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If I had known about the 5Rhythms® practice back when I was in high school, I’d be all over Lyrical, man.

I was such a Lyrical creature in my adolescent stage. Proof:

(1) My first America Online screen name was derived from Shakespeare’s most renowned romantic tragedy (just call me Juliet204, please).

(2) I borrowed my 10th grade English teacher’s copy of her A Tale of Two Cities video (PBS edition, baby!) to watch at home (at least twice, and that’s not including the in-class viewing) because I was in love with the love that Sydney Carton represented.

(3) I turned an English class assignment about A Separate Peace into an interpretive dance.

(4) Sometimes instead of going out with friends on Friday nights, I’d opt to crank up Yanni in my Acropolis, err living room and play “Reflections of Passion” on repeat.

There were other notes of Lyrical, of course (mostly involving scads of poetry and an obsession with sonnets, haiku, and the novel Rebecca), but perhaps the biggest indicator of my Lyrical tendencies was my love of, well… lyrical.

Lyrical dance, that is.

Back in the 1990s, my dance education in the small-town studios of South Jersey was usually limited to the basic menu of ballet, tap, and jazz styles. The fluid-like, emotion-packed genre of lyrical was just emerging in my area, and my initial experience with it was through watching dance competitions I videotaped on TV.

These girls with their loose, un-bunned hair and long flowy skirts and bare feet! Their songs with words and lyrics that made my heart weep!

I had only learned to stuff my feet into pointe shoes just a few years prior, but about the time I got my first period I was yearning to see what soft marley felt like under my toes instead. I wanted to wear footless tights. I wanted to untie my French braid and let my strawberry-blond locks tumble dramatically past my shoulders.

Most of all, I was interested in expressing my beloved writing medium—poetry—as a dance form.

I loved the power and punch of jazz dancing, but the more classic literature I read in high school (coupled with the sudden onslaught of female hormones), the less interested I became in executing knee-to-nose hitch kicks across the dance studio floor.

I wanted depth. I wanted feeling. I wanted to emote.

I was already kind of an odd bird at my dance studio, the way I was rigidly disciplined with my time and my secret love of a strict ballet teacher that everyone else hated.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise, then, that my senior year of high school, when I was invited to participate in a special performance for graduating students, instead of doing what all the cool kids had done in the past and voting to learn a super-awesome explosive heart-thumping jazz routine in a slinky, sexy, sequined costume, I politely requested that our group of 17- and 18-year-old girls dance a sweet and elegant lyrical routine.

And not just any lyrical routine. I requested that we dance to Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind.”

The year was 1998, and it was only the summer before that Princess Diana had passed away. Her death was a sentimental sensation, especially for tenderhearted Lyrical creatures like myself who responded to the tragedy by crafting poems and prose about the late princess.

To me, my request made so much sense. The theme of the dance recital that year was “international travel,” with each song to represent an area of the world. Elton John + Lady Di + OMG that tearjerker performance at Westminster Abbey = hello, United Kingdom!

And our graduating group of dancers included four young women transitioning from high school to college. Weren’t they too bursting with hormones and notions of romance and an ache to pour their maturing hearts onto the stage?

No, no they weren’t.

They raised their eyebrows at me when I so passionately proposed my suggestion to the dance studio director, and their reactions were even less forgiving when my suggestion was accepted.

I felt bad. The other girls took their distaste out on the dance teacher by coming to rehearsals in baggy sweats and rarely putting any effort into their movement.

I knew they had wanted techno. Pizzazz. Flashy and sassy. If 5Rhythms had been part of our language back then, they would have been Staccato, for sure.

Me in one of my jazz (Staccato) costumes.

Me in one of my jazz (Staccato) costumes.

But we had been served Lyrical, and I lapped it up.

Footless tights? Check. My hair stayed in a bun, but we clipped a red flower to our white satin skirts to represent England’s rose. My mother and grandmother cried during the performance and each time they watched the routine on video, and will probably cry reading this as well.

The most important thing, however, was that I got to dance my poetry. I got my Lyrical.

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I didn’t know it at the time, but I was learning to find my rhythm. No, not just find my rhythm but be it.

My Flowing exploration helped me understand my sensitive nature and navigate why I wanted to dance this piece.

My Staccato energy pushed me to approach the studio director and present my suggestion.

My Chaos was the emotional drama I felt after rehearsals when I knew my peers hated my decision that had cost them their super-cool jazz routine.

My Lyrical was the dance.

And finally, My Stillness was the moment after curtain call when I realized my dance hobby had developed into a true passion.

Sevenoaks...Ahhh

ChaoticArtwork

No one ever craves Chaos, but during a recent 5Rhythms class I discovered just how necessary it is for transformation.

We were dancing in the tail-end of the second rhythm, Staccato. My body was being tantalized by the percussive sounds, which were gradually intensifying in beats per minute, the vibrations under my feet pushing me closer and closer to Chaos. Imagine a glass of water being nudged along a table-top by a heavy bass throbbing from a cranked-up subwoofer.

The glass reaches the edge of the table.

The pulsing stops.

The glass hovers.

It does not fall.

Chaos averted.

In my case, however, I needed Chaos. I needed that glass to slip. I needed the music to take control and bring that glass tumbling off the edge. I needed spilled water, broken glass.

What the teacher had chosen to do was play the subtlest of Chaos, a repetitive drum beat that lacked a crescendo, a percussive prelude to an anticipated explosive rip-roaring rumble.

But the rumble never happened, and after a few minutes the relaxed sounds of Lyrical came through the speakers. My body wanted to scream; instead, it was requested to be subdued.

I felt robbed. I felt lost. The music that usually makes my muscles melt and my face soften had the opposite effect on me, and I could feel my body slip into the shadow of Lyrical—Distraction. Instead of integration, I disintegrated, losing grasp of everything I had built up earlier in Flowing and Staccato.

Had this happened two years ago, I would have chalked up my disappointing experience to my Type A personality’s fondness of rules, regulations, and order. I would have thought, “Well, OK, the definition of a 5Rhythms Wave is to dance equally through Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness, and because the Chaos segment wasn’t really proportionate to the previous two rhythms, that is why it didn’t feel ‘right.'”

But now I know that isn’t the case. 5Rhythms isn’t a mathematical equation—it’s a practice that parallels so many facets of our lives. An honest, authentic, meaningful Lyrical is hard to find without first experiencing the Chaos that precedes it:

Double rainbows crisscrossing a gray sky after a violent summertime storm.

Lovers blissfully entwined in each other’s arms after the intensity of a chaotic climax.

A newborn baby in a mother’s arms after an excruciating, exhausting labor.

The outpouring of love, generosity, and humanity that surfaces after a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

It is easy to get caught up in our headspace and convince ourselves that a harmonious, Lyrical life can be achieved by avoiding Chaos. Maybe we can tiptoe around the edges. Stay in an amped-up Staccato until we are just miraculously pushed over or below Chaos straight into Lyrical.

And that is why this practice is so important, because the body does not lie. We can create story after story in our head about how things are supposed to feel, but when you put on music and let your body do the talking, the truth emerges. The body says, “This Lyrical doesn’t feel natural. I can’t fully take in the beauty of this moment because I am still clinging onto something I wasn’t able to let go of.”

Heaviness

The nature of Chaos—surrender—can be scary, no doubt. But what I learned in class that night was that the notion of living in an underdeveloped, partial, not-quite-authentic Lyrical may be even more frightening.

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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