Dancing in Santa Fe

I went to a 5 Rhythms movement lab in Santa Fe, where I am on vacation, the other night. Chloe Goodwin facilitated. The space was extraordinarily beautiful, the music inspiring, and I quickly saw a range of more and less experienced dancers among the 20 or so people present.

It felt so great to be back in a dance studio. I’m accustomed to dancing once or twice (very occasionally, 3 or 4 times) a week in Austin, but it wasn’t available in Taos that I could find when I was there last week. I’ve been driving a lot. My body felt sluggish and stiff. Yoga classes have been helpful and also a nice way to meet people who share this interest when traveling, but even more than yoga, ecstatic dance in a studio allows me the freedom to let my body show me how it wants and needs to move to restore well-being.

So we danced freely in the space for a while. I felt shy at first, not knowing anyone (they all knew each other), so I just paid attention to what my body wanted. So good. Then I shyly began to make eye contact with a few people and danced with various partners.

Chloe introduced experiences of body parts: hands, elbows, knees, feet, hips, head, and more. Yes. I’m sure she was watching and seeing how people unconsciously restrict themselves. Yes, your head is a body part, and it can dance too, and it’s really good for your circulation and neck flexibility to move it. Instead of focusing your eyes, use your peripheral vision.

Then Chloe pointed out the blue masking tape on the floor, which created four spaces for dancing, which she described thusly: the outer edges of the room were reserved for people who just wanted to do their own dance by themselves. Coming in toward the center a bit was a space for dancing with a partner. The inner circle was for dancing in community, and the X in the center was for surveying, and dancing with, the entire room.

I danced in all the spaces. I love dancing alone, sometimes with my eyes closed to intensify my auditory/kinesthetic synesthesia and to be one with the music/my body/the space around me. I don’t care what it looks like. There’s a joy and freedom there for me that I recognize may be alien to others.

I had an especially wonderful and vigorous dance with a male partner, meeting and sweetly challenging each other over and over again. Yay!

Moving into the community circle, something interesting happened: Dancing in community, without a partner but in close proximity with other dancers, can be just like dancing alone at the outer edge. It doesn’t have to be, but on Tuesday night, it often was.

We noticed this after the dance ended, when we were standing in a closing circle.

Toward the end of the evening, when I was in the community circle for the third or fourth time, I noticed I was feeling tired, slowing down. I had already danced vigorously for an hour and a half, and I’m not a late night person — my batteries were running down.

I noticed that when I’m fatigued, I just want to dance alone, to wind down, to care for myself in vulnerability. I could have moved to the outer circle, but I didn’t. Maybe I was just too tired to think of doing that. That was a choice that perhaps I could make differently, next time.

I love the name Movement Lab. I’ve long considered ecstatic dance to be my own personal experimental movement lab. Movement, people, space, music, life. Play with it, learn from it, I be me, you be you, we be us.

Ecstatic dance in Austin, Texas

I’ve been doing ecstatic dance since 1995, mostly in Austin. It’s brought me many gifts: a community of friends, inspiration, playfulness, release, sweat, cardio, deeper embodiment, awareness of my body/others/the space, hugs, a place to experiment with movement and energy, expression, connection, and the natural high that comes after dancing for an hour or two.

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The availability of ecstatic dance in Austin has increased over the years, and the community evolves. I will list current opportunities here and update this blog post with changes when they occur.

At all of these dances, we dance barefoot in clothes we can move and sweat in. A facilitator puts together a program of danceable recorded music — and sometimes there’s live music. These dances take the form of a musical wave that usually follows the pattern of the 5 Rhythms wave (flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness) of the late Gabrielle Roth (shown above), starting slowly, building to a crescendo, and descending into stillness — a manifestation of the idea that each dance is a journey into yourself traversing different interior terrains.

The dance space is nonverbal — we take our conversations outside the space.

Boundaries are important. Not everyone wants to dance with a partner all the time or even to be touched. We read and use body language to say yes or no, and we don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want to dance with us. People dance alone, with partners (many or a few), or with groups of people.

The safety of all is important too. Some dances allow contact improv or acro-yoga (usually on the edges of the space) and others don’t. Some allow children and others don’t.

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Courtesy: The New Yorker

Some facilitators offer a theme for the dance after a warmup. Some may offer a guided warmup, while others provide guidelines for newcomers.

All ages are welcome at most of these dances. I’ve danced with people that are nearing 80 and with babies in Snuglis on a parent’s chest. If you are considering bringing children, it’s probably a good idea to connect with the facilitator first. If you bring them, you will need to make sure they and the other dancers stay safe.

