Dancing against the stream

Some days the dance releases from the bondage of self.

Other days it seems to bind up the bondage so that the self feels trapped, cannot move beyond, above, without.

Three week back at 5Rhythms after a break of nearly three months brought on by a particular frozen dance moment.

The word from the sages of the dance floor is to dance through these moments.

On that Sunday three months ago so strong was the stuck emotion from the mythic landscape of childhood and from earlier lives, there was no staying.

It was bail out the door, hit the silk, parachute out of there.

Took three months to come back.

There was a micro honeymoon period again for the first two sessions, the first with Michelle prior to her departure to Europe to walk the Camino.

Last week it was with Cath who seems to be unique amongst the local 5R teachers in that she lets the music do the talking, there’s no commentary along the way.

Maybe it was the high from that last week which set up the low at today’s dance which was mediated by Caitlin, a teacher who’s music and direction we’ve liked in the past.

Everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves but the internal landscape threw up some hard stuff today which made it hard to physically stay in the room.

The original plan was to stay for the first hour and then go – So kept the watch on under the sleeve, but by thirty minutes into the dance we wanted out of there.

Just too much watchfulness – too much mindfulness of the reactions of others – filtered for negativity in whatever nuance, glance, shrug or look the negative could be interpreted from.

But the deal was to stay for the first hour so the next thirty minutes was a painful waiting for the time to be up so that we could get out of there.

Then the change happened – It came about in the Stillness Rhythm at the end of the first wave.

Everyone was slowing down or lying still on the floor or floating about in a dreamlike state.

The music was slow and tribal, a yowling and howling which evoked within a sense of dullness, dreariness, death like.

The received wisdom is to stay with this, to deal with the emotions of dullness, dreariness and death which the music and the rhythm were evoking.

Fuck that, another part inside pipes up, a mischievous contrarian spirit of just do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

So we began to dance faster and more staccato/ chaos like, finding these rhythms in the internal song arising from the mythic landscape within.

We sensed the small boy throwing rocks down from a tree at his tormentors, the pursuers of conformity.

And with the chaotic staccato movements bouncing out of the limbs came the laugher from within – Swimming against the current, finding our own light and laughter within, daring to be different.

And so the hour passed by and then ninety minutes and then the full two hours as all kinds of emotional colour came and went inside.

Most of the others were pairing up and dancing with each other, or holding and embracing and playing nice.

But the child in the tree had jumped down and waded into a huge bunch of nettles, a stick as an imaginary sword, laying waste the nettle knights and men-at-arms in a glorious slaughter.

By 1230 it was winding down and it was time to bail before it all got too crystalline and earth mother-like with the holding of hands in a circle and smiling at each other.

No glorious happy release today but at least we stayed to the end.

Ocean Dance

Went for a swim in Clovelly Bay before dance this morning.
Been trying to get back in the Ocean for a while.

Went yesterday as well, just as the swimmers from the Coogee to Bondi 5km swim were passing the headland at Clovelly.

Used to do long distance ocean swimming and a few of the Vladsters from Vlad’s swimming squad were probably in the vanguard of the swim. Good luck to them.

Did thirty minutes in the clear, cool waters of the lagoon, with the Blue and Green Groupers, Drummer, Luderick and other fish, the weaving of the seagrasses and the seaweed underwater.

The tide was rising, near full and a decent swell driving the ocean into the lagoon over the submerged sea wall.

Brought the swim into the dance afterwards.
Thinking about the movement of the ocean and the fish as the dance took us on the journey.

Really helped with the sense of flow.

Michelle was on about the field again, coming into the field of the other dancers. When thinking of the field, the ocean comes to mind, connecting all of us on the planet, 71% covered by water.

The photo below doesn’t do justice to today’s installation, it being partly disassembled at the end of the dance. Still, enough is left to capture the essence.

And the care taken to put it together.

IMG_1819
Today’s Installation – After the dance, a bit broken up

Don’t Stop Dancing

Tough dance today.
Been dancing twice a week for the last three weeks including the Ancestors workshop.
It was all getting better and better.
Until today.

