Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The 5Rhythms

Thirty- plus students stood in a circle as Dee, the dance instructor, asked us to raise our hand if this was our first time to a 5Rhythms Dance Class. About half of the women plus 2 men raised their hand including myself. I looked around and the age varied from mid twenties to mid 60's. "You brave souls," she said with a smile. "Did she mean that as a compliment", I thought.

Dee spoke in a calm and soft voice, "Now, I want you to start walking around and look down at your feet, they will guide you, and no talking please as your energy should flow to your feet not your head." We walked around and from side to side, like penguins in search of their home, it was astounding we didn't bump into each other. "Stop. Now close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax your head and shoulders. Keep breathing and feel the air travel through your spine."

I thought, "AHA, this is like Yoga!"

She continued with her instructions in Croatian and an occasional translation in English, "Continue taking deep breaths, in, out, now open your eyes, follow your feet and glide as if you were skating on ice". From the stereo we listened to Corinne Bailey singing Like a Star as Dee continued, "Now visually choose a point of reference on the wall or ceiling and start dancing towards it, then away and repeat. "WHAT? How do I do that?" I looked around and everyone around me was gliding across the floor looking well LOST! So I too started gliding and began my courtship with the speaker that was hanging on the wall across the room.
I felt self-conscious of my movements and thought, "Am I dancing correctly, is my lack of coordination obvious?" The music then changed to a fast-paced rhythm and I began moving freely, feeling the rhythm. Meredith Brooks' song played over the speakers, I'm a b****, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a saint, I'm a sinner...So take me as I am. As I looked at the girl next to me, she too looked embarrassed, yet she continued dancing as if her feet were on fire.

Listening to music from around the world, we danced through five different rhythms (Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness) as Dee explained, "this is what 5Rhythms is all about, dancing freestyle with no steps to follow."
We ended the class by forming a circle and we were asked to take a seat and share our thoughts about the class. One girl was in tears as she explained, "I'm a very serious person, but dancing here with you I felt silly and it was so much fun, I need to let go of the seriousness and be more open-minded."

I too shared my thoughts with everyone: "I was clueless as to what I was getting myself into but my friend sent me the web link on Gabrielle Roth, and I was intrigued, curious and I wanted to learn more. I'm glad I was exposed to the 5Rhythms dance: a mixture of yoga, aerobics and a night at the club. It was a fun experience and I plan to return next month for another 3 hours!"

Below is a great story written by a 5Rhythms Teacher -Sylvia Tomcik in Croatia
"The 5Rhythms work is so important because it brings a practice that is not abstract but physical, a practice that doesn’t focus on what we are lacking or need to change, but one that allows us to move as we are and watch change happen.

It was a real breakthrough 11 years ago when the 5Rhythms method was introduced here in Croatia. It was almost impossible to be able to teach the Rhythms at all. Under Communism, it was illegal to gather in a group larger than 5 people anywhere -- you needed to register it with the police, describe the activities, etc. There were no spiritual practices; there was religion (which was forbidden during Communism and then very intently promoted when Croatia separated from Yugoslavia) and a deep fear of cults. So anything presented as a spiritual practice or self-growth was looked upon with suspicion.

And now, after teaching for 5 years, I am getting clear that what was and is still missing is a sense of self in each of us, the part of us that needs more than food and housing, a part that stays hungry after buying an expensive car or designer clothes, a part that seems invisible, but lives in our body, beats in our hearts. I witness this especially in the rhythms of Flowing and Stillness. When the instruction is to dance alone, when things slow down, often people get lost; they are afraid to close their eyes and be by themselves in silence.

The 5Rhythms practice renewed a sense of community in this country that is so wounded by war and separations. Sitting in a circle was weird, holding hands was uncomfortable, trusting your own body was unfamiliar, being able and open to say your own opinion, even when asked to do it, was a big thing. We are healing together, all of us."

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