Is Ecstatic Dance and 5 Rhythms the same thing?
Updated: Jun 20
Answer: similar but not the same.
Ecstatic Dance and 5Rhythms (5R) are both ‘conscious dance’ practices, in other words they are about dancing with awareness in the body, especially using awareness of breath. They both are about dancing whist not drinking alcohol or taking drugs. The could both be described as Movement Meditation.
Sweat Your Prayers
5Rhythms was the first Ecstatic Dance ‘practice’. Gabrielle Roth, founder of 5R, started developing her work in the 1960s. There hadn’t been anything quite like it before. She wrote:
‘I want to take you to a place of pure magic, where everything goes and nothing stops, like a twenty-four-hour roadside café with the best jukebox you can imagine…It’s a place of pure light that holds the dark within it. It’s a place of pure rhythm that holds the stillpoint. It’s a place within you.’ (Sweat Your Prayers, G Roth).
Ecstatic Dance as we know it today only began to emerge in the 1990s. There was no one leader as Gabriel Roth is to 5R. The people who developed Ecstatic Dance knew and had practised 5R but didn’t necessarily want to be part of that world and could see other ways to take the work forward.
Having been on the scene when Ecstasy and Raving began to emerge in the 1980s, it seems that Ecstatic Dance has evolved partly as a consequence of these, unlike 5R, whose lineage is not directly related.
There was a lot of burn out, and probably still is, from persistent drug use and up-all-night raving. Having been turned on to the joy and liberation of the freedom to dance, people wanted to find less toxic and more sustainable ways to enjoy these things. Ecstatic Dance has produced offers such as ‘Sober Raving’ and ‘Conscious Clubbing’.
In her recent Evening Standard article, journalist Rebecca Thornton attends an Ecstatic Dance session in London. She describes it as ‘Intentional’ or ‘Ritualistic’ Raving.
Thornton goes on to say that Ecstatic Dance ‘is now sweeping the globe’. The pandemic and the growth of social media has created new platforms and audience for Ecstatic dance to proliferate, and for new leaders to emerge.
Dance Session Structure
The set up or structure of 5R and Ecstatic Dance are different. 5R follows a ‘wave’ or pattern of music, suggestive of 5 moods or rhythms: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. A facilitator will not only be playing music but will also be talking to the dancers; inviting more breath, bringing awareness to thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body, inviting release and let go.
According to Thornton, ‘Each Ecstatic Dance facilitator changes the more traditional practice (5R) according to their own method’, sometime drawing from ancient traditions such as shamanism, altered states, cacao ceremonies, gong sound baths and more.
Ecstatic Dance tends to follow a rave or nightclub pattern by having a DJ. This person might do a small amount of facilitation, often of a breathing or a ceremonial nature. perhaps using cacao. They might also follow a movement cycle: warm up, shaking, free dance, rest and meditation. Dancers can be invited to do the whole or part of the session with eyes shut. The music might echo more of the rave experience: house, techno, trance, drum & bass, tribal. There will also be slower music for periods of rest and integration.
Will I feel the same?
After going to a 5R dance or an Ecstatic Dance, you are likely to leave feeling the same thing: more embodied, closer to your emotions, closer to other people, a heightened sense of feeling creative and alive. If practised over time, in both cases you will find that you have more awareness in your body, and your ability to simply dance, without drugs or alcohol will be more accessible to you.
Having done both practices over a number of years, including training as an Ecstatic Dance teacher, I have found 5R a more rich experience. 5R teachers undergo a longer, deeper training and are encouraged to develop their own dance practice. Ecstatic Dance is newer to the scene, and has a less formed professional pathway. That might be to come.
Flomotion is my own particular offer that has emerged from many years of dancing 5R and Ecstatic Dance. As a club promoter turned Transpersonal Psychotherapist in the 1990s I could see there was overlap between the two worlds that was interesting. I developed a workshop to explore this: Spirit in the House which was a forerunner to Flomotion.
My goal is to bring everyone to the dancefloor, whatever their experience or inexperience, whatever their physical capability. All ages, all people, all places.
The door is always open, the welcome is always warm, the invitation is always there…