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April 25, 2014
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Ecstatic dance group leaves Saint Joseph's after four years


After several years of meeting weekly at the historic Saint Joseph’s Cultural Center, Grass Valley’s ecstatic dance group is looking for a new home. They were asked to leave by the board of directors, citing concerns about adverse affects of the music’s vibrations.

“They had a concern for the preservation of the hall and the stained glass windows, and the fact that we played bass music at a high volume level created a lot of stress for them,” said Wendy Phares, the group’s organizer.

The group has been taken in by Nevada City’s Haven Underground as a temporary stopgap, but Phares says she’d like to find something more permanent. They enjoyed the church-like atmosphere of the chapel hall where they gathered for nearly four years.

“We were really grateful to be in that space,” Phares said. “St. Joseph’s was a really wonderful venue. And the space really loved us being there.”

Phares and others affiliated with the ecstatic dance group say that they were asked to leave abruptly, and that the board of directors did not give them a chance to find a solution.

“There wasn’t any communication from the board or a willingness from the board to try to problem-solve,” Phares said. “I really wish there would have been a deeper willingness to come to an arrangement.”

Skip Tyrrell, president of the board of directors for Saint Joseph’s Cultural Center, says that’s not the case.

“We talked to the individual who runs that situation and told them that if they were willing to turn down the music, they could stay there,” Tyrrell said. “The response was that they couldn’t do that.

“Our concern is that when they play their music, it’s played so loud that the windows vibrate and the walls vibrate,” Tyrrell said. “This building sits on a rock foundation that’s in very poor condition, and the windows all have slippage.”

Tyrrell also says this issue should have been sorted out when the ecstatic dance group first came to Saint Joseph’s several years ago, before he came on as board president. He also points out that they haven’t had a formal contract with the ecstatic dancers since 2011.

Despite recent developments, they still plan to rent out the hall for other kinds of dance and music. They need the income, Tyrrell said.

“We’re not eliminating music from being played in that hall,” Tyrrell said. “We just don’t need to have the volume and the intensity.”

He also said it’s nothing personal.

“We wish them well. It’s not like we’re angry with them or anything,” Tyrrell said. “It’s something we had to do to protect our building.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Nevada County’s ecstatic dance group can find them online using their Facebook group, Ecstatic Dance Grass Valley. The group is still meeting Thursday nights at The Haven Underground, 226 Broad St., Nevada City.

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email dbrooksher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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The Union Updated Apr 26, 2014 12:07AM Published Apr 27, 2014 11:30AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.