Navigating Gabrielle Roth’s Maps to Ecstasy


originally published May 19, 2012 in fuse: a tribal and tribal fusion belly dance magazine

Navigating Gabrielle Roth’s Maps to Ecstasy

Review by Britta Visser Stumpp

As a dancer who engages dance on a more spiritual level than as performance alone, I have always looked for ways of bringing belly dance to a higher level of consciousness. I had heard about Gabrielle Roth and viewed some of her videos prior to reading Maps to Ecstasy, but the book itself was a revelation. Roth has taught movement as a means of shamanic journeying for twenty plus years, and her five sacred rhythms are currently being used in trance dance, ecstatic dance, and movement therapy throughout North America and Europe.

“Your body is the ground metaphor of your life, the expression of your existence.” Roth invites all people to enjoy the dance, not just professionals: “Anyone can do the rhythms. They are in us, and are part of our essential makeup; they just need to be evoked, to find expression in our own unique beings. Dance is the most immediate way of expressing the body’s essential rhythms; dance is spontaneous, universal [….] and remember that every human culture has its dance forms.”

Like Roth, “my initial opening to God, to the Universe, to bliss, came through dance.” Roth’s chronicles of discovery through dance will help all dancers who have experienced transcendence through movement make sense of their experiences in what she calls “the dance of life.” In her early years, Roth said, “I began to see more clearly that art is not just ornamentation, an enhancement of life, but a path in itself.” The path she lays out in Maps involves freeing the body into the power of being, expressing the heart through the power of loving, emptying the mind through the power of knowing, awakening the soul through the power of seeing, embodying the spirit through the power of healing, and finally how to combine all of these steps through the vehicle of movement: to dance.

Each chapter is full of anecdotes related to Roth’s journey–her experiences as a student, as a teacher, and as an urban shaman. She gives the reader numerous exercises and methods for self-nurturing and empowerment. “Our task is to embody the spirit [through dance] in order to experience the power of healing.”   Following Roth’s advice in Maps to Ecstasy, I have been able to free my dance beyond mere choreography; I have been able to dance my own inner truth. I highly recommend this book not only for belly dancers seeking to engage spirit, but to any and all individuals interested in movement as a means of interacting with a higher consciousness and ultimately to healing.

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