About Us

A Land Acknowledgement

Our dances take place on the unceded territory of the Three Fires Confederacy of the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatami peoples.

For thousands of years the Anishinaabeg have accompanied these lands and waters with their lives, labor, spirit, honor and respect. 

We give thanks for their generous care and promise to do our best to continue in that tradition until the land can once again be accompanied by their guidance. 

A history of Northern Michigan Ecstatic Dance

the early years

Northern Michigan Ecstatic Dance was started by Matt Nester and Chelsea Hummon in 2014. Back then it was called Maple City Ecstatic Dance because they held it in the Fitness Center gymnasium in Maple City. By the end of 2015 their two young boys were getting to the age when it was just too much to load up the kids and the speakers each month and so the dance when into hibernation. 

About 9 months later, Chelsea had Jeanie and some other friends over for a bonfire and they decided to awaken the dance from its slumber. This time it was held at Yoga 4 in Lake Leelanau. Owner Christen Landry graciously donated the space for our twice monthly dances on first Sundays and third Wednesdays. At this point it was renamed Leelanau Ecstatic Dance. 

Yoga 4 studio space

Bird mobile at Yoga 4

Jessica, Ken, Mari and Rolf, February 1, 2019

the middle years

In 2017, New Moon Yoga opened it's doors and owner Mari VonWalthausen welcomed Leelanau Ecstatic Dance to join in. This was a great location because it was close to Traverse City, but still in Leelanau County, so the name didn't need to change! Eventually we moved both of our dances there, on the first and third Wednesdays. 

There was a grand piano in the studio much of the time. Improvised piano music by Rolf VonWalthausen even provided the soundtrack to one of our dances!

Two years later, the studio was purchased by Jessica Merwin-Scott and her husband Ken Scott. Jessica welcomed us with open arms. She even provided an upgraded sound system! All donations went directly to the studio.

the pandemic

In early March 2020 it was clear we were in health crisis so we moved our March 16 dance to Facebook Live. This was made possible by Marty Heller (aka PhDJ Martoosh) who had been a live DJ for a few of our dances over the years. 

Marty and Jeanie collaborated to host the dance online (eventually on Zoom) throughout the spring of 2020. It was a lot to learn and it could not have happened without Marty's support and technical prowess. He also treated us to some very cool visual effects! 

In June we moved to outdoor dancing for the first time. There was social distancing for everyone, which we were happy to do. We missed each other! We had to buy speakers and lights and learn a whole new way of doing things, but we figured it out and were able to dance outside from June into the first week of December 2020!

In late December we went back online for a second season of "Dance From Home."  We returned to the field in the summer and danced outdoors through November 2021. We grew to LOVE dancing with the stars and the moon, the birds and insects, the river and the wind.

dark background with image of leaping unicorn on a pink-colord card. There is a light on the tip of the unicorn horn. Text says. Ecstatic Dance from Home Unicorn edition #4 7p tonight

The Unicorn Dance was popular!

Our new lights!

(yes, that is a shark)

Starting December 2021, we went back inside to dance together again; what a joy! The pandemic was still raging on, but with vaccines, boosters, and natural immunity, the risks seemed reasonable. Nels Veliquette offered us a portion of his studio time at our old home - New Moon Yoga - which over the pandemic became the New Moon Yoga Collaborative. We were so grateful to be there.

Summer 2022 had us back outdoors, and we became committed to outdoor dancing in the warm months. It's a magical experience, not to be missed. 

In 2022, we renamed the group Northern Michigan Ecstatic Dance, to recognize and honor the dancers who come from all over northern Michigan, and for the land that supports us, far beyond Leelanau County. We also started our monthly newsletter and made a website, to keep connected to people who don't have Facebook. 

a new identity

Our new logo evolved over several months, as Jeanie tried to capture the essence of the dance in a simple way. Jeanie loves the way we all look dancing in the field, our bodies in every shape and configuration, so she tried to capture that, but in the end, it was too complicated and too limiting. 

Next she tried just a field of stars, but it felt too generic, even if pretty. 

Then the idea came to add in a wave - for the shape the music takes, the journey we go on, and also for the waves of water and sand that surround us in Northern Michigan. It looked like a mountain in the first iteration, but choosing a more simple shape and an aquatic color scheme seemed to work! 

