Good Dances: 0, Bad Dances: 2

Sometimes I am tempted to keep a running tally of “good” dances vs. “bad” dances.   The more “good” dances that I have in a row, the more surprised I am when I have a “bad” dance. In the past three weeks, I am 0 for 2—unless you count the elation of dancing at my much-adored and only brother’s wedding—but let’s say 0 for 2 in formal classes. I was tempted to avoid creating a post about these experiences, since it is always much more engaging to write about engaging dances and vice versa; but I decided instead to lean into the un-inspiration to see what happens. I am telling myself that I can always hide it from you if the text turns out to be just one long, painful yawn. I don’t have anything to lose, really, and so I step into the room.

The official word is that there are no “bad” dances. Tammy and countless other teachers have reminded us again and again that we don’t go into a 5Rhythms class hoping for a particular experience—or if we do, we are bound to be disappointed. I note that there is no way to anticipate what will actually show up for me on the dance floor at any given time. I could walk in feeling anxious, self-abusive and vitriolic and leave feeling spacious, compassionate and relaxed. Conversely, I could walk in feeling eager and kind-hearted and leave feeling withdrawn and defensive.

What I flippantly consider to be a “bad” dance is really to say that the dance wasn’t pleasant for me. Maybe I am tired or pre-occupied. Maybe I just can’t find my feet on the ground, no matter what I do. Maybe I want to dance with other people, but my timing is off and I keep finding myself alone or awkwardly forcing partnerships. Maybe I don’t want to dance with others, and as a result overdo my expression of boundaries when approached—with the result that I accidentally isolate myself. Maybe I have an unsettled stomach; maybe I am feeling triggered by someone in the room; maybe I don’t connect with the music; maybe I am struggling to cope with an injury.  

The teachings of Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, are very clear on this point. No matter what happens, keep moving. (Back to my words now) There is no good or bad, there is just moving. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck. Whenever I lack inspiration, I get a little afraid that I will never be inspired again. It is a little flash of grief—that might or might not linger.

Over the years, I have learned that inspiration comes and goes. It is an interesting intellectual exercise to analyze the factors that might influence an un-inspired dance, but, ultimately, the nature of practice is to keep showing up no matter what. No matter what arises and no matter what obstacles conspire to keep me away from practice. And accepting (if grudgingly) that it won’t always be glorious. Sometimes it is just work. Sometimes it even sucks.

But I wax dramatic to create a cohesive story for you! The fact is that I have had much longer “bad” streaks than 0 for 2. I wrote in the past about a “bad” streak that lasted months. Though I was a new dancer, somehow I had already developed enough faith in the practice to keep showing up, again and again. Also, the two recent “bad” classes weren’t all bad. In fact, there were moments of inspired moving and of beautiful connection interspersed within. For example, I found myself several times moving in partnership throughout the entire room with the same friend with whom I shared a playful, spacious dance that kept recurring during the “Expand Lyrical” workshop. We would engage, perhaps follow each other, remain in partnership though several people separated us, then drift apart again, only to find one another a short time later—picking up where we left off.

Three weeks ago, before I took a week off to travel to my brother’s wedding in Vermont, Peter covered Tammy’s class. Peter is an exquisite teacher—a smiling, intuitive audiophile and I love to be near him. Despite this, I just couldn’t get into it.

Recently, I have written extensively about a sustained, enraptured engagement with the rhythm of Lyrical. Walking into class, I considered myself Lyrical, somehow. I decided to let go of all my edges and relax into the practice completely. Perhaps this was a factor and perhaps not, but I left thinking that the planned surrender of all edges had the effect of making me go flat. Making my expression of movement, and my perception of my expression of movement, and my engagement with the people around me—go flat.

My brother’s wedding was beautiful. Of course, a wedding holds so much—there are always counter-narratives; but the big, open-beamed Vermont-red barn was filled with smiling faces. My son, Simon, as one of the youngest attendees, enjoyed a lot of positive attention. He kept leaping into the middle of the dance floor and showing off his robot dance and his fast, staccato-like footwork, occasionally taking to the floor in his version of breakdancing amid supportive cheers. I danced many happy turns with his Daddy, who I have been spending a lot of time with of late. I also danced an expressive, tango-influenced turn with my sister’s partner, feeling playful. Near the end of the night, the DJ put on a Bluegrass jig, and I found flight. Enjoying myself thoroughly, I dropped to the ground to perform the 1980’s classic move, “the worm” but could scarcely pull it off I was laughing so hard. My brother’s friends complimented me generously on my ability to move, remarking particularly on the “Riverdance thing” I was doing during the Bluegrass jig song. I thanked them, and said, “I love to move. I love to be high up! I have never really tried to move to that kind of music, but it is always a joy to experiment,” thinking to myself, “Ahhh! I love this Lyrical rhythm/partner who has been dancing with me for months, I am so grateful to find Lyrical everywhere, to find it here, maybe it will stay, maybe it is who I am.”

