A new friend came to the Friday Night Waves with me this week—her first 5Rhythms class ever. She and her son joined me and my son for dinner beforehand and we left them both in my son’s father’s care to travel by car to the Joffrey Ballet in the West Village. On the way, she asked questions about the 5Rhythms. I hoped I wasn’t giving too much away—remembering the considered prudence of the friend who invited me to a 5Rhythms class for the first time. On the way, I also filled my friend’s ear with bits of a long-storied history with someone very close to me—a history that has been begging for a new round of healing.
Even sharing bits of it flooded me with the chemicals of fight-or-flight. I felt it in my stomach, my legs. Shaky, small, and at once trying to make light of it. “Well, it is what it is,” I said aloud, trying to convince myself.
We arrived on time, finding a parking spot right in front of the Joffrey.
Kierra Foster-Ba taught Tammy’s class on Friday; and she offered no verbal instruction during the first wave, leading us only with the music she selected. “Where is the teacher?” my friend whispered. I motioned that we should step back outside the door to talk, then explained that she was the one sitting at the computer doing the music, and that we would hear from her eventually. It occurs to me now that my friend might have expected that the teacher would be in front of the class and that the students would face her. I guess I take for granted that the classes are multi-dimensional and dynamic—never settling into a permanent pattern, but instead shifting as we do.
We stepped back inside the studio, and my friend seemed to settle right in to the flow of the room. I moved away from her, thinking I should have explained beforehand that I wouldn’t stick with her during the class. She is very independent and empowered, so I wasn’t too worried, but it would have been good to mention that we would each have our own journeys.
The first wave lasted for three quarters of the two-hour waves class; and was, for me, characterized by massive movement—both physical and emotional. I shared extremely energetic dances with several friends. One was with a man who I have danced with often over the last few months—exploring allowing myself to be lead, resisting, pushing back, defending and confronting. Something about it made me uncomfortable this time—and I wondered if there was something in it of another close relationship that I struggle with (not the same one that I discussed with my friend in the car on the way).
I moved from that partnership into a dance with a very lyrical friend who I love to dance with. We used every possible level and orientation, twisting, spinning, strutting, our limbs emerging to the farthest edges of our orbit, then carrying us into the tiny compressed center of us. Playful, I spun, keeping eye contact with him by tipping backward toward him as my body revolved. On the floor, I worked every possible edge of my feet—even the tops. As the song changed, he backed away, smiling with his hand on his heart. I looked down and realized my foot was bleeding—not profusely, but not nothing, either. It seems I had disrupted an almost-healed soccer wound, barely noticing as I was so captivated by the dance.
I remained in a space of emphatic inspiration throughout the entire wave, becoming exhausted at moments, but slowing only briefly to catch breath. Staccato seemed to last for a very long time, and I found all sorts of new edges and approaches. I backed away from a dance with my new soccer-moving friend because I couldn’t sustain the intensity, fearing that I might actually faint. After, I wondered if the sensation that I might faint was just a result of sustained athletic intensity, or if it might be that some of the new fight-or-flight chemicals that had been recently lodged in my body were releasing, roaming free inside me before they passed out of me again.
Kierra gathered us after the completion of the first wave to offer verbal teachings. I moved toward my friend and sat down facing Kierra; and my friend rubbed my back affectionately, smiling, seeming totally at home. Kierra started by saying that anything she offers when she teaches is just an invitation—saying, “If it doesn’t feel right for you, then don’t take it on.” She said her suggestion for the night was that we consider dancing “from the inside out.” She reflected on a time five years ago when she had offered the same invitation.
Kierra shared a story of alluded-to intrigue, when she formed a strong intention not to be drawn into gossip. As the story unfolded, she shared that she eventually succumbed to the strong pressure to participate in the gossip flying around her. That night, she had to teach her weekly 5Rhythms class in Harlem. She felt physically uncomfortable—unsure of the source of her discomfort. In the class, she offered the invitation to “dance from the inside out.” As she moved, she got the message her body had to offer. As she explained,
“I love this work. This work is so amazing. It is so powerful. It is all because of the vision and commitment of one woman—of Gabrielle Roth. The body is very powerful. It really supports us. And I realized that when I formed that intention—to refrain from gossip—my entire body aligned to that intention. Even my organs, everything, were there to help me. And then when I fell away from that intention, the whole system went into a kind of chaos. And so I invite you now, to take on dancing from the inside out, to see where that takes you.”
She went on to say that we might even experiment with dancing the liver, dancing the spleen. This is a suggestion I have given myself many times over the years, especially in Chaos. I might seem to be relatively still, but am actually giving a particular organ a chance to release, to move, to express. I don’t think I have ever heard another 5Rhythms teacher offer it as a specific teaching. Kierra comes across as so grounded, so gracious in the objective world; and every time I am in a class she teaches, I have the sense that she also moves consciously in very deep waters.
Concluding the second and final wave, I stepped onto a lyrical amusement park ride with a friend who had greeted me on the way in to class with generous compliments about a post in this very blog. Energetic, high on my toes and lilting down, curving in and finding the outer edge of the ride, exquisitely connected, both of us beaming, and smiling—from the inside out.
After cleaning my bloody foot and putting a band-aid on the surprisingly small wound, I drove home with my friend who had attended a 5Rhythms class for the first time. I spoke a little less this time, and listened a little more, though I did discuss some of my experiences during the class, and narrated my current understanding of each of the rhythms, at her request. She shared her thoughts, including some emotional insights about her off-the-dance-floor life. She also expressed that she felt more courageous after the class. Getting out of the car, she said, “The other thing that came up was that…well, I am so used to moving like this,” she made a gesture of forward and back, “and like this,” she made a gesture of moving to the side, “but I forget about all of this!” She held her arms wide, looked up and around, behind, to the sides, moving dynamically. “This is not going to be her last class!” I thought.
The honor of bringing a new person, too, reminded me of the gigantic, unending gratitude I have for Gabrielle Roth, for the cherished friend who changed my life forever by inviting me to my first 5Rhythms class, and to the many teachers who have trained me—with countless words, gestures, suggestions and personal examples—how to dance from the inside out.
November 15, 2015, Brooklyn, NYC
This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.