Good Dances: 0, Bad Dances: 2

Sometimes I am tempted to keep a running tally of “good” dances vs. “bad” dances.   The more “good” dances that I have in a row, the more surprised I am when I have a “bad” dance. In the past three weeks, I am 0 for 2—unless you count the elation of dancing at my much-adored and only brother’s wedding—but let’s say 0 for 2 in formal classes. I was tempted to avoid creating a post about these experiences, since it is always much more engaging to write about engaging dances and vice versa; but I decided instead to lean into the un-inspiration to see what happens. I am telling myself that I can always hide it from you if the text turns out to be just one long, painful yawn. I don’t have anything to lose, really, and so I step into the room.

The official word is that there are no “bad” dances. Tammy and countless other teachers have reminded us again and again that we don’t go into a 5Rhythms class hoping for a particular experience—or if we do, we are bound to be disappointed. I note that there is no way to anticipate what will actually show up for me on the dance floor at any given time. I could walk in feeling anxious, self-abusive and vitriolic and leave feeling spacious, compassionate and relaxed. Conversely, I could walk in feeling eager and kind-hearted and leave feeling withdrawn and defensive.

What I flippantly consider to be a “bad” dance is really to say that the dance wasn’t pleasant for me. Maybe I am tired or pre-occupied. Maybe I just can’t find my feet on the ground, no matter what I do. Maybe I want to dance with other people, but my timing is off and I keep finding myself alone or awkwardly forcing partnerships. Maybe I don’t want to dance with others, and as a result overdo my expression of boundaries when approached—with the result that I accidentally isolate myself. Maybe I have an unsettled stomach; maybe I am feeling triggered by someone in the room; maybe I don’t connect with the music; maybe I am struggling to cope with an injury.  

The teachings of Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, are very clear on this point. No matter what happens, keep moving. (Back to my words now) There is no good or bad, there is just moving. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck. Whenever I lack inspiration, I get a little afraid that I will never be inspired again. It is a little flash of grief—that might or might not linger.

Over the years, I have learned that inspiration comes and goes. It is an interesting intellectual exercise to analyze the factors that might influence an un-inspired dance, but, ultimately, the nature of practice is to keep showing up no matter what. No matter what arises and no matter what obstacles conspire to keep me away from practice. And accepting (if grudgingly) that it won’t always be glorious. Sometimes it is just work. Sometimes it even sucks.

But I wax dramatic to create a cohesive story for you! The fact is that I have had much longer “bad” streaks than 0 for 2. I wrote in the past about a “bad” streak that lasted months. Though I was a new dancer, somehow I had already developed enough faith in the practice to keep showing up, again and again. Also, the two recent “bad” classes weren’t all bad. In fact, there were moments of inspired moving and of beautiful connection interspersed within. For example, I found myself several times moving in partnership throughout the entire room with the same friend with whom I shared a playful, spacious dance that kept recurring during the “Expand Lyrical” workshop. We would engage, perhaps follow each other, remain in partnership though several people separated us, then drift apart again, only to find one another a short time later—picking up where we left off.

Three weeks ago, before I took a week off to travel to my brother’s wedding in Vermont, Peter covered Tammy’s class. Peter is an exquisite teacher—a smiling, intuitive audiophile and I love to be near him. Despite this, I just couldn’t get into it.

Recently, I have written extensively about a sustained, enraptured engagement with the rhythm of Lyrical. Walking into class, I considered myself Lyrical, somehow. I decided to let go of all my edges and relax into the practice completely. Perhaps this was a factor and perhaps not, but I left thinking that the planned surrender of all edges had the effect of making me go flat. Making my expression of movement, and my perception of my expression of movement, and my engagement with the people around me—go flat.

My brother’s wedding was beautiful. Of course, a wedding holds so much—there are always counter-narratives; but the big, open-beamed Vermont-red barn was filled with smiling faces. My son, Simon, as one of the youngest attendees, enjoyed a lot of positive attention. He kept leaping into the middle of the dance floor and showing off his robot dance and his fast, staccato-like footwork, occasionally taking to the floor in his version of breakdancing amid supportive cheers. I danced many happy turns with his Daddy, who I have been spending a lot of time with of late. I also danced an expressive, tango-influenced turn with my sister’s partner, feeling playful. Near the end of the night, the DJ put on a Bluegrass jig, and I found flight. Enjoying myself thoroughly, I dropped to the ground to perform the 1980’s classic move, “the worm” but could scarcely pull it off I was laughing so hard. My brother’s friends complimented me generously on my ability to move, remarking particularly on the “Riverdance thing” I was doing during the Bluegrass jig song. I thanked them, and said, “I love to move. I love to be high up! I have never really tried to move to that kind of music, but it is always a joy to experiment,” thinking to myself, “Ahhh! I love this Lyrical rhythm/partner who has been dancing with me for months, I am so grateful to find Lyrical everywhere, to find it here, maybe it will stay, maybe it is who I am.”

Although 5Rhythms is not really about dance, but is much more generalizable, any time that I am dancing, the practice is to some extent engaged. After so many years of practice, any dance brings me near the field of 5Rhythms. Though of course it is not 5Rhythms practice, these not-5Rhythms dance experiences often arise in the writing for this reason.

I returned to Tammy’s Friday Night Waves class this week after the break for my brother’s wedding, and felt similarly un-inspired. As with Peter, Tammy is an exquisite teacher. She seems to see everything that arises in the room (in all dimensions); and I have soared literally hundreds of times under her skilled guidance. Despite this, I remained mostly flightless throughout the class.

In the interim between the first and the second waves that is often reserved for verbal teaching, Tammy said, “You didn’t think it was really about dance did you?” and went into an unusually long explanation of the rhythms—Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness—perhaps in part owing to the many new dancers in the room.

During the second wave of the class Tammy asked us to group in threes. I turned to a partner right away, but there were no other unpaired people near us. I found someone and moved around another threesome, toward the individual, expecting my partner to move with me. He did not, and stood looking around for me, confused. I returned to him, not wanting him to think he had been abandoned. I couldn’t entice him to follow me, so I settled into trying to follow Tammy’s three-person directions with just two people. She asked us to take turns in the middle, with the two people on the outside holding space for the person in the middle. I thought at least we could take turns letting loose and holding space, but my partner didn’t seem to get that either. I wondered if he was hard-of-hearing. Eventually, another joined us, but I was already pretty disengaged. To make it worse, I thought Tammy asked us to find some kind of repetition to do together in our threesomes. I really don’t like this practice. It always feels forced and uncomfortable for me. If I find a repetition on my own—if my body catches some kind of glitch—it can lead to great insight. If I contrive it, and set out to find a repetition, I wind up feeling like a fake, and get bored quickly with whatever the repetition is—except in rare circumstances when I am extremely connected with my partners. This time, it was unpleasant and uncomfortable. The third to join our group let out an enraged yell, and left us to move through the room. I waited until Tammy released us from the exercise, then moved quickly away, myself.

Let’s see how my sports stats evolve. Maybe some day I will be in a place that there really are no “bad” dances and there is no running tally. Maybe even the not-inspiration will feel like bliss. Maybe I can find total freedom from the constraints and fluctuations of my small mind; and stand shining—individual and archetypal at once—in the glory that is my birthright, that is the birthright of each of us. I aspire to nothing less—nothing less than total everything—than all that we are.

October 3, 2015

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

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