Also, most facilitators make earplugs or headphones available for those sensitive to loud music, children or adults — and you can always bring your own.

At the end there’s a closing circle, where OMs or a silent meditation may happen, people share their first names, and there may be some shareback about the experience and/or announcements from dancers, or not.

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All of the founders and facilitators listed below are on Facebook, and some of the dances have their own Facebook page or website. Links are provided below for more details.

  • Tribal Joy meets Sunday mornings from 10-1 at The High Road, 700 Dawson (just south of the river with views of the downtown skyline). Oscar Madera is the founder and most frequent facilitator. $12, or buy 5 dances for $50 or 10 for $100. Tribal Joy and Ecstatic Soul Sessions honor each other’s dance cards.
  • Ecstatic Dance Austin (click here for website and to join email list) meets at Dark Clan Fight Lab, 1106 Smith Road #106 (near 183 and Bolm Rd. in east Austin) on Sundays, 9:30-12:30. David Baker and Ellen Evans are the founders and facilitators. $12.
  • Reset meets every Monday, 5:15-6:45 pm, at Dance International, 2417 Buell, in north Austin near Burnet and Steck. It was founded and is facilitated by Lisa DeLand, a 5 Rhythms teacher trained by Gabrielle Roth. $15.
  • Ecstatic Soul Sessions meets Tuesday evenings from 7:30-10 at The High Road. Mia E. Pem is the founder and a frequent facilitator along with Lisa DeLand and Joel Laviolette. $12 per dance, or buy 5 dances for $50 or 10 for $100. Tribal Joy and Ecstatic Soul Sessions honor each other’s dance cards.
  • Indra’s Awarehouse, 7904 FM 969 (take MLK Blvd. east of Austin), offers ecstatic dance on Thursday nights, 7:30-10 pm, and Sunday nights, 6-9 pm. Randi Southard is the founder. $10.
  • Inner Rhythms ecstatic dance is held on the second and fourth Friday of each month from 7:30-9:30, at south Austin’s Zero Gravity Institute, 2919 Manchaca Rd, Suite 105-A. Donna Starnes facilitates. $15. 
  • Step into Yes, for women only, meets the first Saturday of every month from 10:45 am to 1 pm at the Life in the City sanctuary, 205 E. Monroe, off South Congress. Created and facilitated by 5 Rhythms teacher Lisa DeLand, Step into Yes includes a facilitated-by-a-dancer creative interlude sandwiched between a warmup and a 5 Rhythms wave. Sliding scale $15-25.
  • Rhythm Sanctuary is new to Austin, having taken root in the Boulder and Denver area. Shannon Gill-Jones is the founder, and Russ Ohlhausen facilitates. Dates TBD.

Other dance opportunities

“The 5 rhythms are a contemporary shamanic Zen practice” ~ Gabrielle Roth

Okay, so science has recently showed us that dancers have genes for transcendence and social connection. (And if you don’t dance, maybe you have these genes too and don’t know it yet. And consider this: if stress turns on the bad genes, maybe the opposite of stress — joy? contentment? — turns on the good genes! Just sayin’….)

In this interview, Gabrielle Roth explains the connection between ecstatic dance, Zen, and shamanic practices.

The 5Rhythms are a contemporary Zen, Shamanic practice. Zen, in that they are a map to an inner journey for seekers of wisdom and freedom, the wisdom to know who we are and the freedom to get over ourselves. Shamanic, in that they address the Great Divide, the divorce of spirit from flesh that has created the loss of soul, which haunts us. We’ve rendered the soul homeless, it can’t breathe, exist, or move disconnected from the body. The body is the womb of the soul, a begging bowl for spirit, like Aretha when she sings….

The fastest way to still the mind is to move the body. All the profound spiritual teachings in this world don’t mean anything if they’re not embodied. Feeling totally high and connected to the divine mystery while sitting on a meditation pillow is fine, but how do we put the rubber to the road? As Charlie Parker said, If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. So I take refuge in the 5Rhythms practice to keep my horn in tune.

There are videos of Gabrielle as well on the site. Check ’em out!

Repost: Gabrielle Roth: The Most Badass Teacher of Our Time

Gabrielle Roth: The Most Badass Teacher of Our Time. | elephant journal.

Here’s another tribute to Gabrielle Roth that I couldn’t resist sharing for its first sentence:

Gabrielle Roth was the most truthful, determined, vibrant, hilarious, seductively ferocious person I have ever encountered.

