My Experience of Doing the 5 Rhythms in London
Updated: Oct 5
Think Rave meets Personal Growth Workshop meets Meditation session meets Friendly Social Club… well sort of.
I have always found it hard to describe 5 Rhythms over the years. People don’t get it or maybe I’m not very good at describing it! Sometimes I say ‘it’s a bit like a yoga class but instead of doing postures you’re dancing’. It’s never quite right. They still don’t get it.
No booze, no drugs
People ask, ‘what’s the difference between dancing at 5 Rhythms and dancing at a party?’. Answer: A Lot. Mainly there’s the complete absence of alcohol or drugs. That puts some people off straight away! Also, there’s no talking once the session begins. Nowadays when I go to parties, I find the holding-a -pint-in-your-hand-as-you-shout-to-each-other-over-the-music on the dancefloor extremely annoying.
5 Rhythms Embodied Freedom
In my mid-forties, I still dreamed of my club and rave days. I didn’t want to go clubbing: too old, been there done that, body not up to it. But the hunger for embodied freedom hadn’t gone away: I couldn’t forget the heady mix of complete abandon; being alongside others all having the same experience without having to talk; moving my body freely so that I could refresh my experience, moment-to-moment.
First Steps with 5 Rhythms
I didn’t quite know what to make of my first 5R dance sessions. I had never danced with people in a non-club or party setting. Perhaps most notably, people moved their bodies without inhibition and self-consciousness right from the start without needing to acclimatise themselves or to ‘oil the wheels’ with alcohol and drugs. Some were even ‘writhing’ on the floor.
As I attended more sessions, I began to click more quickly into the atmosphere. I had an idea what the mood in the room would be as we progressed through ‘a wave’ or cycle of the 5 rhythms: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. Each rhythm is communicated in music and evokes corresponding feeling and bodily movement. Over time I became more and more adept at tapping into my dancing body at will. Just listening to the music and the facilitation would quickly engage my moving body.
Nothing to Learn
I think of the person who is leading the 5R dance session as a facilitator rather than teacher. There are no steps to learn and in that sense nothing to teach. The facilitator creates the ambiance by playing music that evokes each rhythm and makes suggestions over the microphone which invite you further and further into your breath and movement, and ultimately into letting go.
At times the suggestion might be to turn to someone nearby and dance with them, and then perhaps dance with another few people. Eventually you are encouraged to just move through the room as if you are dancing with everyone. This experience, of somehow dropping my guard, the boundary between myself and others has truly been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
Go with the Flow
The first of the 5 Rhythms, Flowing, is the entry point to this process. It is during this phase, as I arrive with all my concerns and preoccupations, I am invited into the natural flow of my body. So much of modern life does not allow me to make this attunement. Flowing does.
Dancing with your bones
Over the years, I have developed my favourite of the different rhythms. It’s mainly staccato, characterised by music with a strong beat. My body seems to like making angular and repetitive movements, or as Gabrielle Roth, founder of 5R dance says: ‘Staccato is dancing with your bones...like geometry in motion’. Fabulous!
Chaos and lyrical
Over the years I have become fonder of Chaos. A Wednesday night session that I attend regularly has almost a rave feeling during chaos. The lights go down and it is pretty much human anarchy on the dancefloor (expressed through dance and sometimes shouts/yelps). There are times when I think, I don’t have the energy for this, and then I add a little more breath, or dance near someone who is fully in the zone, and I find myself off again, whirling and twirling into space.
Lyrical is not my favourite rhythm. In truth I don’t really ‘get it’. Often the facilitator will play silly music and encourage a clown like approach (which is okay). I tend not to like ballads, and this can be when that kind of music is played. I can also see that after the chaos, lyrical brings a sense of lightness which is sometimes much needed.
Still and Deep
Following the frenzy of Chaos, Stillness is quite delicious. Tranquil music for inner peace, winding down, a sense of emptiness having danced it all out. Space to just ‘be’.
There was one 5R session where I was so slowed down and relaxed afterwards I could hardly speak. My mind was completely emptied out. I felt utterly content and reluctant to return too quickly to my ‘business as usual’ way of being in the world.
As you might have guessed, I credit the 5R with many aspects of my personal development, health and wellbeing. It has also played a pivotal part in the development of Flomotion. Much of what I have learnt and experienced at 5R dance you will find on the dancefloor at a Flomotion session.