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A very good friend of mine is undergoing major surgery (read: 14 hours) tomorrow morning, and so I shall sweat my prayers for her.

May the long time sun
Shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.

May you wake up on Friday morning filled with love, light, and happiness!

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I spent yesterday afternoon huddled over my computer editing three massive tables for a journal article, so—to be quite honest—the last thing I wanted to do after I got home from work yesterday was spend more time being tanned by my computer monitor.

That said, this week’s installment of The Friday 5 is one video of the 5Rhythms, because, yes, sometimes dancing is so much easier than sitting down to write.

What you see here is a “silent” Wave—the 5 Rhythms (Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness) being danced without music. I generally prefer dancing with music, but after our big group silent Wave during Lucia Horan’s workshop last month, I’ve become interested in learning to dance without the “crutch” of melodies and lyrics. And as you can hear in this video, the breath and voice gradually become a musical score on their own.

It was late when I filmed this, so I am a bit tired and not as intense as I am when I dance first thing in the morning. My Flowing is drawn out and longish by comparison. You can see Staccato kick in around 1:16; notice how my movement becomes sharper, more exact? Chaos breaks loose at 2:01, but it doesn’t last very long (again, the sleepiness), and I surprise myself by rocking into Lyrical at 2:40, which finally eases into Stillness at 4:20.

The other morning I did a non-silent Wave. Here’s the playlist I quickly cobbled together:

Flowing: “Jewel in the Lotus,” Maneesh De Moor
Staccato: “Breath of Life,” Florence + the Machine
Chaos: “Firecrackers,” Cryptex Marble
Lyrical: “Moth’s Wings,” Passion Pit
Stillness: “Time,” Hans Zimmer (Inception soundtrack)

I admit, I use “Time” for Stillness over and over again. It is so simple yet so intense, and sometimes it totally “gets” me; as in, I break out into tears while curled up on the floor. I will not be posting that on the blog, sorry!

What song is kicking off your weekend?

Tonight I’ll be dancing the 5Rhythms, so while I’m moving through Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness, here are five things from me for you to do!

(1) Laugh!

Growing up, my sister always had a knack for saying funny things to ease the awkwardness at family gatherings, so after one too many “You’re so funny! You should be a comedian!”, my sister finally said, “OK!” She’s a marketing coordinator by day and stand-up comic on nights and weekends. She’s got at least one gig every week, plus she co-hosts a weekly open mic night in Philly and just got back from the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Oregon. My lil’ sis is such an inspiration; she just gets out there and does it, even if that means starting at the bottom of the ladder (read: redneck beef ‘n’ beers; small-town coffee shops) and working bit by (comedy) bit through the muck.

(2) Cry!

With the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking a few weeks ago, the Internet and radiowaves were buzzing with news about the epic disaster. One of the stories I happened to catch was that of Wallace Hartley, the conductor of the Titanic’s orchestra, who led his musicians in song as the ship sank. This quote from historian John Maxtone-Graham was particularly stirring: “He was taking care of [the musicians’] spiritual needs near the end of their lives by giving them a job they could do that would fill the time. My conviction is it gave as much comfort to the men who were playing as to the people who heard them.”

The movie Titanic has some cheese-factor moments, but the clip above is a tearjerker. Now I’m wondering, if my world was ending before my eyes, would I dance to the death?

(3) Move!

I’m still not sure what exactly this is, but TaKeTiNa looks pretty awesome. Come to the East Coast (read: Philly) soon, please!

(4) Dance Walk!

I get the cops called on me for dancing on the beach, but this guy turns into an Internet sensation for chasseing through the streets of Manhattan. I love the concept, though; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking around town listening to my iPod and have wanted to dance walk along to the music. (Secret: Sometimes I sneak into the wooded trail area of the local park and do just this! Shhh!)

(5) Read!

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

While doing some research for my post about Nia earlier this week, I came across this story by Nia teacher Amy Podolsky. She writes about recovering from surgery and being instructed by her doctor not to do aerobic activity for a month. This was devastating news to a dance teacher, and her story here is how this limitation actually brought her closer to her body and spirit.

