5Rhythms is a movement meditation practice devised by Gabrielle Roth in the late 1970s. It draws from indigenous and world traditions using tenets of shamanistic, ecstatic, mystical and eastern philosophy. It also draws from Gestalt therapy, the human potential movement and transpersonal psychology. Fundamental to the practice is the idea that everything is energy, and moves in waves, patterns and rhythms.
Roth describes the practice as a soul journey, and says that by moving the body, releasing the heart, and freeing the mind, one can connect to the essence of the soul, the source of inspiration in which an individual has unlimited possibility and potential.
The practice of the five rhythms is said by Gabrielle Roth to put the body in motion in order to still the mind. The five rhythms (in order) are flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. The five rhythms, when danced in sequence, are known as a "Wave." A typical Wave takes about an hour to dance.
Longer workshops may, according to The Dancing Path, explore emotion, the cycle of life, the ego, relationships and spiritual vision.
The 5Rhythms Maps
The work is taught through a series of maps that explore the terrain of the inner and outer worlds of individuals, their relationships to others and the space around them. The maps offer a soul journey by exploring embodiment, emotions, the life cycle, the psyche, and the archetypes. The rhythms offer understanding of people's innate powers – being, loving, knowing, seeing and healing.
The first map, '"Waves"' teaches embodiment of the five distinct rhythms. To embody the rhythms means to access the deep internal wisdom that human bodies contain. The "Heartbeat" map teaches how people have embodied and how they express the emotions of fear, anger, sadness, joy and compassion; while the "Cycles" map provides insight and understanding about how one has internalized conditioning and relationships throughout the life cycle, specifically in the stages of birth, childhood, puberty, maturity and death. Insight and understanding of the ego is delivered through the psyche map, "Mirrors".
While the practice is transformative and can be therapeutic, Gabrielle Roth does not describe 5Rhythms as a form of dance therapy. However, many therapists have obtained a 5Rhythms certification to support their therapeutic practice.
Schools and teachers
Roth founded The Moving Center in New York in 1977 to train and develop certified teachers. This shapeshifted into 5Rhythms Global in 2012. 5Rhythms teachers Andrea Juhan, Kathy Altman and Lori Saltzman were invited by Roth to co-direct the expansion of The Moving Center School in Mill Valley, California in 1994. In 2013, The Moving Center in Mill Valley was closed with Saltzman, Altman and Juhan abandoning the 5Rhythms in their work in lieu of alternative movement methodology. Juhan continues (2014) to teach Open Encounter (formerly Open Floor), an approved synthesis of 5Rhythms with other forms of therapy.
The 5Rhythms movement has spread worldwide with 416 certified teachers (in 2012). 5Rhythms Global is the sole organization that trains 5Rhythms teachers worldwide.
Charlotte Macleod, writing in the London Evening Standard, describes dancing the 5Rhythms as a kind of antidote to life in a large city, and how she was attracted to a dance class by a video of Thom Yorke. The class leaves her "mentally and physically refreshed, and oddly connected to the other dancers." The dance was "a kind of moving meditation" for her.
Christine Ottery, writing in The Guardian, states that "ecstatic dancing has an image problem" and "encompasses everything from large global movements such as 5Rhythms and Biodanza to local drum'n'dance meet-ups". She suggests that readers may "find 5 Rhythms a good place to start", and does so herself: "Nervously, I stretch and warm my muscles. As the rhythms take off, I shake off my shyness." She dances in different ways, alone or with partners. "My body is expressing itself - it's utter abandonment and a complete high."
Jed Lipinski, writing in The New York Times, notes that 5Rhythms is suitable for all ages, unlike some other forms of dance and movement. He observes that "At a recent 5Rhythms class ... in Manhattan, more than 100 people were gleefully writhing and leaping to tribal drumming courtesy of Ms. Roth's husband, Robert Ansell... Dancers occasionally released guttural howls, as if exorcising the demons of the workweek."
The Daily Telegraph writes of 5Rhythms that "I love it precisely because it isn't based on learned steps. Instead, the idea is to find your own dance by moving your body in whatever way you fancy. For those of us keen to improve our fitness, it can also be an energetic aerobic workout."
Academics working in mental health and other fields are starting to carry out research about the 5Rhythms. The Mental Health Foundation, a UK charity published the 'Dancing for Living Report' describing a group of women's experience of 5Rhythms dance and the effects on their emotional wellbeing.
Parody in popular culture
The British TV sitcom Peep Show featured an episode ("Dance Class") where the two principal male characters attend a 'Rainbow Rhythms' class which invites its participants to interpretatively dance 'colours', featuring guidance and a closing circle reminiscent of a 5Rhythms class.
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- Gabrielle Roth. Maps to Ecstasy, 1989.
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- "5Rhythms Global - List of Member Teachers". Retrieved 1 September 2012.
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- Stewart, Iris J.; Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance: Awakening Spirituality Through Movement and Ritual. Inner Traditions, 2000.