This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
Since April 2020, Boreal Boogie has been running – even through the bitter months of winter – in Yukon. The silent discos are outdoors and participants wear headsets and move their bodies through nature.
“People come for the love of movement, music, dance, and for some, to reconnect to a sense of community in a COVID-friendly way in a time when so many people are feeling exceedingly isolated,” said Jen Massie, the creator of Boreal Boogie.
Boreal Boogie is a nonprofit that offers movement and dance programming for people who might not feel comfortable or confident attending public dance classes, or may not have access to them. As well as running Boreal Boogie, Massie is a breathwork practitioner and support worker who works with people with disabilities.
How it all began: in March 2020, Massie was overwhelmed with the need to dance in a grove of oak trees. Then came the urge to research outdoor silent disco gear. The first Boreal Boogie took place the following month. Snow covered the ground and temperatures were well below freezing. But that didn’t deter participants.
“People were so excited to be gathering safely … no one noticed the cold, people were stripping down to their shirts, jumping up and down,” said Massie. “Like pure joy.”
Before starting Boreal Boogie, Massie trained in Five Rhythms, a movement meditation practice created by Gabrielle Roth in the late 1970s. She describes the practice – which her silent disco is largely based on – as liberating.
“The music and movement follows a wave pattern, and it invites people to be present, engage and move with whatever sensations, emotions or impulses arise for them,” said Massie.
There are two types of classes under the umbrella of Boreal Boogie: a somatic movement class and an upbeat dance party.
The somatic movements class gives “people the opportunity to embody their movements in a deeper way,” said Massie. “So to move with whatever comes up for them. And, figuratively, take it by the hand and dance with it. Whereas Boreal Boogie, it’s a free for all dance party.”
Fabian Calvert has participated in Boreal Boogie since the beginning. Once scared to dance in visible places, she is now a regular at the outdoor silent discos.
“Boreal Boogie feels like pure, purely joyful gifts to myself,” said Calvert. “I feel like I’m able to go there and just totally let go.”
What motivates Massie is participants just like Calvert. Massie said people will show up without formal dance training and are unsure if they belong.
“I can tell it’s taken every ounce of courage that they have to get there,” said Massie. And then comes “watching as they slowly begin to open up and melt into their own personal movement.”
Massie is hoping to expand Boreal Boogie and do more specific programming in the future. Some of her hopes include running Boreal Boogies sessions for kids and moms, people with disabilities, and LGBTQIA2S+ communities.
In Massie’s words: “there’s so many boogie shenanigans to come.”