It reminded me a lot of what I experienced during one of my early 5Rhythms classes, on a night my hip was acting up and I couldn’t move the way my mind envisioned. I still had an amazing experience, though, as I documented in my journal:

I did not move as much as I normally do, but I was very aware of every movement I did make. Every finger flick, head roll, and spinal flexion was done with intention, and I became immersed in my breath. In fact, the teacher lined us all up at the one end of the studio and told us to allow our breath to carry across to the other side. “Move as though you are your breath,” he said. That was one of the most intense experiences of the night, and when I reached the other side, turned around, and saw the other students breathing their way toward me, I felt this surge of energy wash over me, like everyone’s oncoming energy was meshing with mine and making me feel kind loopy. I felt a deep connection with everyone for the rest of the class, and I became more open in my movements, more welcoming to the other students.

That said, I can’t wait for my own Friday 5 (Rhythms) tonight! Have a great weekend!

OK, for everyone out there not currently on spring break, my lord, was this week s-l-o-w or what?! Maybe it’s just because I have a super-fun weekend mapped out (drumming! dancing!) and am anticipating the excitement, but every day this week has felt like a ho-hum Tuesday.

But finally! Here we go. It’s Friday, it’s the 13th, and I have a hodge-podge list of five things that have peppered my (interminable!) week with some color and life.

(1) As if a nod to my I Am Woman post from a few weeks ago, my Old Lady Friend™ Carrol sent me the link to this video, 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art.

It’s a hypnotic 3-minute compilation of female art subjects through the centuries, edited artfully itself so that each image morphs into the next. To me, it’s visual art presented in a dance-like manner. It’s also just fun to see the painting styles and female figures transition as the years go by.

(2) Next isn’t a video but a blog that I am excited to add to my Google Reader: Dancemeditation.

The blog is maintained by Dunya Dianne McPherson, whose book, Skin of Glass: Finding Spirit in the Flesh, is currently on my nightstand. It’s been on my Amazon wishlist ever since I purchased Gabrielle Roth’s Sweat Your Prayers (which has essentially become my bible) and it popped up on my “You Might Like…” list.

Dunya is a former professional ballerina who turned to Sufism and now teaches her brainchild Dancemeditation™, “a unique, integrated movement meditation system for self-discovery, healing, and evolution.”

The way she writes about the human body is utterly fascinating and captivating, and it is hard not to roll my spine and rock my pelvis along to her words. They are the words of someone so at home with her body, so familiar with every tendon, vein, and cell within; some chapters have such a deep and sensual feel that they read more like erotic literature, a kind of “kinesthetic pornography,” perhaps.

This post on simple side-to-side rolling will get you moving.

(3) Switching gears, we now move to Main Street, U.S.A. for some Disney dancing!

Posted on Disney Parks’ official blog, this video features Barbara, a Walt Disney World cast member who has taken her role as Main Street hostess to a new level by just doin’ her thang during the daily parades. If I knew there was an opportunity out there for me to both (a) work in Disney World, and (b) dance my heart out every afternoon, then Barbara would be out of a job. … OK, so I’m a bit jealous, but I love Barbara for bringing dance and Disney together in the upbeat way she does. 🙂

(4) The last two items go hand in hand. First is the 2011 Emmy-winning choreography “This Bitter Earth” from Mia Michaels, which appeared on Season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance.

I’m going through a bit of a SYTYCD drought here (still more than a month to go before Season 9 starts!), so I’ve been filling the holes by watching clips of past seasons on YouTube. This particular dance about aging is just so powerful, poignant, and kind of sad. It’s a hit-you-in-the-gut piece, no doubt why it was nominated for and won the Emmy. The three variations of a simple rocking motion at 1:14 are just beautiful.

(5) Staying on that theme of aging is the video that’s been going viral all over Facebook, “Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era.”

