There’s no wrong way to go about an ecstatic dance, and it often makes for a spiritually rejuvenating experience for anyone inclined to participate. Photo by William Buzzerd

On Sunday, Oct. 9, Valley residents can travel up the Crystal River for a chance to express themselves to the utmost — that is, through their body.
Guided and organized by longtime Roaring Fork resident Alya Howe, The Full Moon Ecstatic Dance is an opportunity for participants to dance and move with complete freedom; whether that be energetically, rhythmically, introspectively, alone or with others.
“Ecstatic dance celebrates our having a body, listening to how it spontaneously wants to move, or not. Spontaneously dancing, however you feel like moving in the moment, or choosing stillness: there is no right way to move,” says Howe. The final part of that definition is key. To dance ecstatically requires no practice or training; all it takes is a body.
The dance is hosted on a lunar calendar, falling on or around the full moon of each month and hosted at the serendipitously named 13 Moons Ranch on Highway 133.
“The full moon is the time of the month to bring into full expression what’s most important to you,” says Howe. The ranch itself, which often plays host to retreats and apothecary workshops, sits only five miles south of downtown Carbondale. Nestled beneath Mt. Sopris and along the Crystal River, 13 Moons provides a wonderful harmony of elements — especially with a bonfire, also good to keep participants warm as the weather cools.
The dance itself is hosted in a large hangar-space called the Heart Barn, fully muralled with mountains, moons and hamsa. Dancers are free to move within this space, complete with a cushioned floor, or out in the grass between the firepit and an intimate view of Sopris.
The balance between indoor and outdoor has been a significant part of the dance since its recent inception, when the extremes of the COVID-19 pandemic meant hard lines on social distancing. The Full Moon Ecstatic Dance tradition began when those lines started softening, over a year ago, as an opportunity to free oneself when one’s movement was more restrained than ever. The restraint also meant difficulty connecting with others, and the tradition continues as a way to celebrate that sense of community that comes easiest with individuals safely expressing themselves together. In Howe’s words, “A community that freely dances together expresses and becomes a more expansive community.”
Howe, who has spent over 20 years as a professional dancer, choreographer, yoga practitioner and all-around movement professional, also guides the event. The previous dance on Sept. 11 began with a circle of intentions, as well as a slow awakening dance to ease everyone’s bodies into expression. This led into a full “nonverbal hour” in which dancers were encouraged to express themselves without speech.
At this time newcomers and repeat-attendees alike engaged in all sorts of movement — rhythmic and otherwise. With a professional DJ set backed by live drumming, participants grooved to the beat, bounded in the grass or swayed in meditation by the fire.
The next dance will be hosted Sunday, Oct. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m.
The entrance of the Ranch — to the left going south — is somewhat difficult to notice from the highway, but will be marked with wooden signs just before the bend into the canyon. There is a small parking lot available, but residents of Carbondale will also find it an easy and scenic bike ride south.
Participants are recommended to wear comfortable clothes and easily removable shoes, as well as to bring a water bottle. Furthermore, they are encouraged to abstain from intoxicating substances and be mindful of others. As fall deepens, participants might also want to bring additional layers should they feel the urge to move outside. Restrooms and water are provided at the event, no registration is necessary and the cost to attend is a suggested $15.

Art by Benny Blue