Gabrielle Roth developed Five Rhythms ecstatic dancing as a joyful way of working through the tensions and issues that we all store in our bodies. Having spent a day dancing the Five Rhythms I can testify it is a great workout too!
I heard about Five Rhythms some years ago and out of curiosity downloaded Gabrielle Rothís Endless Wave album, using her instructions to dance by myself at home. Iíd never attended a class as there are none in my area, so when I heard that a teacher was coming to run a day at our local dance studio it was an opportunity that was too good to miss.
We started by sitting in circle sharing our experience and goals for the day. I felt a little nervous and it was reassuring to hear that most present hadnít any previous experience of Five Rhythms. My fellow dancers were all ages and sizes and had every level of experience; a really good mixed group which felt comfortable to be with. My goal was to unlock tense areas of my body that felt stuck.
Our teacher Alan, from 5 Rhythms Wales, explained that dancing all Five Rhythms in sequence is termed a 'Wave'. The rhythms follow the energies of the Elements: Water, Fire, Earth, Air and Ether. We were at liberty to allow the wisdom of our bodies to lead us and were encouraged to come out of our heads and bring our consciousness down into our bodies. To help with that process we werenít to speak throughout the dancing.
With that we began to dance our first Wave. Each Wave begins with the rhythm of Flow, which is allied to the Element of Water. We were encouraged to bring our attention down into our feet and make our movements circular, swirling and rounded. This is a graceful rhythm that is constantly on the move and flowing, just as it sounds.
The second rhythm is Staccato which is aligned to the energy of Fire. Movements are precise and straight. Whereas Flow is a feminine pattern, Staccato feels masculine. It is the energy of striving and pushing. I found it really helpful to think of this as the energy of creating strong boundaries and using power.
The third rhythm is Chaos, which is aligned to Earth element. I must admit I can't see the elemental connection as clearly as for the others, but I loved this part of the wave & it brought me closest to the feeling of ecstatic dance. Chaos is a real Ďlet it all hang outí rhythm where you can have a good full body shake and go wild. Itís very freeing indeed!
The fourth rhythm is Lyrical, aligned to the element of Air. It has the lightness of air about it and we were encouraged to be playful & light-hearted in our dancing. The key body parts to pay attention to are the hands and fingers. I enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes in the air using hand and arm gestures, feeling like a temple dancer.
The fifth rhythm is Stillness and the element is Ether, or Spirit. It was remarkable how calm, peaceful and centred you naturally became having danced through the other rhythms. We had been told to dance with our eyes open throughout, for safety and to keep our awareness in the moment. It seemed almost impossible to keep my eyes open in Stillness as I wanted to go within.
After dancing a second wave we gathered back into the circle to give any feedback. Iíd been enjoying the silence by then and I didnít contribute as I didn't want to disturb the peace within me. I use my voice and words all the time in my professional life, so giving my voice a break felt terrific. Someone said that it was like being at a rave without any drink or drugs, but with the same feeling of love and release. I felt it was a fabulously non-judgemental, and loving group atmosphere.
Over the day we danced our way through a number of complete waves to a whole range of different music. We were often encouraged to join another dancer or several dancers and to change partners and groups. I was impressed by how easy it was to communicate and move in and out of each otherís dances without speech. You could read other peopleís energies and find who you were drawn to, those who were on your wavelength, without uttering a word. I felt like Iíd made several great new friends without making any conversation.
By the end of the day Iíd amazed myself by keeping up. My knees complained a little that night, but I felt very chilled out and I didnít have all the aches and pains I expected to come next day from the exercise, I just felt Iíd had a great workout.
Iíve unearthed all my Gabrielle Roth music, as Iím keen to keep using Five Rhythms in my life now. I love her album Bones and I've danced around my living room using her video, The Wave, but my favourite is still her Endless Wave vol. 1 and Iíve been listening to it whilst writing this. Iíd recommend buying this to anyone who wants to dance the Five Rhythms without access to a teacher as Gabrielle gives just the right amount of instruction to guide you and the music has been written especially to support the Five Rhythms.