Natalie Abbott (fire), Sarah Aiken (air), Rebecca Jensen (water) and Janine Proost (earth) are DEEP SOULFUL SWEATS, an energetic ritual/yoga/dance class/party where everyone is a participant and there are no spectators. Live DJ’s support DSS with driving beats as participants are divided into elemental families to exorcise through exercise.
DSS was founded by Rebecca and Sarah on the 2013 Winter Solstice. DSS is a participatory art dance party with no spectators. The project brings crowds of people together in a physical and energetic exchange through dance and ritual, drawing from pop-culture, raves, astrology, and environmentalism to create a meaningful experience through dancing together and sharing space. The collective is passionate about fake-believing, generating content from the energy of their elemental group and making art that engages and connects with people long after the actual event has ended. DSS leaves an imprint on audiences, which is not just passive, but rather an active, energetic embodiment of the art and the creation of community.
Together with some of the country’s finest DJ’s and designers as well as a rotating cast of Elemental Leaders and special guest performers, Deep Soulful Sweats have grown a loyal following in Melbourne and around the country, presenting large scale event as well as regular Fantasy Light Yoga at Chunky Move and various venues. Each event follows a framework but is uniquely tailored to the context, time of year and relevant astrological events.
DSS can be adapted to suit a range of venues and events from 40 to 400 people.
Special events include:
City of Melbourne, Sunset Series curated by Amrita Hepi, 2017
PICA/Perth Fringe. Fantasy Light Yoga for Reckless Acts, 2017
GALAXY STOMP, Brisbane Festival, Theatre Republic 2016
Blacklist, Dark MOFO Hobart. Deep Sleep, 2015
The Pulse Rejuvenation Module Festival of Live Art Dance Party Arts House. 2014
Tiny Stadiums, PACT Sydney. 2014
PEAKS OF PHANTASM at Northcote Town Hall Next Wave festival, 2014
Faux Mo, Dark MOFO Hobart 2014
YOU GOTTA WERK (SHOPP) Dancehouse. 2014
"...as soon as the lights went down and the volume of the deep house music went up a notch and we started dancing as a collective mass, I knew I had found my spiritual home [...] It was ritualistic and strangely meditative, and completely weird and wonderful. A perfect evening out for the adventurous, or those who want to be completely thrown out of their comfort zones" Freya Parr. Rotunda Media
"The destination is enlightenment" The West Australian. Sarah Dunstan
"let go and leave your ego where it belongs – far away. This gives the whole night an innocent almost primary school disco feel mainly because that is the last time you can remember having this much fun dancing sober. Deep Soulful Sweats is honest, non-judgmental and should not be missed." The Music, Ben Meyer
“'like Moodymann, Jane Fonda and Osho hanging out in one big room together.' It's an amalgamation of anything and everything that's sure to make you feel positively aligned. And a little bit sweaty." The Music. Kathleen Langham
"yoga, House music and naked people" Teejay Davis. PACT interview.
Fantasy Light Yoga. Reckless Acts. Perth Fringe. PICA
January 24, 2017
Welcomed into PICA’s Central Galleries, instructed to wear workout gear, nobody knew what to expect. It soon became clear that this would be far from a conventional yoga class. In pitch black with strobes and UV lighting, we were separated into the elements: earth, fire, air and water. This was decided by our star signs. A Rainbow Rhythms-esque yoga warm up began the proceedings, which was more than slightly surreal. There was a moment that I was bent on all four panting like a “cute puppy” in which I felt as though I was part of some sort of social experiment. But as soon as the lights went down and the volume of the deep house music went up a notch and we started dancing as a collective mass, I knew I had found my spiritual home.
Each group of elements were led by a pigtail-wearing, fairy light-bedecked leader, who began movements that we were to follow. The choreography meant that we were moving around the space, interacting with the other elements, and using movements that reflected our elements. As an earth element, I moved between growing like a tree to birthing a child to fist pumping and humping the floor. I may have developed some deep-rooted issues from the whole affair, but quite frankly I loved it.
Bold and frankly very unusual, the whole evening was magnificent. The only way to enjoy it was to view the whole thing completely ironically, and then it was utter genius. I rubbed ice on other people’s sweaty bodies to the sound of jungle house, rolled on the floor, and felt bizarrely connected to every other bemused yogi in the space.