Sometimes it goes bad on the floor.
Got there a couple of minutes after 1030.
All seemed ok.
Then a wave of tiredness washes up from nowhere.

Lie on the floor for a bit listening to the slow, soft rhythm of the pre-wave music, just to chill out. Look up at the ceiling. count nearly a hundred rectangular panels.
The place was completed and opened in 1914.
Think about the carpenters who did the joinery work on the ceiling panels.

Get up and start moving when the Flow rhythm starts but cannot get into it.
Want to leave after twenty minutes, thinking it’s not going to happen today.
For whatever reason.
But keep dancing regardless, hanging back near the door leading to the fire escape.
Close to one of the speakers.
Avoid connecting with the other dancers.
They say keep dancing regardless of what comes up.
Don’t stop dancing.

The Stillness Rhythm, a slow version of Amazing Grace is playing, opens something inside, a door to let out the crap out or let the good stuff in.
Don’t know but it works.

Ride the second Wave all the way to the end.
Start to enjoy it, less shut down to the others in the space but still not fully there with them. Doesn’t matter, keep dancing.
The second Stillness Rhythm, Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah towards the conclusion, lovely way to end.
Survive and live to dance another day.

Used to know the words of Amazing Grace.
Sang it once as the dawn lightened over Cavello Bay in Bermuda.
Couldn’t sleep with jet lag, got on a hired moped and drove around the island.
Stopping along the way to watch the ocean and sing.
That was back in ’02.
Stopped off in New York on the way back.
Visited Ground Zero, less than six months after the attacks.
Got the same heavy vibe off the place as in Dachau a couple of decades earlier, during a cold Bavarian late Autumn.
Sang something at the Manhattan site to ease the disturbed Spirits, so many of them seemed to be hanging around the site, dragged out of life in an instant.
Bewildered. Lost. Not wanting to be dead. But to be back with the living.
Think relearning Amazing Grace will be a good thing.
Try it out tomorrow evening at the singing lesson with Emily.

Coming towards the end of the Genre Short Story course with the Writers Studio.
The last of the four stories is to be in the Magic Realism genre.
Still got a week to finish it.
If the other three stories are anything to go by it will be written in the last few days before the deadline.
It’s a good genre.

Go to the Ocean on this the first Sunday of Advent.
Take the SUP board but don’t manage to stand much as the Southerly has come up, whipping the waves into a wicked chop.
Fall off the board on the first attempt to stand, into the waters of Malabar Bay.
Blown from the boat ramp down to the beach and then have to paddle against the wind and the waves to get back.
Can only kneel on the board, and then sit.
Hard Yakka getting back.

A flock of seagulls, wings tucked up, heads down, perched on a long rock, watch the slow slog of the rookie board paddler against wind and wave. If they think it’s funny, they don’t laugh.
Thinking of my late Godmother, Auntie Blaithin, died this day a year ago. Now resting in the County Meath heartland with her sister, my mother, who joined her there a couple of months ago.
The Southerly is still blowing outside in the darkness.
Wonder if the seagulls are still hanging out on that rock.

Ancestors Workshop

“What did you do on the weekend?”

Working in Corporate, the question colleagues ask on a Monday morning.

Standard answers are watching the rugby, playing golf, spending time with the family, walking the dog, swimming laps of Bondi, cycling to Brisbane and back, etc etc

“What did you do?”

“Oh, nothing much, just danced for fourteen hours at a 5Rhythms Ancestors workshop Friday night to Sunday afternoon”

“What…Danced????…Ancestors????…”

Now it’s time to do a tactical switch and talk about Ireland beating the All Blacks in Dublin on Saturday night. Much safer ground.

Writing this on Tuesday, the second day after the Workshop ended, I’m still coming to terms with the phenomenon which was the workshop, run by Sylvie Pinot of Syzygy Dance Project out of San Francisco, organised by Sue Anderson of Urban Waves Dance in Sydney and assisted by Michelle and team from Radiance.

