Notes on Practice: “Family Waves” Inaugural Class

July 14, 2014 - Meghan LeBorious

Family Waves, the first regularly-occurring 5Rhythms class in New York City to explicitly include children, met for the first time on July 5th at White Wave Studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn. My son, Simon, who is now four, has absolutely been raised in 5Rhythms, but I kept feeling like I couldn’t get him on the dance floor as much as both of us wanted. Kids are welcome to attend most adult classes occasionally, but it is out of respect for the adult participants, who may want to work with material that is not kid-friendly, that I hold back. I kept trying to get an informal group of dancers with children together, but it never worked out. I didn’t want to bother any certified teachers with my little project, but I finally got over myself and started to look into the possibility of actually producing a formal class. Now, it has become a reality; and I pray I can raise my son within the practice, like some people choose to raise their children within a given church.

Beginning in pregnancy, I have learned a lot about myself, my son, and about our relationship through dancing together—both in formal and informal situations. When he was tiny, the best way to soothe him was by holding him and dancing and spinning. I would dance, placing him occasionally in a baby seat next to me, but holding him in my arms most of the time. In fact, the times that I have felt closest to him have been while dancing. Or perhaps I should say, the times that I have noticed how incredibly close we are—how deeply connected—have been in dance. My heart has been broken with tenderness again and again as we work our way through a wave together.

One of the most important lessons from my own practice that I was able to apply early in Simon’s life came from learning to look for empty space and move into it, as we do in the rhythm of Flowing. When he was tiny, dancing with him in Tammy’s Thursday class at Sandra Cameron studio, I was able to articulate this important lesson. When he was an infant, Simon needed me when he needed me. Everything was urgent, so whenever I tried to do creative work, I would again and again have to drop it. Because of Flowing, I had learned to trust that empty space would always open up again, so I could easily drop what I was doing, knowing that before long I would be able to return to it. I learned to keep careful lists and logs, so as soon as space did open up I could move into it, and not waste precious time evaluating priorities and questioning myself.

When Simon was a toddler, I was proud of the way he would bound into a 5Rhythms room, open to dancing with almost anyone there. People were very welcoming and willing to engage him. At that age, he would often wrap his arms around my ankles, laughing, and refuse to let go. This gave me a brand new dance; and I investigated every possible way to move with one leg stationary. I found an entirely different way to move my hips, and discovered a range of subtle movements I would not otherwise have found. Just as in life at the time, I chose to use a constraint (how some view having a child); and consider it an interesting element to work with to push me deeper. I exploded creatively; and despite the many times I had to put Simon’s needs first, his existence provided a framework that allowed me to grow in unexpected ways.

We were out of town the night before the July 5th class, and got on the road early to arrive in time to open the studio and get set up. Simon and I had been discussing the event for weeks beforehand. He was uncontainably excited; and dressed in his Spiderman costume, since it was a special occasion. The first class was taught by soon-to-be-official 5Rhythms teacher, Jason Goodman.

Jason had obviously given a lot of thought to how he would teach the class. He began with Flowing music without lyrics to give people time to settle in. Before long, he explained that the 5Rhthyms are a secret language that your parents know about, addressing the children. It is no less than the secret of how everything is, he shared. I am sure they took it in, but they were all very ready to move! Especially mine.

Simon’s friend, Hugo, joined us and the two of them raced around the perimeter of the dance, occasionally bumping into people. Hugo’s parents and I kept trying to engage them by picking them up, swinging them and making silly faces. Part of me was shrinking, wishing Simon wouldn’t be so wild and thinking I should try to control him. I kept trying to take a breath, move my attention to the whole room, but I was overly focused on him, feeling slightly disapproving.

One of Jason’s choices for music during the rhythm of Chaos, The Gummy Bear Song, brought the house down. Everyone (including Simon and Hugo) wore a giant smile and danced emphatically and energetically.

A good friend, mentor, and the dancer who introduced me to the 5Rhythms came with her ten-year-old daughter. They were both wholehearted and joyful, and the ten-year-old moved around the room, engaging every child. She has also agreed to act as a consultant for the Family Waves class; and has offered many excellent ideas to help create an event that appeals to a range of ages.

As I reflected, I had to keep reminding myself that it was perfect and appropriate that Simon was racing around like a maniac. That is really WHY I have been willing to take this on—to help him keep the joyful embodiment that he has now. The task is to learn to layer embodied awareness on top of that. I also realized that I have to let go of trying to control him and of trying to control the situation. I have so many hang-ups myself (as I have written about in many previous posts) about being too energetically gigantic, of taking up too much space. He is a little kid—he should take up exactly the amount of space he needs. I think in the next class, I will explain that he can’t touch anyone unless he looks in their eyes first, and can’t bump anyone, but that other than that he is free to move how he wants to.

I feel very thankful as I write this. To Jason for his generous instruction; To Tammy for her kind support; to Gabrielle Roth for her vast vision and for articulating the 5Rhythms; to all of the joyful bodies who attended; and for my spectacular son, Simon, who, like all children, deserves to grow up happy, embodied and heartful; and who deserves every opportunity to dance his absolutely perfect, this-is-my-truth-now, unique, wild and precious dance.

Family Waves, a 5Rhythms class for kids and their grown ups, meets the first Saturday of each month at White Wave Studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn, from 10.45 AM-noon. The next class will be taught by teacher-in-training Alex de Willermin and will meet on August 2nd.

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