The evening ended with a room of joyful strangers standing and violently sweating touching heads with people they had never spoken two words to. It was ritualistic and strangely meditative, and completely weird and wonderful. A perfect evening out for the adventurous, or those who want to be completely thrown out of their comfort zones. A Fringe experience about as immersive as you can get.
The West Australian
Fantasy Light Yoga. Reckless Acts. Perth Fringe. PICA
At a time when the most straight-faced yoga studios are charging devotees top dollar to balance on surfboards and cover themselves in glitter, Melbourne-based collective Deep Soulful Sweats offered Perth audiences a more accessible, inclusive and fun means of unleashing the Orange Person inside.
Taking place in the PICA Central Gallery as part of the Reckless Acts program for Fringe World Festival, Fantasy Light Yoga is a participatory dance, fitness and tantric experience.
It is equal parts a parody and a celebration of New Age and rave cultures; a member of the quartet has previously described the experience they offer as like “[techno/house artist] Moodymann, Jane Fonda and [controversial spiritual leader] Osho hanging out in one big room together”.
Convened by the elements Air (Sarah Aiken), Earth (Angela Goh), Fire (Natalie Abbott) and Water (Rebecca Jensen), the session sees attendees grouped according to the elemental classification of their Zodiac sign.
The destination is enlightenment. The way you get there is by imitating a baby bird emerging from an egg (at least if you are an Air sign) and dancing in a way that necessitates the consumption of lots of water and a lollipop.
The quartet is inventively low-tech in executing the technology versus nature visual concept while ensuring participants can spot them in the dark. They clip bike lights to their sneakers, wear glitter on their faces and put on the “speed dealer” sunglasses that have become a mainstay of internet jokes.
However, the cleverness is in how ambiguous the line is between absurdity and genuine yogic practice.
To “clean the cobwebs from your aura” and do your “Sufi grind” were phrases that incited chuckles from participants, but according to Google, the latter is a real move from Kundalini yoga.
One suspects that the ambiguity is beside the point for Deep Soulful Sweats. Why not exploit the cult-like status of yoga by playfully brainwashing everyone with some house music?
Deep Soulful Sweats have presented Fantasy Light Yoga at a range of festivals and events such as Next Wave and DARK MOFO.
The group work with local music selectors in the places they tour. Here Catlips (Katie Campbell) was on the decks to complete the “rave cave” transformation.
Although sessions of Fantasy Light Yoga finish on January 21, look out for performer Angela Goh’s show Desert Body Creep, which runs from January 24 at PICA as part of Fringe.
May 9th 2014
Presented by Speakeasy and Next Wave Festival, Deep Soulful Sweats is billed as “a little bit yoga, a little bit Jane Fonda, a little bit interpretive dance [and] a little bit deep house”. Each audience member is divided into one of the four elemental groups based on their star sign (Earth, Water, Air and Fire) and are led to congregate in their respective groups. Participants are invited to adorn each other in suitably coloured body paint while getting to know each other and their respective Elemental Ambassador. Entering the main room, the ambassadors lead their groups in various yoga moves and chants as the music slowly builds from ashram-inspired beats to jungle rhythms to deep house. The most fun, however, is when the lights are dim and the smoke machines are running at top speed. The ambassadors lead each group through various high energy dance moves that encourage you to let go and leave your ego where it belongs – far away. This gives the whole night an innocent almost primary school disco feel mainly because that is the last time you can remember having this much fun dancing sober. Deep Soulful Sweats is honest, non-judgmental and should not be missed.
With Next Wave Festival 2014 fast approaching it’s time to locate your lycra, practice your Jane Fonda and prepare to find your inner balance. Rebecca Jensen, part of Deep Soulful Sweats, speaks to Kathleen Langham about this new-wave dance/yoga phenomenon.
There's nothing like getting sweaty with a room full of strangers. It's even better when it involves a bit of Kundalini yoga, a lot of colourful lycra, and some deep, dirty beats. Get down to Peaks Of Phantasm to see for yourself. Described by Rebecca Jenson as “faux ritual with no spectators”, this four-part evening is aimed at anyone and everyone. “If you don't like yoga it's perfect for you; if you do like yoga it's also perfect. You don't need to be skilled; you just need to be ready to move.”
