Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Fairfield residents participate in Valentine’s Day dance
By Gabe Goldiamond
Feb. 20, 2023 5:40 pm
This past Tuesday was, as we all know, the famous--or infamous depending on your romantic status--Valentine's Day. However, no matter the status, there was fun to be had at Fairfield's HFI Creativity Lab--more commonly referred to as "The Lab" by the Ecstatic Dance Group, a coalition of denizens that hold events weekly.
The group, started by Michael Sternfeld and others prominent community members, has been holding dance events for years, usually on Sundays at the Reservoir, and they've been highly committed to never canceling an event; so much so, that two winters ago, the group held an event on the coldest day that year (zero degrees fahrenheit), even dancing on the frozen solid reservoir.
So it's safe to say that this is a passionate group, but not reckless. Research of environmental conditions prior to each event and introduction of consented group dancing practices during the event assure both the physical and mental health of all who participate.
This past holiday, something was different. Now the dance event was being held during the week (in addition to the weekend), in the evening instead of the morning, and inside instead of outside.
Before everyone cut loose, there was an orientation exercise given to get people comfortable with each other and the environment. It was a process of people partnering up, sitting back to back, with one person leading in spontaneous, but slow, mindful movement. After a period of time, the leadership would alternate, then the partners would sit back to back, pushing against each other's bodies while attempting to stand up together. A useful exercise to familiarize oneself with how to ask for and give consent in partnered dancing, as well as how to lead and follow movement.
After the orientation, the Ecstatic Dance Group did not miss a beat--no pun intended. There was as much the same energy and life at the Lab as outside at the Reservoir. Events are usually hosted by a DJ from a group of regulars, and the music selection varied from ambient, serene moods, to synth-heavy, pulsating electronic beats.
Everyone was deeply involved--floating about the dark room with glowing hula-hoops, or vibing in place, holding a pair of glow sticks, soaking in the music.
The dance was DJ'ed by Emmanuel Schachinger, who created a seamless experience of sound. There were some minor glitches in the sound system, but no one seemed to be fazed by it, and continued dancing. This group is different.
While it was a Valentine's day dance, there was more of a flow of enjoying dance with whomever you bumped into, instead of couples remaining with one another the whole night. Everyone was pretty open, and since there is a consent policy, everytime people asked each other before proceeding into dancing, or on to another person. Even the people who said “no” were very gracious.
It's rare to find a dance environment (dare I say outside of Fairfield?) where everyone is free to both do their own thing and enjoy being with others. There was also an air of sincerity, no posing or posturing, just pure enjoyment and respect. That did not take away from the energetic milieu, however, and the dance felt like more of a general expression of love, rather than one limited to romantic couples.
In any matter, this event was electric, and everyone was satisfied. When a late-comer asked how the event was, Michael Sternfeld exclaimed, "It was wild!"