It challenges us to leave behind our normal perceptions and powerfully brings us into the unknown and gives us the courage to do that in our daily lives.

The Beat of Trance Dance Hits Greenwich

Jennifer Cirillo

The Beat of Trance Dance Hits Greenwich

At the first Trance Dance class held at the Greenwich YWCA Friday night, six people stood in a dark dance studio with blindfolds in their hands. Trance Dance instructor Carol Piro told the class of first-timers that they were to state a silent intention, something that was beyond their control, and then place the blindfold over their eyes. The intention, secured in the blindfold, would become a source of energy that would be released through the hour dance of free-flowing movement.

Though Trance Dance and variations of it have been practiced for thousands of years in shamanic and eastern dance cultures as a method of worship and healing, this altered state of consciousness is a fairly new concept in the Northeast. Piro described Trance Dance as "a neo-shamanic approach to creating a transformation or an opportunity for transformation in the body/ mind consciousness using the elements of sight deprivation, movement, music, breathing, intention and sound rhythm."

With blindfolds on, participants at the YWCA were asked to engage in systematic breathing for four minutes: Two short breaths in through the nose followed by one exhale through the mouth. Then the rhythmic beats of drums and trance-like music began and with intentions in mind, the class members began to let go of their inhibitions and dance. "I've done similar dance things like that, but not with a blindfold," said Gregg Nodelman, 44, of Branford after the class. "That was really the most radical difference for me and it took awhile for me to get used to that. I felt really vulnerable and I was dancing in place for the first half hour because I was afraid to bump into people."

Class participants need not worry. The instructor serves as a spotter to make sure that people don't crash into each other. Piro, of the Wellness Program at U.S. Surgical in Norwalk, has been practicing the healing arts since 1993. Having completed her facilitator's training in Hawaii with Wilbert Alix, the pioneer of Trance Dance and other shamanic techniques as healing and therapeutic tools, she will be teaching classes in Greenwich and Norwalk.

Piro, 40, is also involved in administering other healing arts, including transformational breath and various forms of energy work like shamanic healing and chronic healing. "We are always projecting outward because of our vision, so we are constantly obsessing what the outside world is thinking of us or how the outside world is judging us," explained theNorwalk resident. "For me, having that taken away and knowing that there was nobody out there watching me, it took me awhile to kind of let go of that whole idea. It made me realize how much energy I place on how the world views me.

 "During the dance I was really able to let go of that and focus inward, which created such an amazing opportunity to really be within. To let myself be the judge of me rather than others." While Piro's first experience during her training was transformational, everyone has a different experience with Trance Dance. "I definitely had moments where my consciousness felt altered," said Nodelman, who has been in the Feng Shui and space clearing business since 1992. "But I think if I did it again, I would have a deeper experience. This time I was so nervous and caught up in the newness of it, not knowing what it was going to be like."

When the two-hour class neared the end, the music stopped and everyone was asked to lay on the floor, belly down, to connect with the earth. Then they removed their blindfolds, but the trance was not necessarily over. Piro explained that the trance state can continue into the night and possibly days afterward. "I felt it most a couple of days afterward," said Westport resident Sue Stebbins. "I felt more open." Stebbins, president and founder of success waves coaching at, described her first experience with the class as challenging.

"It challenges us to leave behind our normal perceptions and powerfully brings us into the unknown and gives us the courage to do that in our daily lives."