Ever spent two hours dancing around a room, listening to loud music, occasionally hugging a complete stranger? Ever had to put your head in the lap of complete randomer, while they stroke your face to relaxing music? No?!
Well neither had I, until I went to Biodanza. It felt a little like an exercise class, a little like a cult.
But more than anything it felt like church.
I should explain; my friend invited me (to what I thought would be Zumba or something) and I went. It was a bizarre experience that involved activities ranging from walking around hugging people, to receiving face massages, to holding hands in a circle and ‘dancing as we felt we wanted to’. We definitely listened to John Lennon at one point too, flipping hippies.
All in all it was a completely bizarre and overly tactile experience; especially for this Brit living in Spain who is still struggling to adjust to the culture which completely refuses to respect personal space, but not necessarily a negative one. Like I say, it kept reminding me of church. Let me break it down for you:
- It was really welcoming and friendly, definitely noteworthy. At most churches an incredibly strong welcome is given to people, and it is a stark contrast to the outside world. I’ve known convicted atheists attend entire Alpha courses just because of how great, friendly and affirming the environment is. It was like that at Biodanza. That shocked me.
- The leader said superstitious religious stuff and we pretended to believe it, while actually believing about 10% of what he said. That’s true of church too, right?
- The Most Excellent Leader’s patter was infused with a very familiar theme of ‘us’ and ‘them’ aka ‘the world’ and ‘the church’. In Biodanza a lot of the talk was about the modern world and how its social rules are bad for us, and what we were doing was escaping that. This was very familiar to me, as I’ve heard countless sermons saying ‘the world says this, but Jesus/God/the Bible says this…’ and ‘let’s be countercultural’. There seems to be an agreement that this world is bad.
- There was loud uplifting music that made us feel good.
- There were some people there who looked like they had really suffered, been really hurt and abused by people and by life; and they had come here for refuge. That is/should be true of our churches too.
What I realised is that there’s other stuff out there that looks like church, but definitely isn’t. I guess the reason I’m not giving up on church to start my own Biodanza network is that there was no enduring hope. There was no real transcendence. This life is great, and I love The Beatles as much as the next man, but I need more.
I guess the last bullet point is the most important, as Biodanza ultimately can’t help people too much, because it’s got no gospel. Just as Islam, Hinduism, The New Atheism, and the vaguely dominant agnosticism all have powerful truths, they don’t quite cut it. I need grace.