By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
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"We would just be out of our minds," she remembers. "It was beautiful. "
For Rana, a South African of Indian descent who'd come to America chasing the white-picket-fence dream only to become disillusioned, it was an entirely new way of looking at life in this country. "It was a great environment to see people let go of their constraints," he recalls. "But what made the scene more than just doing drugs at a club was the music. Denver was not playing hardly any electronic music at the time. It was still '70s, '80s and '90s music at clubs. This was the edge of the progressive scene, and it was a very avant-garde group of people, the outcasts...and the music was phenomenal. The best music in town was coming out of that space."
Rana and DeFoort were the token straight couple in a predominantly gay scene, he says. And while there was certainly plenty of drug use, on many nights they would not indulge at all.
"We would go with the intention of letting the music guide our journey," Rana says. "It was like, 'We know what our bodies and brains are capable of now. What can we do to generate that state without any external influence?' And we would go there and we would do just that: We would sit in meditation at the back of the room and we would meditate to that music, and then we would go dance."
But the party couldn't go on forever. Soon after DeFoort and Rana married in 2004, they separated, deciding they were better friends. When Amsterdam shut its doors, the circle of club kids dispersed.
Another Sunday evening at Orange Cat, and the place is absolutely packed. In just eight weeks, the Red Door has grown so popular that DeFoort has decided to cut back to two gatherings a month, so that she can catch her breath and make sure the church develops the way she wants it to. (She's already filed to get it non-profit status.)
Rana says he was stunned a few days earlier when, walking through Whole Foods, he overheard two women he'd never seen before talking about the Red Door. And tonight's crowd seems a testament to the buzz. Latecomers shuffle in and do their best to seem inconspicuous as they climb over laps and legs to find a seat. It's not hard; Reverend Earl "Raj" Purdy has a stranglehold on the room as he delivers his "Transforming Fear Into Love" sermon with all the fiery theatrics of a Baptist preacher. A teacher and astrologer who offers a "Course in Miracles" class at Unity Temple in Capitol Hill and once played saxophone with the Temptations in Memphis, Raj engages the audience in call and response time and time again, hammering home the main point of his message: It all boils down to love. People going off on you, getting angry and spitting vitriol in your direction? That's a call for love. "A call for luuuuuv," he intones.
"If you see just one need in yourself," Raj continues, "you will be saved. Need is love."
As the DJ drops a funky, George Clinton-esque bass line, Raj goes for the big closer, rapping the main points of his sermon over the music. People clap along, shouting back the chorus lines that he provides: "It's only love or a call for love!" "By giving help I'm asking for love!"
"I have an extra chakra; it's called the boogie chakra!" Raj sings with a laugh. The audience is completely enraptured.
Raj takes a seat to enthusiastic applause, and DeFoort starts guiding the gathering toward the movement portion of the evening. The lights are dimmed so that the room is now illuminated only by candlelight, and Valency Gorman, the Red Door's movement instructor who's a yoga teacher/massage therapist with a background in elementary-school education, goes to the stage. The DJs begin spinning Indian-sounding trance music, like a score to some salacious Bollywood film, and Gorman issues calm commands: Move your arms back and forth, sway your hips side to side. As the music pulses, the commands dwindle — but by now, everyone is dancing. Some people bang on drums, others hoot and shriek. A man with a silver ponytail spins around and around again in a circle, his face a blurry smile of teeth. In an instant, the entire room is transformed into a sea of those people you see at concerts, the ones dancing to their own hippie grooves, lost in the music.
"There's no right or wrong," Gorman says over the microphone. "It's all perfect."
Outside the studio, two homeless men peer through the darkened windows at the pulsating throng of dancers. They silently appraise the pretty girls twisting, the men banging away on the drums, then shrug and shuffle off.
Kute Blackson, a life coach from Ghana who's now based in Los Angeles, comes up for the final meditation. He instructs everyone to close their eyes and breathe deeply as he guides them through a live performance of a spoken-word track off an upcoming album, repeating over and over again that "the miracle is you." Rana leads the room in the chanting of an om, a surprisingly resounding chorus that echoes off the wall and conjures thoughts of temples, mosques and minarets, holy places. Then, closing the night's service, DeFoort once more addresses her congregation.