Friday night commencement starts at 645pm on a balmy late Spring evening at Rushcutters Bay, Drill Hall. There’s about 75 dancers, including roughly half there for the night dance only and the rest who’ve signed on for the weekend workshop. I made the decision to come to the workshop at the 5R dance the previous Sunday but only actually booked a few hours before the start. Tail end charlie, battling with the demon of procrastination.

So glad I did though.

We are encouraged to bring some objects which remind us of our ancestors – photos, jewellery, pictures, talisman of all sorts. I bring a copy of my late mother’s obituary penned in the Meath Chronicle by my cousin Gerry, including a photo. I put this in a WW2 vintage leather gaitor worn by my grandfather James, my matrilineal grandfather,  above his army boots.

IMG_0966
Ancestral Talisman

I bring also a pale blue silk scarf belonging to my mother which I took from her wardrobe after her funeral in Ireland two months ago. I place these three objects on the installation/ altar prepared by Diana.

46494541_644214245975421_208583824009854976_n
Diana’s Installation

During the weekend I intermittently dance with the scarf. With the spirit of my mother Regina (Jean) who loved to dance. She asks me to. She wants to join the throng and dance.

PHOTO-2018-09-05-05-42-42
Jean, circa 1942

Sylvie lays down the music and soon we are swooning and gliding through Flow, then the beats picks up in Staccato and it’s mostly a blur after that, a jumble of images, sensations, movement, energy, connection, connection, connection.

Sylvie intersperses the dance with breaks to orientate us as to what the weekend is about. She asks us to invite our ancestors in to dance with us, to show us what needs to be done to break old patterns build up over centuries through the bloodlines, letting go those behaviours and shapes which no longer serve us, taking up new shapes to serve us and our families and communities for the better.

I like the concept of Shape which she emphasises over the course of the weekend. I’ve been exposed to it before during the course of my 5R journey, especially in the Stillness Rhythm. Sylvie really works the concept deeper, especially in the Shapeshifter work we do on Sunday.

My old Shapeshifting skills learned growing up haven’t always served me well, or those around me. They have been tools of disconnection, of camouflage and subterfuge.

Under Sylvie’s tutelage, these skills are turned around to connect more to others, opening and revealing the authentic, real  person behind the masks. This is an ancient magic come to the Drill Hall through the agency of a shamanic master.

She tells us to keep those spirits around who are going to help us in the process. The others, who may not help or who may hinder, tell them to go outside the hall. They will do so if you ask.

We finish sometime after 9pm. I have no idea of the time. I’m in a different place altogether.

Saturday is another glorious late Spring morning. The Jacaranda trees bloom purple-blue  in the streets around Rushcutters Bay. We start at 11. The day is broken up into focusing on the Matrilineal Line ancestors in the morning, the Patrilineal Line ancestors in the afternoon. We break up into groups to do various exercises, dancing all the while.

For the matrilineal, each group member takes a turn in the centre while the others circle around representing the ancestors. The person is reborn again in a Shape manifested through the exercise and the others interact with and help the Shape to change.

I do the maths afterwards – allowing for three mothers per century this gives three hundred mothers over the last ten thousand years. More if you allow for shorter life spans. And that’s only counting the maternal line. Double that if you add in the paternal line.

Six hundred mothers – Powerful medicine.

Stuff happens during the exercises. Deep shifts. What happens on the dance floor, stays on the dance floor. Or not.

In the afternoon, the Patrilineal exercise involves the group members forming a line and the lead member arranges the others in Shapes representing impressions from their Patrilineal line. As with the Matrilineal exercises, Shapes morph into other Shapes to represent a changing of damaging patterns from the past into ones conducive to living a more fulfilling life in the here and now.

Each group has a short session to debrief amongst it’s members. The consensus seems to be there’s more of a sense of heaviness around the Patrilineal energy, constrained, an edge, a hardness. Some of the women share how good it feels to be “back as a woman” after the exercises conclude, so potent is the male energy swirling about during these episodes.

Sunday is again a lovely sunny Spring day. We kickoff at 11 and conclude around 5. Today we go back from our direct ancestors to the Tribes, the four legged Animals and finally to the Land. Sylvie reminds us that the medicine works both ways. We get the medicine going backwards, we give it going forwards. Always the circle.

