A New Year, A New Way to Dance

There’s a bright and shiny, brand-spanking new year ahead of us and I don’t know about you but I long to do something different, try something new. For those of you who long to take a break from learning choreography and dance your own way for a change, there’s good news: freedom can be found in the form of 5Rhythms®. This free-flowing form of dance sprouted from the mind of dance pioneer Gabrielle Roth, who used these teachings in her dance therapy classes at Esalen Institute before launching her ideas into the world. Today 5Rhythms® is a global dance movement.

I became a mapmaker for others to follow, but not in my footsteps, in their own. Many of us are looking for a beat, something solid and rooted where we can take refuge and begin to explore the fluidity of being alive, to investigate why we often feel stuck, numb, spaced-out, tense, inert, and unable to stand up or sit down or unscramble the screens that reflect our collective insanity.

–Gabrielle Roth, The Spiritual Power of Dance

Known as an “urban Shaman”, Roth saw music as a reflection of the rhythms of life and classified it into 5 types: Flowing . . . Staccato . . . Chaos . . . Lyrical . . . Stillness. For Roth, dance wasn’t just a workout; she passionately saluted dance as the creative expression of self and a tool for transformation. Physical movement was key to unlocking the spirit. She called upon the 5Rhythms® to physically launch people’s bodies into motion, but in service to their souls,a path to reach ecstatic states.

If you just set people in motion they’ll heal themselves.”

Gabrielle Roth, Maps to Ecstasy

Using dance to liberate your soul might sound like a tall order. But as one senior 5Rhythms teacher said: “We are all so caught up in the endless looping tape in our own heads, constantly asking, “How am I doing? How are you doing? How are we doing? Etc. We come here to put aside this endless chatter and to meet each other in the beat and in the breath.”

Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth—not some big truth that belongs to everybody, but the get down and personal kind, the what’s-happening-in-me-right-now kind of truth.

–Gabrielle Roth, The Spiritual Power of Dance

The process begins as the music flows into your ears and echoes throughout the body. It is a way for spirit and movement to meet each other halfway, finding ecstasy through losing oneself in the moment. the music gradually builds in intensity, so too do the movements. Each type of music dictates different sorts of movement: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness.

There is no one right way to dance, to move. It’s about feeling the music, taking it into the body, and painting an illustration of physical shapes to go along with it. Move, sweat, pray.

The question I ask myself and everyone else is, “Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?” Can we be free of all that binds and bends us into a shape of consciousness that has nothing to do with who we are from moment to moment, from breath to breath?

–Gabrielle Roth, The Spiritual Power of Dance




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