As a dancer, music has such a profound role in my life, and it is so comforting to know that the brain has the ability to store the passionate, joy-filled memories associated with a particular tune. This man, described as “inert and unresponsive,” comes ALIVE when exposed to music from his younger years. His reactions at 4:00 and 5:15 are a bit Awakenings…but so hopeful and smile-inducing. And I love that there’s a whole movement behind this kind of therapy: http://www.musicandmemory.org!

Now this has me wondering…what music from “my era” would make me come alive 50+ years from now? Hmm…

Comment with an online video/website/photo that’s been stirring your soul lately!

I’ve been dancing the 5Rhythms for two years now, but this past Saturday’s class felt like I entered a new realm of movement and expression, as though the past 24 months have been Level 1 of a video game, and only now have I been given the key to the secret portal.

I’m really struggling to put into words the pure awesomeness of my dance this weekend. And I’m a writer, so this means I’m dealing with some intense sh*t. I just keep imagining that scene from Contact when Jodie Foster stares out the spaceship window at the golden galaxy of stars, moons, and planets swirling around her, and all she can stammer is, “They should have sent a poet.”

Yoga people, you probably understand this. You know that moment after you’ve been practicing for a few years, and then you have a yoga “experience?” And you’re like Woah. And then something even more Woah happens in your body and breath, and you’re like, “WOAH, I get this now!”

Kinda like that.

Here are the tangibles: The class was held in an amazing restored warehouse with the brightest of bright sunshine streaming through the windows, warming up the expansive studio and causing our sweat to glisten like diamonds.

The guest teacher was Daniella Peltekova, a 5Rhythms teacher from NYC whose Bulgarian heritage blessed her with an exotic accent that, for me, sounded like a saucy hybrid between Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. Every word she spoke was a verbal expression of Flowing. Her instructions filled the studio like water filling a tub for a warm bubble bath, and I just wanted to soak it all up.

The experience was surreal. When I first entered the studio, I felt like Alice walking into Wonderland. The room was warm, radiating with sunshine, the music was already pulsing, bodies were spinning and flowing around me.

Daniella played bass-filled, earthy, sensual music, punctuated here and there by loudness and softness, just the right combination of melodies and sounds and lyrics that I exhausted myself by the end of class because I wanted so badly to dance to every song.


Halfway during class, as we all sat sweating and glistening and drunk on dance, Daniella poised herself next to a shaft of sunlight and spoke of the beautiful space, the wicked sunlight around us, the full moon, Easter and Passover and things rising and coming to life. She noted that we were out of winter’s cold and darkness, the light is here (oh my it was), and that we didn’t have to do anything but be receptive. “The light is already here; just receive it,” she encouraged us in her Flowing voice.

I felt like a born-again Christian, but not quite sure of my religion. The words comforted me so deeply, I felt them rattle my soul, I wanted to believe but didn’t know what to believe in. Everything within me screamed Hallelujah! but instead of praying we danced, danced, and danced.

(cue the non-tangibles)

Daniella began a new round of Flowing from the floor, on our backs, instructing us to move just the hands, feel our flesh, explore our body’s largest organ. We roll onto our bellies, and from there I observe my loose strands of hair illuminated in the sunshine, doing their own wispy dance to the whir of the overhead fan.

The adventure into Wonderland continued, my body gliding by others, my arms intertwining with those of strangers, our audible, sharp Staccato breaths engaged in a dual of inhalations and exhalations. Palm to palm we gently push and guide and use our single hand to initiate a twisted tango.

Over and over again in my mind, I ask, “Where am I?” The light coming in the giant windows is blinding; I squint long enough to watch a woman across the street on her front porch paint a shelf, and my arms unconsciously imitate her strokes inside the studio. Up and down. Up and down.


Every song that plays is like one of Alice’s “Drink Me” bottles, and I gulp and gulp and struggle for a breath and gulp some more. Down the rabbit hole I dance; where the hell am I going? Is this a portal to reality? Or is it my imagination?

