Send Me on My Way: Students study 'Drugs, Demons, and Dancing' at UVM

Students enrolled in the course are also encouraged to dance in unconventional ways during class.

The University of Vermont is wrapping up its first iteration of a course titled “Drugs Demons, and Dancing”

The course aims to explore the connections between the mind, body, and physical world, and in doing so compares religious experiences to the use of psychedelic drugs.

Last week, students at the University of Vermont attended their final class of the semester for a new course titled “Drugs, Demons, and Dancing,” which encourages students to consider the relationship between religion, psychedelic drugs, and dancing. 

In an article published by the University of Vermont highlighting the course, the university explains that theater and dance professor Paul Besaw, religion professor Vicki Brennan, and psychology professor Jom Hammack provide students with a creative outlook on humanity through artistic, humanistic, and religious perspectives. 

The course description boasts that students enrolled in the course address such questions such as “How do psychedelics work?” and “What does it mean to have an ‘out-of-body experience’ or to ‘lose yourself’ while dancing?” These questions are posed alongside a consideration of how “religious mystics use their bodies to communicate with spirits.”

The course promises to examine the “mind-body problem” using “neuroscience, religion, music, and dance.”

“Religious experiences are ways of embodying different forms of consciousness or altering consciousness—and so are drugs,” said Brennan.

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Brennan admits the name “Drugs, Demons, and Dancing” was chosen in order to draw interest in the inaugural class, which focuses on the connections between the mind, body, and the physical world. The three colleagues taught the course this semester through unconventional methods. The teachings are very often not only physical, but also improvised. 

The final class of the semester began with a viewing of a Korean pop-rock performance, included an improvised dance session to the 1990 Jamband hit “Send Me on My Way” by Rusted Root, and concluded in a moment of synchronized clapping to the beat of the music. Brennan refers to this synchronized clapping as to as “collective effervescence.” 

“There are a lot of big questions that people come to college to ask and I think this class shows you that there are different ways to answer them and that they’re all relevant,” said Hammack.

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The three professors fully plan to teach Drugs, Demons, and Dancing next fall.

Campus Reform reached out to the university and professors for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.