“I think we’re here to learn to be calm and gentle. And also to be fast. And to notice things.” — Simon, age 7
My son, Simon, has taken a risk and let go of my hands for the first time today, up-rocking breakdance-style with intricately syncopated steps, twisting his waist emphatically, using all parts of his fast-moving feet, and following their gestures with sharp-angled arms. He is nearly as tall as me, lithe and bursting. Tight, brown, carefully-clipped curls frame his face, and his dark eyes flash with excitement and focus. Simon and I are at the Joffrey Studio in the West Village – in a Sunday morning 5Rhythms class. Simon suddenly looks around at the many dancers, then grabs hold of my hands again, pulling hard on my wrists.
Of everything that I do as a parent, I think giving my son Simon access to the 5Rhythms is, quite possibly, my best offering. Even at the age of 7, the practice has already equipped him with a powerful toolkit for moving through life.
Three years before Simon was born, I started dancing the 5Rhythms at the suggestion of a trusted friend. For the first two years of dancing, I cried almost constantly. I found that I needed to collapse again and again — an antidote for years of holding things back in difficult relationships. Sometimes I was crying out unexpressed grief, sometimes I was crying for joy; and often I wasn’t sure why I was crying — only that my at once tender and defended heart was becoming more and more available.
On first glance, a 5Rhythms class would probably just look like a wild dance club, but for most people, it is also much more. For me, it is a laboratory for life, encompassing psychological, emotional, philosophical, interpersonal and shamanic levels.
I had already been practicing for two years when I became pregnant with Simon. For me, pregnancy was a study in contrasts. My relationship with Simon’s father was marked by conflict and I felt anguish on a daily basis. At the same time, I loved being pregnant. In dance, I found a way to express and release the pain I was experiencing. Although I was as big as I would be by six months into pregnancy, I never moved like a pregnant woman as dancing gave me the ability to work with the fast changes in my body and allowed me to adapt consciously as my balance shifted. Also in dance, I was deeply aware of the miracle of pregnancy. I felt so full. So un-lonely. So fascinated with my own body. I danced both our rhythms at once, marveling that I contained two heartbeats and that I was both one person and two people at the same time.
When I was five months pregnant I danced like a wild animal in the rhythm of Chaos during an intensive workshop and became concerned that I might have harmed my small son. After that, I decided to play it safe and take a break from 5Rhythms until after the baby came. Things got even worse in my relationship, however, and after a week I realized that I urgently needed my supportive 5Rhythms community to balance out the conflict at home. I also feared the pain I was experiencing could harm my son unless I was diligent about moving READ MORE
Each scene in a play holds different rhythms, undercurrents and clues into the world of the script and the character I am portraying.
Let me break it down for you. There is my rhythm, the other characters’ rhythms, the rhythm of each particular scene, the unspoken undercurrents of rhythms running through the storyline, and the rhythm or spine of the play which is the big bad reason why we are telling the story in the first place. All of these forms hold a rhythm which comes into action.
By paying attention to these glorious treasures – Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness – I am informing my choices and actions on and off stage in a heightened, fully fleshed out, organic way, rooted in breath from my feet, reaching out through that fourth wall and breaking it down with all my heart and soul. When I am inside of my breath, there is no room for thinking – only experiencing.
I find that utilising the rhythms in my creative work allows me to alleviate the need to be thinking, worrying or planning on or off stage. Ultimately, by putting the trust inside of my body, into my breath and unplugging my head, the play just drops inside and I am present in a way that is indescribable. I had never fully experienced this level of depth as an artist until I met Gabrielle and we began our creative journey investigating and making theatre together. I’ve learned to work without inhibitions… READ MORE
Ideally, as dancers the altar can alter our experience on the dancefloor.
An altar/installation can provide us with a place to spend a moment reflecting and finding refuge when perhaps our inner world is twirling and swirling just a little too much. We can make a personal prayer there – spend a moment tangibly touching in to something greater than ourselves. I believe that altars can play a regulatory role when we’ve let reality really rock us.
It’s the creation of a sacred space at the side of the dance floor, a gathering of objects and images to inspire us, provide us with a focus for a pause point, perhaps even instill a sense of wonder within us.
We can frame it as an installation (rather than an altar) if need be – as “just art” so as to not make it too scary to those still somewhat stumped by the idea of sacred space or by letting holiness hold our common humanity.
‘Anything unresolved presents itself in the practice and invites itself to be resolved.’ – Lucia Horan
Oh my goodness, how true is that? I had a long and painful period of time on the dance floor when I experienced acute jealousy. I became obsessed with how much I hated seeing someone that I shared a strong connection with on the dance floor, sharing one with someone else!
How could they?! What a shocking betrayal! How could they open up such profound feelings inside of me and then just swan off and offer their undivided (and much sought after!) attention to someone else?! WTF?! I thought what we had was UNIQUE!!! And so on …
This was the ‘scarcity mentality’ that we all buy into in different ways magnified X 100 … not enough time, money, friends, intelligence, ideas, love, touch, etc. But this scarcity mentality can be flipped. It’s a form of programming – but we can become deprogrammed.
I trained myself by forcing myself to look at the object of my desire interacting with the object of THEIR (current!) desire. Breathing while observing their interaction. Saying to myself, “This IS your experience. You are not separate from them. If she wasn’t in THIS embrace with this person, she would never have been in all those beautiful embraces with me. This open heartedness IS her essential nature – and it’s yours too. But you’re still learning and that’s OK!” I breathed through the ‘sting’ and gradually and slowly the sting lost its hold over me.
This practice extends beyond the dance floor. Now, when I see someone who I have extra special feelings for in an intimate connection with someone else, I (mostly) feel happy. Because connection is beautiful, period. Love is NOT an endangered commodity: it multiplies and multiplies as I expand and let go … the more generous I can be, the more I can receive.
There’s NOTHING about my own nature that cannot be magnified, wrestled with and then healed on that dance floor. This is why I am so in love with this practice.
11 lessons from 5Rhythms that no book has managed to teach meREAD MORE
The earth, the trees and the sky above us were an incredible inspiration for the movement, for looking for one another. Dancers and participants of my classes and other people who came to the park – mothers with babies, children and …. dogs too! There was a lot of joy & tears of emotion when we move our bodies.
Home is where the rhythm is — whether alone in your living room, on the beach, in the woods, walking down a busy street or stepping onto a 5Rhythms dance floor in community — the rhythms are a map to lead you back home to your truest self, a route to your roots.
We invite you, no matter where you are, to set aside a few minutes to dance your way home to your inner most soul.
The 5Rhythms community is a 21st century collective unbound by history, culture, race, religion, gender or politics. We are bound by the beat, following our feet on a dancing path to freedom. We are beat-driven, service-oriented, heart-based individuals who come together to embrace our tribal longings.
The measure of a community is its respect for the wisdom of its elders, the innocence of its children, the passion of its artists, and the hope of its healers.
We are committed to inspiring and serving these roots and wings of community.