My Austin dance community danced our farewell to Gabrielle yesterday. I couldn’t attend all of it — it was one of those days when I could have used a clone or two, there was so much deliciousness going on — but I did get some good dancing in, and some savory connecting, and I took my favorite healing stone to sit on the altar and soak up the energy of the room and touch/be touched by many of the gifted healers who dance.

We danced fiercely, with abandon and so many huge smiles, mine among them.

It was also our last dance in that space where we first danced 14 years ago, and so it was a milestone day for that reason as well. We move into a new space next month. I felt so much gratitude for so many people whom I’ve danced with over the years, knowing I will see many of them in a few weeks.

We honored the teachers who brought the rhythms and ecstatic dance to Austin in 1994: Claire Alexander (now a 5 rhythms teacher in Mountain View and Santa Cruz, CA), Carola Marashi (leading an ecstatic dance in Ashland, OR), and Terry Teaters.

And Gabrielle. Of course.

I was sorry to miss the ceremony led by Lisa DeLand, the 5 rhythms teacher in Austin.

Thanks also to Elephant Journal and the writer of the original post, Natasha Blank.

As with taking yoga and NLP into places that need it, like prisons and schools (which I’ve done and will keep doing), so there is a way to share the 5 rhythms in the places that most need it, 5Rhythms Reach Out. Here’s a direct link: http://www.5rro.org/

I would not ask you to donate if I didn’t believe in it enough to donate myself. I’ve made a donation, and you can too.

I just keep remembering how expanding, affirming, and life-changing it was to first encounter the 5 rhythms 18 years ago. There are many, many people whose lives are more sheltered and laden with suffering who are waiting for this transformational work, and they don’t even know it. 5Rhythms Reach Out will find and teach (and transform) them.

Gabrielle RothOne of my favorite Gabrielle quotes is this:

The problem is, we’re just too fucking alive! (said when someone complained about the noise and activity of a bunch of dancers after a workshop)

I say:

If that’s your problem, I’ll have what you’re having!

 

In remembrance of Gabrielle Roth: freedom is our holy work

One of the significant teachers in my life died yesterday, and I’ve struggled with writing about it. I find myself getting too heady, and yet this loss is actually so profound that when I took a nap yesterday, I dreamed I was balancing upside down on my head on a dance floor, surrounded by lively, active children.

When I woke, I could feel the pressure on the crown of my head.

Headstand is definitely about changing perspective.

I stumbled into ecstatic dance 18 years ago, first encountering the 5 rhythms of Gabrielle Roth and Sweat Your Prayers after I left church as something I could no longer take part in with integrity.

I found a tribe, a practice, and a way of experiencing myself and the world as energy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that the latter is the change in perspective that I’m integrating with this shock of loss and review of Gabrielle’s influence on my life, that it’s all just energy all the time, and it’s always changing, always dancing. The best I can ever do is to be centered, grounded, embodied, and ready to meet it. What’s solid is awareness.

I’ve had issues and struggles at times with that tribe, practice, and worldview, and they have deeply shaped me. I keep coming back.

Here’s what ecstatic dance is to me: being free, feeling joy, being embodied, clearing, cleansing, breathing, sweating, extending myself, being aware, taking care of my body, pushing to my edge and beyond, being in the moment, sharing, delighting, inquiring, discovering, connecting, having compassion, being inspired, seeing, allowing, playing, surrendering, breaking myself open, feeling what comes up, being danced, letting go, grieving, dancing with other versions of me, dancing with the entire room including the space, letting life and everything flow through me, being totally and completely alive, being fully present, blowing all the blocks out of my energy channels.

I feel so grateful to have found this and that I am able to do this.

Thank you, Gabrielle Roth, for your life’s work. Thank you, dancing tribe.

Here’s Gabrielle in her own words.

I became a mapmaker for others to follow, but not in my footsteps, in their own. Many of us are looking for a beat, something solid and rooted where we can take refuge and begin to explore the fluidity of being alive, to investigate why we often feel stuck, numb, spaced-out, tense, inert, and unable to stand up or sit down or unscramble the screens that reflect our collective insanity.

The question I ask myself and everyone else is, “Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?” Can we be free of all that binds and bends us into a shape of consciousness that has nothing to do with who we are from moment to moment, from breath to breath?

Dance is the fastest, most direct route to the truth — not some big truth that belongs to everybody, but the get down and personal kind, the what’s-happening-in-me-right-now kind of truth. We dance to reclaim our brilliant ability to disappear in something bigger, something safe, a space without a critic or a judge or an analyst.