Dance Is My Religion

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

“Kids:  they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.” –William Stafford

Dance is my religion. I go to 5Rhythms class like some people go to church.  I participate in the community, give and get support, and intensively study the writings and teachings.  Where I notice God, or Gods, or God-ness is in dance, in moving.

Class on Friday night was divine.  I arrived a few minutes late to find Tammy talking rhythmically about the many ways we might choose to enter the class as people began to stir and circulate.  You could move about and investigate every part of the room and every person in it.  You could find a spot and attach yourself to it for a period, stretching, investigating the weight of the body on the floor, or moving slowly, for example.

What was so good about class on Friday? First of all, nothing was wrong.  That is an extraordinary thing to notice.  No aches, no tiredness, no dominating anxieties, no notable irritations.  I had abundant energy for every moment of class, and did not note any wavering in attention or engagement.

Early in the class, I felt like it was difficult to move around the room, as many people seemed married to the spot they were in.  The moment I articulated this to myself, Tammy offered instructions that had us relating to the spaces between ourselves and the people in front of us, behind us, and to the sides of us.  Suddenly, the room came alive in four dimensions—dynamic and fluid—and people seemed open to connecting.

Daniela taught Tammy’s class two Fridays ago night since Tammy was away at the 5Rhythms teacher training.  Her teaching in the middle of the class had to do with finding ways to manage complexity in our lives.  She talked about how we simultaneously hold multiple things that might even be contradictory.  I am a lover of beautiful chaos—the exquisite proliferation of forms, the universe’s forceful expressions of life, the dynamic and wild activity of reality. Part of me loves even the tangled mess of it.  This is what came up for me when Daniela spoke about complexity.

My creative work reflects this tendency toward complexity.  I am grateful, for example, to have found this written form—wherein I write more in a relational field than as a linear proposition or polemic argument.  Often, several different threads are woven together.  They may converge into fabric or woven tapestries, or they may, at times, simply co-exist as threads, un-willing to be tamed into a larger narrative.

In a past workshop with Lucia, she encouraged us to engage with complete simplicity.  This was a difficult proposition for me!  It was not easy to let go of the edges, the glitches, the problems, the stories.  The investigation was fruitful; and I found myself torn apart in the most beautiful possible way.  In Lucia’s workshop, I learned that I have to watch in case I am creating unnecessary complexity just for the sake of it.  Daniela’s proposition that we observe and investigate complexity was another (and very welcome) way to investigate this territory.

During that week, I waited with hand-clasped longing to know if I would be allowed to take three days off work to attend the Mirrors level workshop with Alain Allard this week.  After several canceled meetings, I resorted to sending a long, impassioned email to my supervisor.  I kept checking inboxes and not seeing a response.  I began to develop a disgruntled retort and became increasingly heartsunken, wondering if I would have to decide between waiting twenty years to do advanced 5Rhythms workshops or quitting my job.

I am proud of myself for even asking. I had briefly considered calling in sick for the three days, but decided against it.  To ask, I had to put a lot of eggs into a basket; and it frightened me.  I realized I was expending considerable social capital; and wondered if it was an impossible request anyway.  I very much believe in setting firm intentions, but I kept letting myself slide—for example missing the opportunity to do the Cycles workshop with Jonathan in Philadelphia last October.  Which is why I was elated when I finally received an email from my boss giving me permission to take the three days off of work so I could do the five day workshop.  Amazing!  Extraordinary.  Scary.

Lately, my five-year-old son has been asking about religion.  This week he posed the question, “Mommy, what is religion?”  The best I could do was, “Religion is a way that people relate to God—or Gods or divinity—usually in community.”  That, of course, meant nothing to him.  I tried to explain a little about the Hasidic people who were in view outside the car window.  I explained that our family is Catholic and that Daddy’s family is Seventh Day Adventist.  “Mommy, what religion are we?”  This was an even harder question to answer.  Finally, after casting about at length, I offered, “I actually think my religion is dance.”  He replied, “Well, I think my religion is play.”  I smiled and let the conversation rest there for now.

As I was saying, Friday night class this week was divine for me.  The moment that I noticed that it was hard to move around because everyone seemed rooted in their place and Tammy proposed that we notice and investigate the spaces between each other, we shifted into a different plane entirely.  The room was alive with awareness, and I moved seamlessly from partner to partner.  Typically, when I am delighted it is because I love how I am moving.  On this night, I was delighted because of the availability of connection and participation.

During the parenthesis for verbal teaching and demonstration in the middle of class, Tammy offered a teaching about curiosity.  She started by asking if anyone was brand new to the practice.  Then, she reminded us that we are all, in fact, brand new, since we bring something different to the dance every time we come to it.  She modeled sort of a bored wave—but by the time she got to the end it seemed to overtake her and the boredom opened into something else.  She spoke as though she were a practitioner who thought she really had a handle on practice and knew just how to do it.  When she got to the Lyrical part of the wave, she said, “I have a responsibility to curiosity,” as she moved her hand in a kind of growing circle.  From this perspective, an honest dance becomes a matter of integrity.  Curiosity becomes not simply capricious, but necessary, fundamental and correct.  Wholesome, even.

I shared many exquisite dances.  With my friend Daniel, who I have not really danced with in months, I found a playful Lyrical—filled with stops and bursts.  I also shared a fascinating and engaging dance in Chaos with a small, powerful woman who kept her face entirely covered with her dark, matted hair.  At the end of the first wave, I danced with a man I have never seen before.  I was totally drawn in and we moved together with influences of Latin, Brazilian and Afrobeat music, though the instructions were to move throughout the room.  With him, my mind kept telling me to slow down, settle in, stop doing.  I suddenly noticed that I had spent a period of the class with a slightly frantic energy and was able to open to a more relaxed mindset.

The More Than This (Mirrors) workshop starts today.  Wish me luck!

April 15, 2015, NYC

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