Although 5Rhythms is not really about dance, but is much more generalizable, any time that I am dancing, the practice is to some extent engaged. After so many years of practice, any dance brings me near the field of 5Rhythms. Though of course it is not 5Rhythms practice, these not-5Rhythms dance experiences often arise in the writing for this reason.

I returned to Tammy’s Friday Night Waves class this week after the break for my brother’s wedding, and felt similarly un-inspired. As with Peter, Tammy is an exquisite teacher. She seems to see everything that arises in the room (in all dimensions); and I have soared literally hundreds of times under her skilled guidance. Despite this, I remained mostly flightless throughout the class.

In the interim between the first and the second waves that is often reserved for verbal teaching, Tammy said, “You didn’t think it was really about dance did you?” and went into an unusually long explanation of the rhythms—Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness—perhaps in part owing to the many new dancers in the room.

During the second wave of the class Tammy asked us to group in threes. I turned to a partner right away, but there were no other unpaired people near us. I found someone and moved around another threesome, toward the individual, expecting my partner to move with me. He did not, and stood looking around for me, confused. I returned to him, not wanting him to think he had been abandoned. I couldn’t entice him to follow me, so I settled into trying to follow Tammy’s three-person directions with just two people. She asked us to take turns in the middle, with the two people on the outside holding space for the person in the middle. I thought at least we could take turns letting loose and holding space, but my partner didn’t seem to get that either. I wondered if he was hard-of-hearing. Eventually, another joined us, but I was already pretty disengaged. To make it worse, I thought Tammy asked us to find some kind of repetition to do together in our threesomes. I really don’t like this practice. It always feels forced and uncomfortable for me. If I find a repetition on my own—if my body catches some kind of glitch—it can lead to great insight. If I contrive it, and set out to find a repetition, I wind up feeling like a fake, and get bored quickly with whatever the repetition is—except in rare circumstances when I am extremely connected with my partners. This time, it was unpleasant and uncomfortable. The third to join our group let out an enraged yell, and left us to move through the room. I waited until Tammy released us from the exercise, then moved quickly away, myself.

Let’s see how my sports stats evolve. Maybe some day I will be in a place that there really are no “bad” dances and there is no running tally. Maybe even the not-inspiration will feel like bliss. Maybe I can find total freedom from the constraints and fluctuations of my small mind; and stand shining—individual and archetypal at once—in the glory that is my birthright, that is the birthright of each of us. I aspire to nothing less—nothing less than total everything—than all that we are.

October 3, 2015

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

Expand Lyrical


I have a confession to make. This is hard for me, but here it is. I have been cheating on Chaos. It all started during the summer, when I spent extended time in Costa Rica playing in the waves with my small son, contemplating rainbows, and dancing for long stretches with the sea, soaring kites and the shadows of the sopilote birds flying overhead.

Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice taught that each of us has a “home rhythm”, the one of the rhythms that comes most easily to us. Although sometimes this construct feels essentialist to me, I have often considered my relationship to my home rhythm. At first, it seemed clear that Staccato was my home rhythm. I felt comfortable with edges, elbows, strong direction, bold gestures, lists, accomplishments, knowing-it-all, and with indicating my boundaries. Gradually, as the practice eroded me, I came to believe that Staccato was merely a front for my true home rhythm—Chaos. I thought my affiliation with Staccato was a cover my mind had created to hide me from the whirling power of my chaotic nature, since I was so afraid that if I was gigantic I would cause too much harm. Finding true Chaos for the first time was a revelation accompanied by weeks of weeping.

In 2009 I wrote:

“One day, I accidentally forgot all of my criteria. I found myself dancing Chaos, saturated completely. Although I moved with enormous energy, there was no sense of exertion. I was completely aware, completely gentle, and completely porous. Tears streamed out of my eyes, wetting the whole front of me.

