Just dance: Conscious Dance C’ville uses 5Rhythm to foster healing through movement

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At last week’s workshop hosted by Conscious Dance C’ville, participants filled the dance floor with free-form movement before sitting down to create original poetry. Photo: Martyn Kyle At last week’s workshop hosted by Conscious Dance C’ville, participants filled the dance floor with free-form movement before sitting down to create original poetry. Photo: Martyn Kyle

If there’s anything in this world that intimidates me more than singing, it’s dancing. Hand me a microphone and ask me to belt it and shake it at the same time, and I might just have a heart attack. Writing, on the other hand, is a form of self expression that I can (and do) get into, so when I was asked to attend a “rhythm and writing” workshop with Conscious Dance C’ville last weekend, I approached it with tentative curiosity.

Ann Kite discovered the art of conscious dance—a free-form movement that increases physical and mental awareness—at a 5Rhythms workshop in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2008.

“I just sort of fell into it, and it’s changed my life,” Kite said. “It lets our egos drop, and it’s not about how it looks, but how it feels.”

The 5Rhythms school of dance was founded by the late Gabrielle Roth, who defined the five states of being as flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. In dancing terms, each state of being, or rhythm, is represented by a style of music and movement.

As the 30-minute lunch break last Friday came to an end, dancers young and old began trickling back onto the dance floor. I watched in bemusement as women in leggings and bare feet twirled and pranced around the hardwood floor. The music changed every few minutes, and the concept of the five rhythms began to take shape as the dancers transitioned into staccato, making sharper, harsher movements that involved more jumps and stomps. Chaos was exactly what it sounds like—dainty jumps were replaced by sweeping windmill-arms, deep backbends, and what can only be described as head-banging. I watched anxiously, holding my breath and wondering how 32 people could slam their bodies around a small dance floor with their eyes closed and not bash into each other. Next came lyrical, which Kite explained is the recovery and rebirth after chaos, a rhythm that brings groundedness and empowerment. Finally, as the music shifted one last time, a calmness settled over the group. Elaborate dancing turned to swaying, hands returned to sweatshirt pockets, and friends leaned against one another’s shoulders, rocking back and forth.

I left the comfort of my notebook and pen long enough to remove my shoes and bashfully shuffle around the back corner of the dance floor for a few minutes. I breathed a sigh of relief when I returned to my table, but as I looked around and saw the expressions of utter joy and relaxation, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was missing out on. Clearly there’s something to this.

The group partnered off for the writing portion of the afternoon, settling cross-legged onto the floor with pens and paper. The idea is that dancing puts the body and mind in a state that’s more receptive to words, and I watched as the group—many of whom were strangers before the weekend—fearlessly shared original poems with one another.

Kite hasn’t incorporated writing exercises into her own classes yet, but she said she was amazed by the amount of vulnerability she witnessed at the workshop, and hopes to begin a dancing-and-writing class if there’s enough interest.

“It’s about putting the body in motion, and then the emotions follow,” Kite said.

  • Jennifer Diane

    For me, dancing the 5Rhythms is like putting a supernaturally strong stethoscope to my heart and hearing—fully amplified—the whispers of long-buried wishes and cast-aside questions. Just like seated meditation, movement meditation is yet another form of calming the brain waves and tapping into a treasure trove of clarity and creativity.

    I attended the workshop Ms. Ingles reported on and wrote about an aspect of it myself here: http://flowtationdevices.com/2014/03/07/poetic-perspectives-movement-metaphors-and-dancing-to-be-seen. This was my third time dancing with the Charlottesville community, the beloved “sister tribe” of my home 5Rhythms community in Philadelphia!

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