(See this video for an idea of how I felt for much of the class.)

When Florence + the Machine’s live version of “You’ve Got the Love” with Dizzee Rascal blasts through the room, I am thrust into reality because I am dancing so hard that I realize I am gasping for air, my face flushed. OK, yes, lungs. Lungs need oxygen, and this is real.

Reality stuns me again as I briefly partner with an older woman whose overarched feet, willow-like arms, and elongated neck are a dead giveaway of her former life as a classically trained ballerina, and I suddenly feel like I am dancing in front of a mirror of time, an image of me in 30+ years projected right in front of my eyes. I see her age, wisdom, the muscle memory in her calves and shoulders and torso, and I am her and she is me. For the briefest of moments I want to cry, an innocent, profound urge coming deep from my heart, one of pure lightness.

It is a wonderful encounter, and an invitation to see all of my other fellow dancers in the same light. Although my brain had trouble processing much of the class and labeled the whole experience as some kind of wacky adventure into Wonderland, in my heart, the afternoon felt like poetry, something more along the lines of this:

My favorite dance blogger Meg used to do a series called “Inspiration Tuesday,” and each week she’d post a collection of interesting/beautiful/inspiring stuff from the internet.

Her blogging focus has since changed and the series is no longer, but there is still inspiring stuff out there! I have links and I want to share!

(1) The video “Gestures,” featured on the Colors in Motion® “Experiences” website. It’s dance, watercolor, and music all meshed into one beautiful experience.

I found the site through (2) Kripalu’s blog, Thrive, also a link worth bookmarking. A note to whomever moderates this blog dedicated solely to Kripalu-related endeavors: You have my dream job. If you ever hit the jackpot, retire, or move on to a new career, please shoot me an e-mail, PLZOKTHX.

For more videos like Gestures, see Colors in Motion’s Touchstone page. (I’m particularly fond of August’s “Light Dances.”)

(3) Another video that has pleased my neurons is “Moments,” featured on Everynone.com, which I gave a shout-out to previously for their “Laughs!” video.

“Moments” is slightly longer and a bit more emotional. It reminds me of a miniature version of Life in a Day, a full-length movie compiled from YouTube clips from around the world. They are both reminders that ordinary moments are extraordinary when you look at them with mindfulness and awe.

(4) The next video I found via the Let Your Yoga Dance Facebook page. Never, ever say you can’t dance because you have two left feet.

(5) Finally, I am tipping my proverbial hat to Lucia Rose Horan, a 5Rhythms master teacher who I am ecstatic to be taking class with next weekend. Watch her let loose here.

Comment with an online video/website/photo that’s been stirring your soul lately!

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite.

Just a few days after writing this post about chaos and how to ease into it with flow and grace, I had a rather miserable day at work that left me and all of my colleagues a pig away from turning our office upside-down into a scene out of Lord of the Flies. It was chaotic to say the least, and as desperately as I was trying to remember my very own words about not getting caught up in the madness, I felt my chest tighten, my head pound, and my mind race with negative thoughts.

What saved me from smearing my face with war paint and using my pencil as a spear, however, was the gift of laughter.

I am very fortunate to have a manager who is incredibly professional but also knows when to insert a good chuckle when the going gets tough. It’s a bit backward, because I’m the one who does all the yoga and tai chi and 5Rhythms and pranayama and insert-a-mind/body/spirit-thing-here, and yet at the end of the day, I’m the one sweating bullets and she’s the one reassuring me that everything is going to be OK, and then usually e-mails me a funny picture that gives us both the giggles.

Throughout the day, every time I used the restroom, I faced myself in the mirror and forced a laugh from my belly, feeling the wave of sound rise through my gut and chest, escaping through my mouth and causing my eyes to crinkle. It was a trick I learned from Bob Pileggi, whose Laughter Yoga classes always remind students that if you have to react to a situation, why not laugh instead of expending all that energy frowning and stomping and creating tension? It’s not making light of the situation; it’s just physically expelling your emotions in a more positive manner that’s not going to cause heart attacks and intestinal disorders somewhere down the line.