As the energy of Chaos rises, I symbolically hang my empty skin on a coat hook and imagine that I dance around in just my bones, without the burdensome weight of flesh and organs. I become the Sumerian goddess Inanna, who was killed and skinned by her sister when she went to visit the underworld, and was later resurrected by her allies. Her flayed skin was left, forgotten, on a hook as she embarked on the ultimate descent; to rise later more powerful, more complex, and more clarified.

Later, I realized that it was the first time I had ever actually been in Chaos. I had to let go of all my complex cantilevering first. It took a long time to cultivate enough awareness of the dancers around me and of my own body to know that I could be utterly uncontrolled and abandoned and still trust that I wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

Lately, I am tempted to change my affiliation once again—this time to Lyrical.

It is quite possible that a person’s home rhythm might change over time. It is quite possible; too, that circumstances and volition might lead us to align with a particular rhythm. It might not matter at all; and perhaps it is even ego-entrenching to take it too seriously. Interestingly, Meaghan Williams, the teacher who led the 5Rhythms one-day workshop “Expand Lyrical” on Sunday believes that Lyrical is always underneath all of the other rhythms, simply waiting to come out. (Meaghan acknowledged, on reading this text, that although she holds to this statement, a flowing teacher might believe that Flowing is always under every other rhythm, just waiting to come out..) If it were true, then I wonder if you could argue that Lyrical would be everyone’s true home rhythm.

Paul Taylor Studio, where “Expand Lyrical” was held, is a big, airy, clean, light-filled studio in Lower Manhattan. I spent some time searching for parking and finally settled on a nominally legal spot just a block from the studio. I arrived and organized myself with, remarkably, no obstacles or challenges, though I did suffer from a nagging concern about the parking spot I chose.

I began the first wave, which lasted for two solid hours, on the floor, moving in attenuated circles, my limbs extended like the hands of a clock, but in all dimensions, stretching and coiling and curving into myself both on my chest and on my back as I found my connection to the ground and warmed my muscles up. My parking spot kept coming to mind, but kept receding again. I was on my feet before long, eager to investigate the space, visit each corner, peek behind curtains, look through the door windows, and feel the diagonal distance from corner to corner.

Of the five rhythms, Lyrical has always seemed the farthest from my range. Even two years ago, I doubt if I would have even attended the “Expand Lyrical” workshop. It makes me think of a friend—a fabulous gay man who is the child of Mexican Catholic parents. The idea that he would ever come out to them was completely unfathomable. Then, when he finally did come out to them, all they said was, “Well, OK, thanks for telling us.” Maybe Lyrical hasn’t been as out of reach as I have lead myself to believe.

I know that Lyrical is not just about joy—it is actually much grittier than that, and contains several other aspects—but it is definitely the joy aspect of Lyrical that has scared me away. There is a huge list of reasons for this. The dominant reason is that I am not always convinced that I deserve joy. Also, part of me thinks that embracing joy is an affront to the world’s suffering. Another (snobbier) part of me thinks that joy is only for people who are less intelligent, less complex and less driven. In addition, I am afraid that if I let joy in, it will be ripped away from me again, perhaps leaving me even more bereft. Also, I am suspicious of faked joy, and especially unforgiving when I spot fake joy in myself.

The studio is remarkable in that there are several angles that allow you to glimpse the sky. On either side of the high-ceilinged room, there are sky-facing windows high above eye level. As you cross the large, rectangle-shaped space, there is another antechamber with huge bow-shaped windows that look out onto the city and again, the sky.

During the first wave, I shared many beautiful dances. I had the thought that in Chaos, I could express the full range of every possible experience. My small mind said, “That’s impossible! No one can know everyone’s experience!” But another voice countered with, “I think that through deep connection and fully participating in the human field, we can and do express every possible human experience even within our own small selves.” Here, I found an incredible, expressive range. In one dance I stepped into moving with a woman who has a totally different center of gravity than me—in her waist, leaning back. I took on her gestures, finding new possibilities. She seemed delighted. We were both delighted.