We dance through exercises for Tribal, Animal and Land.

The Tribal exercise opens up and reveals to me a childhood incident which still impacts how I work in groups fifty years later.

The Shapeshifter dance work, going from North-Animals of the Air, East-Animals of the Desert, South-Animals of the Earth, West-Animals of the Seas, is extraordinary.

The Land, like the Patrilineal of the day before, has a deep, heavy feel to it.

The last exercise before the workshop ends and the group splits up, each dancer to go  their own way, is a giant turning circle representing the movement of the earth.

One by one, each member goes into the middle to make a Shape which represents how they feel at the end of the workshop. Each Shape is supported by some circle members breaking off into the centre as they feel the urge or intuition to support the person doing the Shape. More magic happens.

This was truly a wonderful, moving, positive, life affirming workshop. As I walk away I feel the energy of the Ancestors hovering closer now than before, ever willing to join in to assist when they are called upon to do so.

5 Rhythms Armistice Day 2018

The dance starts at 1030am this morning.

Michelle, our dance leader, halts the proceedings at 1107am and we form a large circle, holding hands, 70 odd dancers.

We hold the space in remembrance of November 11th, 1918.

The minutes tick by.

Silence.

Then an OM.

Big, huge, powerful, reverberating through the space as we keep it up for a couple of minutes.

Back into the dance.

I think about Grand Uncle Bernard Duffy, KIA on the Western Front, 11th April, 1917. My mother and her sister, his two nieces Regina and Blathin, we buried in the last year. In Kentstown Cemetery, County Meath with their parents, James and Sheila. Bernard’s sister.

I invite Bernard to the dance today. He brings along other chaps and fellows from his unit. And some Germans too. French, Turks, Americans, Canadians, ANZACs, Austrians, Russians, Belgians, Dutch, Italians and a load of others.

They hang around the edges of the mad swirling dance melee, one without bayonets, rifle butts and bullets, so unused to this kind of thing are these the shades of the dead of the Great War.

Then they join in and vanish into the life energy dancing over and over into and beyond itself on the dance floor. I can hear their smiling, see their shouts of delight, taste their joy.

Michelle excels herself again today. I said this to her last week, that she was getting better and better. Maybe it’s you that’s changing, someone remarked to me later, for the better. And maybe this is true.

Letting go of the head talk, the tyranny of being rendered into neuter-dom by the daily grind. Skye remarks to me afterwards, that “the head is a good servant but a cruel master”. Good for crossing the road to keep you safe but when you get to the other side, go back into your body.

This is one of the things the 5 Rhythms dance practice does, takes me out of my head and into the body.

We did our normal two waves of the five Rhythms today:

Flowing

Staccato

Chaos

Lyrical

Stillness

We ended somewhere around 1pm – I’d lost track of time in the bliss state the practice takes me into. Words fail for the moment to describe the transition state the practice sparks in me and the others. The intensity and depth of connection born, rises, peaks and then dissipates as we go back out into the world.

Skye remarks that the thing doesn’t flitter away off into the world, but retracts itself back within, back into the body. It opens up again when the dance is renewed the next time. Or some other transformational practice is worked on, such as singing and writing in my case.

The purpose of this blog is to start to learn how to articulate what is happening during this magical practice for me and my fellow dancers, led by Michelle and helped today by Steve and Vanessa, two awesome spirit connected musicians.

I started my 5 Rhythms journey in early January 2017, almost two years ago as I write this. With Michelle and Radiance Dance. The depth of the profound change this practice is having on my life I’m only now starting to appreciate.

So I write this blog as a record of my journey into the Dance, both in practice and from the teachings of the late Gabrielle Roth, our founder.

I will also be writing about my renewed singing practice, next lesson tomorrow night at the The Artist Studio in Randwick.

Plus the latest episode in my writing journey, as we go into the third week of the six week Genre Short Story course from the Writer’s Studio in Bronte.

Sydney in late Spring, the summer coming on now relentlessly, blessed days of sunshine on the coast, city of so much spirit and learning.