Haven't changed it since then. 

(Many thanks to Canva for providing such an incredible tool to use for free!)

2023 and Beyond

In 2023 many new people tried their hand at being DJ, after taking the Playlist Creation Workshop in the fall of 2022. 

We collaborated with Sisters of the Drum, for a life-altering dance experience with live percussion. Our biggest dance to that point with about 30 dancers. 

In summer of 2023 we expanded to Benzie County, which had been on the wish list for a long time. The Courtyard at Grow Benzie was a perfect place to begine. We now have a supportive home at the Mills Community House, once a month on Sunday mornings. 

We also collaborated with the great James Schaberg on a full year of Solstice-Equinox Dance Camps (Summer Solstice 2023 - Spring Equinox 2024) Photo Album to come.

These dance camps propped our numbers way up and we have outgrown the New Moon Yoga space. We eagerly await dancing on the hardwood floor of the Grand Traverse Circuit in May 2024, before we swing back outside for the warm months, in our outdoor home along Cedar Creek. 

There is a lot more in the works!

The power of dance and the importance of dancing in community becomes more and more clear to us every time we dance together. It's hard to put into words. 

We welcome partnerships of many kinds and creative ideas for music, venue, theme, or format. We are having a really good time and hope you will join us!

Stephanie has supported the Dance in countless ways. I am endlessly grateful.

This space is community-created 

Everyone who attends is invited and expected to contribute in their own way. Bring your authentic self, and leave the metaphorical masks and filters behind. Offer a poem, a practice, your wisdom or insight. Share food or drink at the end of the dance. Bring an instrument. Invite a friend. Create a flyer. Set up the newsletter. Find us a space, equipment, or materials. Make a playlist. Host one of the dances. Help set up or put away. Make a donation. There are lots of ways!

When we each bring our full self and take responsibility for welcoming everyone, magic happens. Every time. 

I'm Jeanie Williams. I hold the space most of the time for our dances. 

I discovered dance in general and ecstatic dance in particular when I lived in Vermont. There, I took a Yoga Dance class for two years with Nina Shoenthal where I learned how to move the different parts of my body and have fun with it. I literally didn't know about moving my hips until this class! I was one of about five people that met consistently for two years; that community was extremely important to me. 

After that I participated in a modern dance performance called Everyone Can Dance, led by Tiffany Rhynard which brought professional and amateur dancers of all shapes and abilities together with non-dancers, like me.  We spent a month learning choreography and crafting our own dances because, well, Everyone Can Dance. Here I learned about creativity and expression in ways that liberated me in all parts of my life. 

From there I joined a modern dance company led by Heather Bryce where we co-created all of our performances. I learned about how to turn mundane gestures into something fascinating. Even though I was terrible at anything technical such as turns - I had no dance training at all - I loved the way dancing felt in my body. (The second photo includes me - second from the left - in one of our performances.)

Most influential of all was my work with Authentic Movement, held by Jan Sandman. I met with the same core group nearly weekly for four years and I learned how to trust my body, my movement, and everyone in the room. We all received deep healing. The connections I made in that room are the deepest ones of my life. One day I will get Jan to come here and lead a workshop for us!

And of course, I also discovered Ecstatic Dance in Vermont, which for awhile was called Trance Dance, and it took me many years to feel comfortable enough to show up. This space was held by Ivan McBeth (may he rest in peace) and his wife Fearn Lickfield, who still co-leads Vermont Ecstatic Dance to this day. It was a completely joyful, liberating, and strongly held space. I model much of what we do in this space on what I learned there. 

I've also been to several other ecstatic dance spaces and dabbled in contact improv. I love square dancing (not so much contra dancing). Additionally my many years of yoga practice, led by several deeply embodied teachers, taught me to listen attentively to my body. I am forever grateful to all of the talented teachers I was blessed to find. 

All this to say that movement, especially non-choreographed, creative, body-inspired movement is very important to me, which is why I hold this space for the greater Grand Traverse Community. I need it, and I think a lot of other people need it too. 

I am also a trained and experienced facilitator, educator and life coach. There is no greater honor than holding space for other people so we can discover the deepest truths of who we are and what we desire, and learn to be ok with them. May aim is to craft a meaningful experience for the group as a whole, and for each person to feel welcomed and safe. Please let me know how I can best support you.