I danced with everyone who showed up in front of me, including with a woman whose everything was totally different than mine. I showed up for it, experimenting with her gestures, and moving back and forth from there and into movements that felt more intuitive for me. Soon, we were instructed to pair with another two, then four. Shortly, we began to weave in and out of our new, larger group. Briefly, we formed a circle moving clockwise—a job we had failed at on Friday night (see previous post), but now managed with ease. I noticed the moving circle happily; and, too, noticed that the circle dissolved as soon as I noticed it. Before long, we were told to join another group. Again, we wove in and out of each other. Somehow, we all came together as one breathing group. I was in the middle, along with a friend who I feel protective of. At one point I slid down to the floor, and a hand pulled me back up. We pulsed together for many moments, smiling and nuzzling each other as we moved in unison.

We wordlessly agreed at once that it was time to invite space into our formation and began to move, liltingly, around the room, carrying our dance of connection with us. We reached out for each other, meeting each other’s hands, and often the hands of one, two, or even three other dancers at once, coiling gently around one another, passing under the clasped hands of a couple, delicately passing messages with different angles and pressures on the palm, wrists, back of hands, fingers. At some point, it turned into a party trick and I decided against it, but as the game overtook me again, I cheerfully surrendered.

One friend in the room was a man who I experience as incredibly precise. His dance is characterized by specificity, sometimes even by beautiful control. I was shocked when, years ago, we were asked to step up and dance in our “home rhythm” and he stepped up for Lyrical. I have many times contemplated that. I was so sure that he would have picked Staccato.

There was a pause in the dancing so Meaghan could use words to help deepen our understanding. Meaghan gathered us all into a big circle and asked that we each offer a gesture and say our name. She asked that the group mirror the gesture and say the person’s name together. I hate this activity! It is hard for me to distill myself into one gesture. Everything feels so contingent, so contextual, so complex. I overthink it. I got through it somehow, sharing a gesture that to me says, “I see you. My heart sees you. And I am happy to see you,” as I said “Meghan.”

Meaghan’s talk ranged vast territory. She moved with gliding grace as she sketched the parameters of a wave for the two new practitioners in the room. She talked then to more advanced practitioners, intending to dislodge misconceptions. For one, she explained, Lyrical can be seen as playful, perhaps even childish. It is that. It can be that, she elaborated. “But it is also the rhythm of maturity—the Dance of Maturity. The place we arrive at after we work with great commitment through each of the other rhythms.” She quoted Ani Defranco, saying “If you’re not getting happier as you get older, then you’re fucking up.”

After a ten-minute break, we re-convened. We were instructed to partner and I fell into an exquisite, breathy spin with a friend I have danced with for years. Meaghan offered us images of birds and wings—exactly the image I was already holding as we moved. At one point, we both came up quickly, our stomachs meeting, and dissolved into giggles. Before long, we extended our range, and swooped throughout the entire room, chasing and receding amongst our fellow dancers. At one point, we found each other in the outer orbit of the room and moved together in its arc, our heads nuzzling one another as we sailed along.

Often, my writing includes the comings and goings, the enterings and exitings between the dance floor and the not-dance-floor world. On this day, it was contained. I did not leave once. I had tea and leftover dinner from the night before with me. I had everything I needed on hand. I didn’t need or want to escape; and I was ready to start again long before the breaks were over.

Shortly before the end of the first break, I sat myself down in the exact center of the dance floor. I know it was the center because there was a taped x right underneath me. Although the room had dissolved into cheerful conversation, I had avoided conversation, or even eye contact. The truth is that I was feeling very sensitive. Also, I didn’t want to be dispersed, diluted. Something about my fundamental relationship to Lyrical seemed to be shifting, and it didn’t feel like a good time for small talk. Three friends came to join me, and I chatted and joked with them, anyway. I was happy that they wanted to be near me.

In a workshop format, we often gather on one end of the room, then receive some kind of instruction to carry us, dancing, to the other side of the room. Likely, there is a practical reason for this: an entire day of dancing can be grueling; and it gives us a chance to rest while others are traversing. Also, part of the practice is seeing and witnessing our fellow dancers, and, too, being seen and being witnessed.

Meaghan offered several Lyrical experiments and I sailed, elated, from one side of the room to the other. I don’t think it looked very differently from how I would have done this exercise in Chaos, but I felt completely lyrical, airborne, skywalking. 

One rambunctious friend stomped on a balloon that had been liberated from the artwork installation and everyone jumped, laughing. I danced over to him, smiling, rambunctious myself. My hands met his playfully, and we turned each other, laughing. Another couple intersected us and we dipped and melted right through them, under them, never missing a beat or losing eye contact. We spun each other, rolling our backs together while holding hands, then blended again into the room at large.

