dance can lead on to inspirational dance. Inspirational dance only happens when Mind, Body and Spirit are in perfect harmony.

This harmony is a spiritual state which has nothing to do with established religion as such. It is a state in which those involved personally experience that ultimately all Paths to the Divine are one and the same. There is a stage when people realize that it is of no consequence whether they have followed the Path of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or any other. Everyone is dancing together as the great Wheel of Life slowly rotates.

Inspirational dance can safely be undertaken alone, in a group, and in any setting. The dancer is inspired but not out of control even when the movement is strongly energetic. This form of dance leads to a feeling of " being at one" with the universe, ones- self and ones fellow men.

The dancers own body establishes a "conversation" with him or herself which can result in unexpected insights and solutions to problems for that person. There is a wordless release of emotions and pressures through the heart which bypasses the intellect. This enables deep and valuable connections to be made at the level of Mind-Body and-Spirit. The energy of the dance must suffuse the whole of the dancers body from head to toe. There is an indescribable feeling of being part of the Cosmos and of the Earth's energy.

Try an experiment! Stand with your arms at your sides. Now lift up one arm to shoulder height in a way which expresses first joy, then fear, anger, defiance, tenderness and finally love. Does each emotion give rise to a different quality of movement? Poetry, a single word, an object, a vizualization or music can all provide the motivation for both inspirational and trance dance.

Inspirational and trance dance have nothing in common with a chorus line or corps de ballet where dancers follow strictly laid down choreography and are told to "make your face" which too frequently can become a grimace. Any facial expression in inspirational or trance dance will be a true expression of the inner experience of the dancer. They are not putting on a performance for an audience.

Defining "trance dance" in words is not easy though anyone viewing dancers in this state will recognize it as such. One definition is that "a trance induced by intense religious devotion, does not show reduced bodily functions that are typical of other trances."

This state can be induced through prayer, drugs, music and incantations .Trance can happen voluntarily or involuntarily.

Trance dance is closely associated with ritual robes, special colours, regalia, music and taboos The ritual colors usually express an aspect of the deity. The regalia whether decorated with fur, feathers, jewels etc will also reveal something about the deity to the worshippers. Sometimes the dancers are completely hidden beneth voluminous garments and masks. In Africa it is traditionally only men who are masked.

Taboos before dancing can include not eating certain foods, avoidance of sexual contact and almost universally in traditional societies the non- participation of women who are menstruating - menstrual blood being considered polluting.

Trance dance seldom occurs when the person is alone. In fact it is dangerous to undertake this solo.The support of people in a non-trance state is essential to prevent the participants doing anything harmful and to bring the dancers round and back to this level of existence.

Trance dance needs to be undertaken in a group and in a controlled setting. Most usually this dance is a form of worship and the participants are believed to be possessed by spiritual powers.The form of expression may appear frenzied as in certain African and Asian shamanic dances or very contemplative and calm as in the dances of the whirling dervishes of Turkey and the Middle East.

A dancer usually has no recollection of the dance. In some dances for West African deities the worshippers so to speak "vacate" their bodies to allow themselves to become a vehicle through which the deity can express its' self and give help and guidance. In a state of trance dancers often show great stamina and physical strength. It can often take a surprising number of people to restrain a person in trance.

When I attended a "candomble " ceremony in Bahia, Brazil more than twenty years ago I was totally taken aback by the authenticity of the ceremony. At that time I was living in the part of Nigeria from which hundreds of thousands of people were taken as slaves to Bahia. I felt that I was in Nigeria not thousands of miles away. In fact at one point I felt very "strange" indeed and was aware that if I had not actively resisted I would have gone into "trance".

The most obvious difference between the ceremony in Bahia and those in Nigeria was that the worshippers had adopted quite different ritual garments and paraphenalia.

Trance dance should not be undertaken by people on their own or by those in a fragile state of mental health.
In an inspirational dance the participants are aware of the movements they are making and also of the associated physical and emotional sensations. The dancer in this case acts as a vessel into which energy can be poured but the person is aware of this happening.

Inspirational dance has much in common with sacred dance but sacred dance acknowledges a spiritual element which is not necessarily the case with inspirational dance. Trance dance in traditional societies is nearly always a form of Sacred Dance. All forms can be highly therapeutic.

Author's Bio: 

Dzagbe Cudjoe is a Dance Movement Therapist and ethnologist with wide experience of Dance in Africa and Europe. As an ethnologist her main field of research was into West African traditional religion. As a Dance Movement Therapist her area of specialization is working with children who have challenging behaviour or severe physical and intellectual Special Needs. Dzagbe is now working on helping the parents of such children to appreciate the healing effects of dance. She is the author of the e-manual "Dance to Health - Help Your Special Needs Child Through Inspirational Dance." For more Information visit Dance to Health