AP PHOTOS: Dancers silently lose themselves on Venice Beach

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Once a week on Southern California’s most famous beach, just before the sun dips into the Pacific Ocean, dozens of people gather and silently dance like no one is watching.

Those swaying on the sand wearing wireless headsets with decorative LED lights streaming music from a nearby DJ are practitioners of ecstatic dance. Moving their bodies and losing themselves in the music, participants describe an almost spiritual experience.

The gatherings held on Venice Beach and organized by Ecstatic Dance LA are normally held indoors and under clear guidelines in part meant to limit participants from becoming self-conscious.

“Be free. Dance how you want. No judgment,” the dance community says in promotional material.

But when the coronavirus shut down indoor gatherings, the community moved their gatherings to the beach. Though they surrendered privacy and amplified live music, community co-founder Robin Parrish says the move has been a success and the sunset has been a fair trade-off.

Like all their events it is drug and alcohol-free. Cameras and phones are not allowed, though pets and kids can accompany you. Talking is discouraged.

According to Parrish, for some participants who are cooped up inside during the pandemic, the silent dance is the only social activity they are doing.

Chase Beckerman, a full-time mother of two children, is among them.

“I wasn’t actually interested in coming when it was indoors. Being here at Venice Beach and being at the sea actually is what brought me out to try ecstatic dance for the first time,” she said.

“It’s my church. It helped me get through this pandemic a huge amount.”

When dusk turns to darkness, the DJ switches from dance tracks to calmer “healing music” and the meditation begins.

Some future events will move back indoors, eventually. As much as the dancers like the ocean view, Parrish said people miss the vibrations of live music and dancing on hardwood floors.

“We will have an option for both because some people might not be ready to go inside,” he said.