Monday, October 23rd 2017

My body is my mind

5Rhythms is a free style of dance that draws on esoteric mind-body practices like Feldenkrais — and letting go like Pamela Anderson on Dancing with the stars

BY CARMEN CASADO — Many profess that this mind-body routine is a path to the very center of aliveness and pure bliss.  An outsider looking in will likely say it’s absurd.

I’m often asked, what exactly is 5Rhythms? Right, it’s a dance. What style?

It’s actually a trademarked-name for a style of free movement with a “spiritual” and meditative undercurrent.  The 5Rhythms consists of, well,  five rhythms: dance-tracks with a narrative of dynamics, much like the “tunnels” and “peaks” at trance and rave events.

The 5Rhythms was developed by Gabriel Roth in the 1960s, and incorporates eastern and indigenous philosophies.

It is now practiced in Creative Class cities across America, with its main hubs in New York City, L.A. and San Francisco, California.

Rhythms of the saints

Comparable dance modes are not exactly Dancing with the Stars: they’re more like “ecstatic dance” sub-cultures that arose in the San Francisco Bay Area — and “Dance Medicine” based out of Ojai, California.

Here is what I experience, while another 20 million Americans sit in their seats and phone in votes to Dancing with the Stars:

I enter a dimly-lit room, usually in a dance studio, gym, or art gallery.  Along one side of the room you may see some type of alter with an artistic theme on it, whether it be flower petals, spheres, or abstract art creations.

five-rhythmsThe dancers, or the “tribe,” are slowly moving about in their flowing-earthy-urban or workout wear. They are usually barefoot or sporting dance shoes and span the adult-age spectrum, although I’d say most are between 35 and 50.

The music starts gently with the first of the five rhythms “flow.”  The room is quiet and the dancers amble to the music however they feel compelled.  Some linger on the periphery, in a down-dog or a seated meditation.

The second rhythm, “staccato,” heats up the room.  The dancers match their motions to the DJ’s cadence, speeding up their movements, bouncing around, swooping and twirling, with arms about in graceful gesture. As the room energizes the dancers enter the zone of dance, minds let go of daily obsessions and preoccupation and the beauty unfurls.

Soul music

In this space of presence many members of the tribe engage each other, and frolicking begins.  Whether it be a few coquettish steps in tandem, a long locked gaze, or a full romp on the ground, it’s a great place to connect if you’re called to.  And if you’re not, I recommend you keep your eyes down and avoid making contact.

The rhythm accelerates to the quickest beat of the wave, “chaos.”  In this wild catharsis the participants jump, scream, hoot and yelp in a state of sweaty trance.  The collective energy is a thrilling celebration.  The music descends again, and the dancers echo the calm.  The “lyrical” rhythm gently leads to the final “stillness,” which beckons many dancers to the ground, swaying in slow motion or frozen in beautiful pose.

After the first wave there is a pause where the teacher speaks and dances to the group.  The chats often relate to our struggle, the human condition, and how the dance serves us in our personal inner journey.  The dancers sit around the teacher, in agreement, inspired, re-hydrating and massaging one other.  Then the second wave begins.

Expect the unexpected, except…

You can expect about anything in a 5Rhythms class: uncontrollable laughter, spontaneous headstands, crying and grieving, repetitious animal movements, prolonged embraces with total strangers, group dance . . . but there are some rules.  For example, you cannot talk, you cannot check your cell phone — and, to my chagrin, you cannot lift each other into the air.

To the dancers the practice is more than a workout, it’s a method for moving past the thinking-mind, and connecting with the soul.  And to the collective dancers it’s a support group, a safe space.

Carmen Casado is an immigration lawyer based in San Francisco, California, and the newest member of the Soul’s Code team.  She balances her law practice with a Zen Buddhist practice , vinyasa yoga, ecstatic dance and contact improv.

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13 Comments on “My body is my mind”

  1. Here is the Dancing with the Stars footnote in the beautiful sharing above by Carmen Casado:

  2. Carmen, what is the difference between this form of dance and "ecstatic" dancing?

    Is this just a more scripted version?

