Dance until you shatter yourself
I started “doing the rhythms” a while ago, at home, in the privacy of my almost furniture-free living room, inspired by Gabrielle Roth’s book and CDs, driven by the longing to “retrieve the soul through my body”. Recently I joined the local tribe of women and men of all ages and shapes and the Energizer bunny leader with long black hair and a wide smile for a class in grounding (the term used in Swedish), a dance form inspired by African dance but more accessible in terms of choreography, which is perfect for a drop-in like myself. I go to our gathering place – the gym in the local church – on Wednesday nights to give the fire of this longing manifestation that makes the whole of me feel vibrant and connected. No conceptual thinking could bring me to the core of what mattered to me most the way the body does when I tune into it and allow it to flow.
We all have the potential to be a full-bodied Bordeaux, but sadly most of us are satisfied being Welche’s grape juice.
– Gabrielle Roth, Sweat Your Prayers
African rhythms do it for me, take me straight home, into this place of innocence, playfulness and vitality where I can be anything and anybody. As the rhythms on the CD change, I listen in and follow where my body leads me. My legs carry me into the circle, closer towards others – I seek connection. My spine twists for freedom, releasing all the blocks from the day in the office and letting the energy flow through it and into the rest of the body. It’s fluid and unpredictable, it’s alive and breathing. My chest strives forward – I feel courageous and ready to face what come may. The hips wake up and start telling their stories. So much shame and pain they have been carrying while all I’ve noticed and reacted to was the extra pounds that landed on them.
My neck sends the rest of me into the slow rotation, away from my tribe, in the direction of the big window and the snowy landscape behind it –I need to face the big world on my own, feeling the supportive presence of my tribe behind me. Finally I turn around again and start moving freely in this space, passing my sweaty fellow dancers, offering and receiving a smile here and there, waving, bowing, nodding – I am on the roll, and the world moves with me. Or – am I being moved by the world?
Movement practice gets all your creative juices flowing. It doesn’t just release your body, but it opens up your heart and empties out your mind, as well. Whatever you are feeling or obsessing over is integrated into your dance. You move away from your surface and get in touch with a deeper, wiser you, one that sense the unity that underlies everything. The rhythms take us back to that primordial soup, so that we can begin again, fresh and fertile, high on our existence.
– Gabrielle Roth, Sweat Your Prayers
The hour passes quickly and as we exchange good-byes, people I met here for the first time thank me for inspiring them through my dance. I thank them back and thank my body. Still there is something I could not let go of that night – the fear of making sounds in this world, sounds that express where I stand. I am afraid to let the voice come through the body and enter the world.
Poet David Whyte sees voice as a way of meeting the world. It is in our voice we are tested against it. We resonate the air inside our body and then through our throat and out through the mouth into the air, until the shape of the air inside the body becomes the shape of the body outside. We literally become one with the world. But somewhere along the line we became ashamed of the sounds we make in the world.
So very true for me! This one will take time for me, I can sense that. It will take patience and compassion. “Am in no hurry, have all the time in the world”, I remind myself, and stop in the middle of the road to look towards the dark sky and the slowly descending snowflakes. In this silence I can hear my heart beat in the sixth rhythm – that of my unfolding soul.
The Fire in the Song
The mouth opens and fills the air with its vibrant shape
Until the air and the mouth become one shape
And the first word
your own word
Spoken from that fire
Grieves you now because you made that pact
With the dark presence in your life
He said, “If you only stop singing
I’ll make you safe”
And he repeated the line,
“I’ll make you safe”.
Knowing you would hear it as the comforting sound
Of a door closed on the fear at last
But his darkness slipped under your tongue and became the dim cave
Where you sheltered and grew in that small place
Too frightened to remember the songs of the world
Its impossible notes
And the sweet joy that flew out the door
Of your wild mouth as you spoke
– David Whyte
Resources and inspiration:
- Gabrielle Roth, “Sweat Your Prayers: The Five Rhythms of the Soul”
- Gabrielle Roth, CDs with music for the five rhythms (also available on Spotify)
- In Uppsala: Grounding & African Dance with Christina