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I really surprised myself last weekend. I left the house rather reluctantly on Sunday for a 3-hour 5Rhythms workshop; despite being told last month that Staccato–the focus of the class–was my dominant rhythm, I entered the space with a rather ho-hum attitude.

I even had a pep talk with myself right before class, strolling along the grounds outside and telling myself to go in there and dance. Just dance!, I urged myself. Stop thinking so much about the people, the music, these other extraneous factors.

Maybe the talk helped. Or maybe it was the way I started class, lying on my back, staring up at the vaulted wooden ceiling, struck by how much it resembled the ceiling in the Main Hall at Kripalu, the place in which I told myself just to “Remember.” With that mantra and memory in the forefront of my mind, I was encouraged to dance how I danced at Kripalu–no fear, no inhibition, no holds barred.

What happened was that I had one of the BEST 5Rhythms experiences ever. Seriously, even today, 6 days after the fact, I am still daydreaming back to those 3 hours on the dance floor.

Our space.

Here are some of the highlights, by rhythm:

Flowing

I partnered up with a woman with a grand smile and big, inquisitive eyes. We exchanged names. As the music started, she stood in place, hands pressed together in anjali mudra, acknowledging me by touching her hands to her forehead, her heart. For the most part, I stood in place as well, flowing in and out like a spider plant in a breeze. The music swelled, my partner’s eyes widened, and she said “Woah…,” and then I felt it too: a sudden ball of energy between us. We glided back and forth, eyes connected, a curious connection holding us together. The song was short but the dance was glorious, and when we drifted apart my partner looked blown away by something I could not see, maybe an aura or energy field. She confided that she needed a break after that and stepped aside to regroup.

Later, I found out that this was the song we found so magnetic. It’s always best to learn that you’re dancing to a generic British boy band AFTER the fact.

Staccato

For an exercise in this rhythm, we paired up and were instructed to execute three sharp movements for our partner while they stood still. Then the partner reciprocated with his own three movements: BOOM BOOM BOOM. POW POW POW. We did this exchange for a while and then gradually melded it into one dance, so we were no longer pausing: BOOM POW BOOM POW BOOM POW. I was paired with a man relatively new to me, but we got in each others’ faces like thugs in a love/hate relationship. It was during this time I remembered that yes, I really do think Staccato is my favorite rhythm!

Later, our instruction for Staccato was to focus on our feet. For the most part, my partner was confined to the floor, giving his bum knee some rest. Still, we made the dance happen. Even with one person sitting, it is possible to stomp, shuffle, flick the toes, and engage in a give-and-take of ankles, toes, and arches.

Chaos

Sometimes in Chaos I am all over the place, running in circles, leaping, whipping through the room. This time my Chaos was mostly in place, a head-to-toe vibration that had me shaking and gyrating, lost in time and space with my eyes closed. I became so lost in movement that I had no idea of where I was in space; I thought I was facing the front of the room, but when I opened my eyes I was standing somewhere completely different. Woah.

Lyrical

The lyrical dance I shared with my partner was perhaps one of the most passionate, present pas de deuxs I’ve ever had in 5Rhythms. The song was Fiona Apple’s “Slow Like Honey,” and there was twirling, slithering, crawling, clawing, and grasping. At one point, my feet nearly left the ground, clinging onto my partner’s shirt as he spun me around and around. It was a big moment for me, because I tend to build these walls around me, and I don’t allow many people to get my full attention via dance. So it was an accomplishment for me but also a reminder that I am not a contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and my body cannot always move the way I want it to. And that is perhaps why my hip hurt for the whole drive home and I needed to return to the post-activity Advil for the first time in a while.

Stillness

Ever since starting tai chi classes 3 weeks ago, Stillness is becoming a more intense rhythm for me to work with. We “hold the ball” a lot in tai chi, and I’ve begun incorporating that into my dancing, just the notion of harnessing prana/chi/qi and being aware of the subtle flow of energy throughout the body. More and more, I find myself ending a 5Rhythms class standing, rather than lying on the floor in savasana. I find that by the end of class I feel very grounded, and I like ending my session with my feet firmly rooted, a final sinking in.


What kind of mover do you consider yourself: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, or Stillness?
I’ve always thought of myself as Flowing, but there is significant Staccato influence in my movement. I love to go back and forth between balletic and B-Boy-esque.

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!


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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