  3. Great description, Carmen. This will be very useful for anyone who has not experienced it.

    As a summary, I've described it as a combination of aerobics, yoga, group therapy, and a Grateful Dead concert.

    About the "no lifting" rule, I've noticed that this is more teacher-dependent than the "no talking" rule. I do a lot of lifting, and I've never been called out for it. I think it's all in how you two do it, with the key being mindfulness of people around you. If you can stay within a certain vertical cylinder, then all is well. The main issue is safety in a crowded room, where other people may or may not be aware such moves.

    We should also add "no drugs or alcohol". So many people only have dance experience in clubs, raves, wedding receptions, etc. where the only way people dance with abandon is to get stoned, drunk, or high. Once people let go of this, and allow themselves to get caught up in the energy of the dance, they find a natural high that makes drugs and alcohol irrelevant.


  4. Go Damian go :)

  5. Hi Richard, Ecstatic dance is even freer than 5 Rhythms. The music tends to be electronic, there is no predetermined sequence of rhythms, and there is no "teacher." It's more just about dancing and letting go. I actually prefer it to the 5 Rhythms these days.

  6. Great article Carmen.

    I was pleased to see how you reveal the depth of bonding during dance. I've seen myself and others start as perfect strangers and end as perfect dance partners, and the level of bonding is multi-layered: a touch of a stranger's hand becoming familiar, passing glances into story laden eyes, laughing while learning new steps, enjoying the thrill of watching and being watched, sharing bodies, space and movement.

    Thank you.

  7. Yes, funny, so many relationships start right there on the dance floor. :)

  8. this page does'nt like me..
    Lets see if this works..

    I wrote a really long response that I see the dance thing evolving into a true meditation of perfected beauty, into something akin to Sufism, Acro yoga, martial arts, Contact Improv, Capoetta like Divine Worship style Dancing, surfing fluidick movements and true Cirque du Soleil like flowing partnerships....
    ummm or something.. ;)

    The more I get involved in Contact Improv-like dancing the more I see it has great potential but lots of the time it just ends up with people rolling around on the ground playing grabass with each other.. If we can pull it into a place of worship and bring in a higher energy than I think it really could feel and look beautiful, as it sometimes does.

    It's like I can just glimpse a future Dance in a golden time where it is really a supernatural experience that we are maybe the forerunners of creating, but are barely even glimpsing yet.

    I understand where you are coming from with 5 Rhythms. I love it but it is a stepping stone for me. I want to go deeper and get really flowing in a mixture of something very profound yet playful and not subject to a teachers mind set.

    Ecstatic dance is a little ravey for me but playful and lots of hooping going on.. Occasionally I have dances there that are good but only if the music is right.

    I can tell I need to play around with Acro Yoga, TRee Yoga and get really good with some partner dancing and even go deeper in Meditation to feel what I want to bring to the dance floor with more surety and power.

    Dancing, like life, is a trip..

    I am actually not sure if I need more or less sometimes..

  9. Ahhh it is working..

    I kept losing my writing and gave up finally but you get the jest of it..

  10. David, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I completely agree with you. I love the idea of a free-flowing fusion of yoga, dance, and contact improv, all as a beautiful and respectful moving meditation ... and also just for fun play.

  11. moved to tears........
    the dance of our 'souls'
    the beingness of our truth
    love in motion

    BEauty Full

    I AM mySELF, very connected to dance as a means of expression, and so incorporate into my regular fitness experience.
    To watch others DOing that which I DO, in the privacy of my home, {to any random music that happens to play on my ipod or stereo} to receive the validation for the divinity that IS attaintable to any of we, whence we allow the rhymthic harmonies of melody to flow through and be expressed by our physicality is a GIFT, I AM most deeply GreatFull to receive _()_

    Blessedly BE
    Radiating LOVE
    Rhonda Sheryl Lipstein

  12. Well, since Cyndi decided to tag me in this note on Facebook here's a link to the piece I wrote last September titled "5Rhythms® Movement Practice Helps Me Get My Flow On."

  13. Dancing is most def a spritual experience! I recommend it naked all over the house and in the shower :) Great article, thanks! I'm about to have to blog about that lol...

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