This past weekend marked the beginning of a tidal wave…of 5Rhythms, that is!

As I’ve written before, I’m a huge fan of the movement/dance practice called 5Rhythms. In a nutshell, 5Rhythms is the practice of movement through five different rhythms (duh)–Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness–which collectively are called a “wave.” This weekend was the start of a monthly series dedicated to concentrating on one rhythm (although we did the other rhythms as well. My god, I would collapse if we did three hours of just Chaos!).

I think of myself as a very fluid and flow-y mover (um, hence the name of this blog), so I honestly thought that focusing on the first rhythm, FLOWING, would be easy and fun for me.

Surprise! It was not.

I DO like Flowing…but only to a point. There came a threshold when after so many swoops and sweeps and flutters and airy turns that I wanted some definition. Some pizzazz. Some oomph. I wanted Staccato.

Now, I’m not sure if it’s because I got tired of the Flowing movement itself…or whether it’s because I love structure, and my OCD brain was thinking, “OK, time’s up! The blueprints say we’re supposed to move onto Staccato now. Chop chop!”

Nevertheless, lingering in Flowing for longer than usual began to feel like an aerobics class that never progressed beyond the warm-up.

After class during our sharing circle, people commented that I am very much a Staccato dancer, which surprised me because in real life I am far from a Staccato personality (direct, forthright) and probably closer to Flowing (indecisive, experimental, constantly changing direction). I linger in the supermarket aisles because I cannot decide which yogurt to buy. I hem and haw over what to make for dinner, which restaurant to go to on Saturday night. I wanted to be a yoga teacher. And then I didn’t. Currently, I edit during the day…but dream of flying Southwest jets by night.

Environmentally speaking, another factor that inhibited my Flowing freedom was the floor (How many Fs can I get in that sentence?). We were dancing in a school auditorium, and certain spots were as slippery as ice. That was a HUGE factor in how I moved, and I had to be very cognizant of which areas were the danger zones and what moves I did if I found myself standing there. It’s kind of tough to fully let go when you have only three options: flow, fumble, or fall.

The instructor had some great tricks up his sleeve to help facilitate the notion of Flowing. For instance, we took a partner, placed our hands against the sides of her chest by the rib cage, and simply stood there with a gentle touch to receive the expanding and contracting of the partner’s inhalations and exhalations. It was soothing as both the passive holder and as the active breather–it is so much easier to take full, deep breaths when someone is physically encouraging you. It’s also a good reminder that breathing doesn’t just take place in the front of the chest and that it’s a 360-degree action.

Another great exercise was getting the whole class to stand in a circle, collectively inhaling our arms up toward the ceiling and then exhaling our arms and upper body down toward the floor, a bit like unstructured sun salutations. We did this several times until it began to sound like the ocean. It was so calming…and pretty cool to see the entire group do relatively the same motion (as usually we are all doing our own thing). We then began incorporating our hips into the breathing, then the feet. Soon, our entire body was part of the inhalations and exhalations, and the circle began to slowly break apart ever-so-calmly as we flowed into our own dance.

Flowing like the Disney Concert Hall

As I approach two years of dancing the 5Rhythms, I am learning some interesting things:

I dance better at night. The monthly class I attend is on Friday nights, and it is there that I always feel my most free. I think there is something exotic about letting loose after work, as the sun sets, especially when there’s a full moon. This particular Flowing workshop started mid-afternoon (sunny) and ended at dinnertime (dark), and I definitely felt more “on” as the room grew darker and darker, until we were dancing only in candlelight and a small spotlight.

I am more responsive to some people than I am to others. The notion of partnerwork can either make my heart leap or have me cringing. I generally love working with people who exhibit a heightened sense of musicality and rhythm, but even some people with those qualities just make me feel oogy. I am aware that I energetically block them off from me, and I often wonder/worry whether they can sense that.

The simple act of looking someone straight in the eyes can be both terrifying and electrifying, like unlocking a door to a whole new realm of connection beyond movement. It takes A LOT for me to let my eyes dance. I can twirl and curl and shimmy and shake, but allowing my face to get involved is a huge feat. It’s why practices such as Biodanza are so important.

There is still a lot of chatter going on in my head when I dance. Sadly, it is usually about other people in the room. I am somewhat of a storyteller and tend to develop these imaginative back stories of the people around me. I usually need to complete a full wave of dancing before this judgmental jibber-jabber dissipates and my brain is rid of unhelpful junk.

Barring any winter storms that prevent me from driving over the river and through the woods to February’s workshop, next month I’ll be focusing on my supposed dominant rhythm: STACCATO!