Let it all hang out

DURING her time on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! my friend the businesswoman Lynne Franks introduced the nation to 5 Rhythms dancing.

She danced with her arms and legs moving jubilantly, although not in a fashion we would recognise from either clubbing or ballroom dancing. That however, is exactly the point.

Dancing the 5 Rhythms is about finding your own freedom on the dance floor and expressing it as wildly or as quietly as you desire on that particular day. There are no steps to learn. What a liberation.

It was created by New Yorker Gabrielle Roth in the Seventies as a way of combining personal development with movement and my first experience of 5 Rhythms was exhilarating.

An old friend, Carol Lee, had trained as one of the first British teachers – now there are dozens all over the country – and in the early Nineties I found myself in a church hall with 15 other women and men simply loving the fact that anyone (young, old and whatever shape) can take part and that we could dance our hearts out with no fear of ridicule.

DISCOVER: Like Geri Halliwell’s favourite, yoga, 5 Rhythms is a practice not just a dance class.

This wasn’t constrained, ego-led club dancing, this was dancing from the soul for the sheer joy of it.

There are 5 Rhythms – flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness – with appropriate music from Bob Marley to Bach and there are different sorts of movements which accompany each rhythm.

Flowing usually has lots of circling and swooping, staccato is quite jerky, with chaos it’s important to let your head go as well as your body, lyrical is upbeat and light-footed and stillness is heart-centred.

Within all of these dances you are free to crawl across the floor or burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter or sorrow or even sit still, as well as dancing as imaginatively as you can muster.  This wasn’t constrained, ego-led club dancing, this was dancing from the soul for the sheer joy of it.

You are invited to bring yourself and your feelings to the dance. That’s an enormous freedom. It doesn’t always look pretty but it’s a great gift to participants.

Like yoga, 5 Rhythms is a practice rather than simply a dance class. It’s somewhere you can discover more about yourself in relationship to yourself and others.

One of the reassuring aspects about it is that you can never get it wrong or right because that is not the point.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve danced in north London with Sue Rickards and more recently in Kew with Tim Broughton. Different teachers bring different characteristics to the classes.

Carol brought creative sparkle, Sue brings more heart and softness, whereas Tim encourages spontaneity and tenderness.

Classes are spent dancing in whichever way is right for you on that day. When I first went along, I found myself always waiting for the time I could dance with other people. It seemed more interesting, more dynamic.

Partnered dancing is a major part of 5 Rhythms but it’s not like doing the salsa together.  You are not dancing the same steps but you are looking into the other person’s eyes and tuning into their energy.

This might be easy or difficult depending on who you find yourself with but each time is an opportunity to learn more about how you interrelate.

Over the years, I’ve found myself rolling across the floor with people or sometimes simply gently jumping up and down with them. For me it’s a mini-adventure. I never know what’s going to happen and I like it that way.

These days I find myself enjoying my own dancing company as well as that of others.  Sometimes, it’s delicious just to disappear into the beat and lose myself on my own; at other times it’s thrilling to get boisterous with someone else.

Then there are the ending circles when we sit and share what we have felt in the dance.

Last week I confessed I’d felt bored at the beginning of the evening but that by the end I was captivated.  We’d made a circle and I was in the middle, falling and being caught like in a trust game.

It was spontaneous but so nurturing at the end of a hard week.


By Rose Rouse

Daily Express, Thu, Mar 5, 2009

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