A doorway into the culture of electronic dance
// Adélie Houle-Lachance

Each year when the warm summer sun begins to dim and the autumn equinox draws near, the Vancouver weather permits Earthdance, an international dance festival, to be held, marking the end of the festival season. This is a transition time, offering closure to those who attend summer festivals. For the ones who have yet to experience these summer gatherings, it is a doorway into the community that exists around dance culture.

Held during the day in Vancouver's Stanley Park on September 24th, Earthdance is an international festival happening simultaneously around the world, connecting global communities who join together locally under a common goal of creating a culture of peace and world unity through methods such as dance, prayer, art, and activism.

The seed of Earthdance was planted when co-founder Chris Deccker stood in the pyramid of Giza and had a vision where he saw different people around the world all dancing for peace simultaneously. From there, the idea sprouted in London, where it spread throughout the psy-trance music network in Europe with its already prominent festival culture. The first Earthdance took place in 1997, with 18 countries participating. Now held in 500 locations in 80 countries, Earthdance has grown to be one of the largest synchronized music events for peace.

When the first Earthdance took place, the proceeds were given to Tibet. Sobey Wing, organizer of Earthdance Vancouver, explains that the Dalai Lama responded by saying that more causes needed to be benefited, as “many other places around the world [were] in need of this energy, this peace vibration.”

Now, every local Earthdance donates 50% of its profits to a different organization or charity each year, chosen based on the theme of the festival. This year, Earthdance Vancouver will be donating to the Ancient Forest Alliance, a company which works to protect the remaining old growth forests on Vancouver Island, the Southern Mainland and the Southern Interior. This organization has been selected according to this year's theme of forests, as per the UN Year of Forests, empowering communities to globally celebrate the forests that encompass our planet and to protect the vital biodiversity found within them.

Sobey Wing is an event producer living in Vancouver, and has been involved with Earthdance since its beginning in 1997. He is the co-founder of Tribal Harmonix (, which was strongly inspired by Earthdance in his desire to “create a perpetual type of community similar to what we experience on the day of Earthdance.” He organized his first Earthdance in 2002 in the Downtown Eastside, and then moved to Stanley Park the following year, where it has been held since.

Earthdance Vancouver is an open access, by donation daytime event, arranged to pique the curiosity of passers by, welcome newcomers, and invite a mixture of generations and individuals. At Earthdance this year, one can attend workshops on topics such as forest gardening, indigenous culture, creative technology, and media. Attendees are also invited to share art through Art for Peace, in which artwork can be contributed to be showcased and auctioned. There is also a tribal market where artisans are able to sell their own jewelry and clothing.

Earthdance cultivates a safe environment for individuals to creatively express themselves. This year will include a theatrical aspect where people are encouraged to “come as forest creatures, tree spirits or nature spirits”, describes Wing. Each year the Prayer for Peace, a synchronized global prayer for unity, and spiral dance takes place, providing those present with an “understanding of what is possible with this [dance] music culture; it shows us that we can unite in powerful ways and people have profound experiences... we can create contact and raise energy”.

“If you haven't experienced electronic music on a good sound system, especially outdoors, then you haven't experienced electronic music to its full capacity”, explains Wing. Wing goes on to say that electronic music is so intricately layered and blended that dancers “dissolve themselves into the music”, creating a tribal experience at gatherings where individuals can connect and dance together, collectively raising energy. When dancing outdoors, “you can feel the frequencies mingling with the sounds of the natural environment, you can feel the bass reverberating around into your body and feel how that connects you with your environment”. Dancers are able to creatively express themselves, play and interact in an open space, and “when the music reaches that level of primal energy it's just about releasing and letting go.”

Earthdance is a good introduction to electronic dance culture with a higher purpose. It gives individuals an opportunity to take part in something greater, while allowing for characters outside of our daily consumer culture to take flight.

Earthdance takes place in Stanley Park, near the Prospect Point picnic area, on September 24th.

// Adélie Houle-Lachance
Features Editor

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