It is so appropriate, then, that just this week I stumbled across this video from the site Everynone.com, which features a small collection of some of the most intellectually pleasing videos I’ve ever seen.

The above video is only 2 minutes long, and I guarantee by the end you will either be laughing or, at the very least, smiling. It’s a simple compilation of people laughing, starting with babies and eventually ending at the opposite end of the age spectrum with older adults. It’s authentic, infectious, and a reminder that we are all human. What a gift it is to lose ourselves so much in joy.

The next video is my own. I had the pleasure of visiting dear friends Emma and Peter and their 2.5-year-old daughter last weekend. We were all gathered at Peter’s parents’ house, sitting around the living room, when an impromptu balloon war broke out. Despite little Gabriella being a cutie patootie, Peter’s mom is the real star of this video. Her laughter is so genuine and uninhibited; it just exudes pure, simple, and natural joy.

It’s hard to be a grump when you’re with this family, and I’m so glad I caught this moment of spirited spontaneity on video. It’s a 1.5-minute reminder that it is indeed possible to laugh during chaos.

I know I am going to regret posting this the second I hit publish, but it’s about damn time I post a video of me dancing on this here dance-centric blog.

I remember being so excited when one of my favorite dance bloggers, Meg, first stepped in front of the camera in this post. I was reading about her wonderful dancing all of the time but until then never actually saw it in person. A few weeks later, she’s all like, “OK, I’m going to dance for y’all three times a week!” and started doing all of these cool experimental dance videos.

I came home from the office today with an intense desire to dance. I’m in the middle of this crazy work project that has me validating a database of nearly 600 of our archived articles, and so all day, every day for the past week I’ve been hunched over my computer like a 21st-century Bob Cratchit. The only thing keeping me going is my iPod and music–lots of sweet, sweet music. The only problem with listening to music all day is that my body wants to play along. I occasionally do a head roll here and a finger flick there, but otherwise I’ve had to resort to foot tapping and some torso bopping, when inside all of my muscles and bones and heart and soul just want to DANCE!

So upon coming home today, I went a little crazy in my living room. Unleashed the pent-up junk and–thanks to Florence + The Machine–just shook it all out. (God, I love that song!)

But then I got a little serious.

Because I’m a bit shy about just letting the world see me dance in my living room, I wanted my first video to be a little…mysterious. And by mysterious, I actually mean “I’m Not Going to Face the Camera and I’m Going to Dance in An Intentionally Dark Room in Silhouette.”

I also wanted to explore the concept of upper-body dancing. A lot of people say they can’t dance because they have “two left feet.” OK then, so try dancing with your arms!

Dancing is so much more than steps or counts or choreography. To me, dancing is the kinesthetic equivalent of writing poetry or singing a ballad. Sometimes you thrash. Other times the movement is ever so subtle. Particularly in the practice of 5Rhythms, the final rhythm of Stillness is sometimes no more than a slow gesture or even mindful inhalations and exhalations.

This is actually the second of two videos I shot dancing to this music (Hans Zimmer’s “Time” from Inception, FYI). I didn’t like the first because it felt so forced. The second I knew the camera was rolling, my movement suddenly became all rigid and inauthentic. (Also, my stellar videography skills had me cutting off my hands whenever I reached them upward, which was not ideal for an “upper-body” video.)

So I tried again, this time with a partner. (OK, so my partner was a set of curtains, so what?)

This is an experiment in the dance of Stillness (with a little bit of other stuff thrown in).

Truth be told, I still don’t like the video 100%. I feel the camera transforms me into “performer” mode, and that isn’t me anymore. I need someone to sneak a camera into one of my 5Rhythms classes. Also, please disregard the crap music quality, the Boeing 737 model on the table, and the cell phone chirping somewhere near the end. (I know, I know, I’m such a freakin’ pro over here.)

I’m going to shut up already and post the video.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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