Dancing the 5 Rhythms in a Roomful of Strangers

Ever heard of dancing the 5 Rhythms of Gabrielle Roth? I hadn’t either, until a few days ago.

There we were, about 30 strangers sitting on the floor of a seminar room, wondering what was about to happen. Though we’d just met in person maybe an hour ago, we already knew we had some stuff in common. One, we were all women breaking free from eating disorders. Two, we were eyeballing the door… at least a little bit.

Sarah Aili of 5 Rhythms Nashville joined us to teach us how. She is just gorgeous, by the way, and made moving like this look so easy and fun that even though the realization we were about to do this together felt really uncomfortable, it was clearly going to be worth it to push past that discomfort to have this experience.

As she demonstrated the components of a “wave” of this dance, it felt like she was letting us into a practice that was intimate, private, and powerful. Spirals of blond hair swooshing, body whirling, then chopping, then moving at random, then fluid as water, and then slowing as she showed us what we’d soon be doing. As our shoes came off, our minds began racing.

Would we look weird? Uncoordinated? Were we about to do The Elaine… in front of complete strangers?

Or, Maybe… Dancing the 5 Rhythms Was Going to be FUN

I had no idea, but like the time I got to walk on fire, walk across broken glass, do a high ropes course, and break a wooden arrow with the delicate flesh of my throat (um, not all at the same time!)… I knew that choosing “in” for this experience was the best way to get the most from an opportunity that might not ever arise again.

It was a pretty sure bet that I’d look like a shroom-tripping nutjob, but I was okay with that.

Also, I’m rhythm-challenged. So I was glad one of the very few ‘rules’ is that you keep your eyes open on the floor. At least there was a chance I wouldn’t run into or over the other women. (There were a couple of near-miss collisions. There was some bumping of arms and hands, but no casualties.)

As we moved through the five rhythms: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness, the music shifted and Sarah coached us.

Each rhythm lasted long enough for us newbies to go through phases of puzzlement, experimentation, and ultimately losing ourselves in it. I felt very much like the dancing Druids from the opening of Outlander. Whirling, spinning, fluid, and beautiful. (There were no mirrors, so I get to remember it in my mind’s eye the way it felt, even if it looked nothing like that in reality.)

Sarah told us we each have a “Home” rhythm, and that it might not be the one we’d guess. The world and every interaction we have with others is full of these rhythms. It would be helpful to experience them all to see when and where each rhythm shows up in our lives. This is a dance some practice daily or several times a week, a therapeutic and creative release.

By the End of the 5 Rhythms, We Got It

After the music faded, we sat again on the floor staring at the “negative space” where we’d been dancing just moments before. I looked around the room at these women I’d only met an hour before. We’d shared something powerful, private, primal. My heart’s drawbridge was down. It felt safe to let them come close. I’d developed a powerful recognition of them as “my people” and felt overwhelmingly proud. Even though we’d all probably felt trepidation before we started? We’d all displayed the same kind of courage that had brought us to the weekend’s program in the first place.

Here, women who’d felt uncomfortable in their bodies for years (even decades), had used their bodies to create kinetic art.

We’d bonded in taking this risk together. For the whole rest of the event, that risk paid dividends as we shared and connected in a way that’s rare. I have no idea how we looked to the eye. But I know without a doubt that what we created as we danced was beautiful to the heart.

Dancing the 5 Rhythms

Dancing the 5 Rhythms at Home

There’s a website where you can find classes near you – and I found this book, which gives Gabrielle Roth’s insights into the dance. There don’t appear to be any classes near me. But there are videos on YouTube that give a bit of coaching and the music. I can see doing it on my own, dancing like nobody’s watching… because they won’t be. Would YOU try it?

Ending Eating Disorders - Vested Beauty


By the way, if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder of any kind… and we can just lump them into one category called FOOD CRAZIES, I highly recommend getting in touch with Lydia Knight. Watch her videos, take her up on her offer of a free phone session, and know that there is hope!