Accompanying Jenson on this evening of self-discovery are Sarah Aiken, Natalie Abbott and Janine Proost. Each of these Melbourne-based choreographers and performers has training in contemporary dance, while Abbott and Proost also teach yoga. The unlikely combination of these different types of movement creates an unrelenting hybrid guaranteed to get your heart racing. Firstly, participants will be split into different elements (air, wind, water, fire) in accordance with their star sign. The night will then begin with some ancient yoga and close with dancing in the dark to the sounds of DJ John Anon, with “senseless chanting and choreographic configurations” thrown in for good measure. But what is Peaks Of Phantasm all about? “It's about finding connections with strangers,” Jenson explains, “as well as finding an introspective connection with yourself, embracing your physical capabilities, whatever they may be.”
Peaks Of Phantasm was initially born as a sister project to Overworld, a collaborative performance by Aiken and Jenson that will also feature as part of Next Wave 2014. The inspiration for both projects came from a 2012 trip to Germany where Jenson and Aiken attended a Witch Camp. Here they “called down the Goddess of darkness, cried into rivers and cast sacred circles,” led by a Nike-wearing witch with a penchant for Apple products. “She uploaded her book of shadows onto her MacBook for convenience and took photos of us being reborn to the New Moon on her iPhone.” After that experience they began “exploring the clash between trash and tradition” and Peaks Of Phantasm was brought to life.
Peaks Of Phantasm aims to take you on an upbeat journey to a place where you can find your inner yin and yang. You don't have to be a dancer or be fluent in the various positions of the Sun Salute. You just have to be ready and willing to give anything a go. Jenson describes Deep Soulful Sweats as being “like Moodymann, Jane Fonda and Osho hanging out in one big room together.” It's an amalgamation of anything and everything that's sure to make you feel positively aligned. And a little bit sweaty.
DEEP SOULFUL SWEATS
Interview by Teejay Davis
Deep Soulful Sweats are a quartet of artists who combine their love of music, dance and spirituality to create interactive performance pieces that invite the audience to join in on the fun. Before their performance at PACT’s Tiny Stadiums Festival, we caught up with DSS’s Rebecca Jansen to find out a little bit about what yoga, House music and naked people had to do with each other…
As part of Tiny Stadiums 2014, you’re performing a “part-yoga, part-Jane Fonda, part-dirty discotheque and all-out energetic workout” titled Fantasy Light Yoga. What can you tell us about Fantasy Light Yoga?
Fantasy light yoga combines yoga, dance, pagan celebrations and house music to create a modern day ritual. We divide all participants into their elements based on their star sign so they can connect with strangers, like-minded strangers. Fantasy light yoga encourages participants to let go and follow in order to have a unique, transcendent experience removing the responsibility of having to make choices. We often use the tagline Exorcise through Exercise encouraging participants to really let go
How did you form as a group and what was the concept behind this performance?
Deep Soulful sweats initially began as a sister project to Sarah and I’s dance work OVERWORLD, which premiered in Next Wave Festival 2014. OVERWORLD looks at the ease of access to sacred and trashy information on the internet bringing up questions around what we value and what is ours to take. Deep Soulful Sweats explores these themes, mashing together pagan ritual with club culture, celebrating goddess’s and celebrity’s birthdays simultaneously whilst getting downs to dirty house beats.
Where did the idea of performing WITH the audience instead of FOR the audience come from and how has it worked out so far?
We wanted to create a space where there were no spectators, empowering audience to connect with each other and contribute to the performance by performing themselves. We remove the hierarchy between performer and audience, facilitating a context for the unknown to unfold.
Working with an audience as part of the show forces the artists to relinquish some control over their performances. What’s it like not knowing how any performance might turn out?
It’s exciting, you are constantly receiving feedback from the participants and each other in the moment. Most of the event is improvised and flexible depending on all its variables. All four of us love working in this fluid way and invite failure to be a facet in our own work. Each Deep Soulful Sweats presents us with new challenges and in turn new lessons. The diversity of people we have had attend the event is fantastic, people come for different reasons, from all sorts of backgrounds. It’s always great to hear what different individuals get out of it.
You’ve performed as a collective at Melbourne’s Festival Of Live Art, which is pretty impressive. What has been DSS’s biggest moment in the spotlight so far?
We recently took Deep Soulful Sweats down to MOFO dark in Hobart which was crazy. We staged a rebirth in the middle of the dance floor at the Odeon theatre with a huge piece of pink Lycra. One guy got naked. It was great.
Wow! Thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us Rebecca.