Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rhythm and Bliss

In my dreams, I am smiling at the cameras in the season finale of Dancing With The Stars, waving at the adoring crowds with one hand and holding the mirror ball trophy in the other, with confetti raining all around.

In reality, I only dance after a couple of glasses of wine at a party. And it’s more shuffling from one foot to the other, hoping no one is looking.

My sister Julia suggested I accompany her to a 5 Rhythms Dance class. She’s been going every Tuesday in Topanga and thought it would be good for me to step outside my comfort zone and dance around a) with abandon, and b) among complete strangers.

Developed by Gabrielle Roth in the 1970s, 5 Rhythms is a cathartic form of dance for body, mind and heart with classes held all over the world. The practice focuses on putting the body in motion in order to still the mind and allow the student to connect to the spiritual. The five rhythms (in order) are: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness.

There’s a reason why I hadn’t been to a class before. Julia told me that at some point the teacher invites people to dance with the person nearest to them. Not in a “strictly ballroom” or “pas de deux” kind of way, but in whatever way takes your fancy.

Julia assured me that the class is not just for professional dancers, that no one will look at me or care if I am any good or not, and it’s not too touchy-feely. So I bit the bullet and prepared to dance the night away.

A quick, discreet look around the room confirmed that my fellow dancers were all shapes, sizes and ages, men and women – regular people. The music was loud and, well, rhythmic, and impossible not to dance to.

Kate Shela, a fellow Brit, is a brilliant teacher and a wizard at weaving the five rhythms.

There’s a guided structure but you cannot get it wrong. We were encouraged to dance whatever comes up for us and embody it.

That first time, I pretended I was a ballet dancer and just wafted my arms about with the occasional leap – for most of the class. I stomped around for the last half hour and genuinely didn’t care what anyone thought. That’s actually a very big deal for me. It was intensely and immensely liberating.

Kate runs weekly classes in Topanga and Santa Monica, California and gives individual tuition. She’s also a shamanic healer. Kate says, “5 Rhythms is a map that can take you anywhere you want to go. It fuels so much passion and gives you confidence in all aspects of your life. It teaches you to be truly present and fuels creativity. It can be life-changing and life-affirming. For some people, it’s just a great workout.”

It certainly makes me feel good and the best $15 I’ve spent in a while. It’s also aerobic exercise that doesn’t feel like a chore. Wear loose-fitting clothes and take a big bottle of water. The class lasts two hours and you will get hot and sticky. You can dance in bare feet or soft shoes, but you will dance. Oh, yes.

For more information and to find a 5 Rhythm Dance class near you: and

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