During the final wave, I was ecstatic—melted, de-materialized—and I shared an unexpected dance. I met the eyes of a man who frightens me a little because it seems like every time I have been in a workshop with him he has expressed anger or aversion during group conversations. During “Expand Lyrical” our eyes met with love, we reached our hands out to each other and shared an exquisitely sweet turn.

As I was leaving for the day, I connected with my precise friend, asking about his affiliation with Lyrical. He explained that he is absolutely Lyrical in nature, though as a result of leg injuries, it might not always look that way. “You’re Lyrical, right?” he asked. “I…I don’t know. I guess I’m coming out of the closet now! I feel like I’ve been cheating on Chaos! But yes, I do think I might be Lyrical.”

I exited and discovered the sidewalks wet with post-rain. I meandered the short distance to the car, looking skyward and counting my blessings. At the car, I found a parking ticket for $115. I tucked it away, without even a whispered curse word. Driving, I reviewed the events of the day. I have only seen four rainbows in my nearly twenty years in New York City, but as I crossed the Williamsburg Bridge toward home in Brooklyn, a rainbow appeared. I sobbed with gratitude and joy.

I dreamt of rainbows.

They came dancing in.

-Poem from 2010

 This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

Dancing From One Low Tide to the Next (Everything is Perfect)


One day during my last week in Nosara, Costa Rica, I danced from low tide at 5:30 in the morning until the next low tide over twelve hours later—from 5:30AM to nearly 5:30PM. This was not 5Rhythms practice, but rather an artwork performance, a ritual, and, indeed, an endurance event. It was beautiful to witness the site—a place I have grown to love at the farthest reach of Playa Pelada—go from the first light of day when the cliff island in front of me was completely in shadow and a group of buzzards slept perched on a tree, to morning, when the shadow slipped down the island’s cliffs, then mid-morning when the shadow edge moved to the sand and slipped across it, finally overtaking me and thrusting me into the full light of sun. The night before the performance, as I compiled the things I would need to survive it, my uncle said, “This isn’t just a performance artwork. It’s a vision quest!”

I left home and walked to the beach when light was just breaking. I had several bags of colored salt with me to use somehow, and realized right away exactly what I should do. I created a large, rainbow-colored spiral on the morning low-tide beach. For the duration of the first low tide, I interacted with this creation as my centerpiece; and an interesting construction arose. I moved again and again between the relative and the absolute—I would walk through the spiral into its middle and dance in absolute space, where it was crowded with spirits and guides; then, when I wanted to be in relative reality, I would coil back out of the spiral, and there consider my own psychology, things of the world, and the phenomena of the senses.

I had been very concerned about hiring a helper for the performance, since I was nervous about being alone on the beach throughout the entire day. I called a friend and asked if she knew anyone who might be interested in a day’s work. She said she would ask her boyfriend. I never heard back from her, so I assumed he was not available. Once I got to the beach and started to work, I was grateful that I didn’t have a helper after all; but, to my surprise, my friend’s boyfriend appeared, trotting good-naturedly down the beach. I explained how he could help, then returned to dancing. Not long after, I told him I realized that I could absolutely handle doing the piece by myself, but that he could keep some of the fee I had offered initially. We had a beautiful conversation during which he asked if I was doing a ritual of some sort. He also told me that it seemed very much like a Mayan dance, as they, too, had danced into spirals—a valuable connection that gave rise to many ideas. “Is this curative?” he asked. “Yes, absolutely,” I answered. “Quien quieres curar?” “Who are you trying to cure?” he asked next.

Moving into the middle of the large spiral was like moving into the middle of the earth. This image connected with something that arose during a long, intensive session with a Reiki master the previous week. In the Reiki master’s very capable hands, I was invited to “journey” and some of the images from my journey found their way into my dance. For example, I imagined that I accompanied a dragon through a volcano into the earth’s hot core. In the dance, I went inside the volcano of my vision, where the lava purified and cleansed me of obscurations. In the dance, I became large in the space of the earth’s core, almost like I was a baby pressing inside a mother’s womb. At the end of the session with the Reiki master, she offered to empower me with a Level I Reiki transmission; and I gratefully accepted her offer.

I was deeply affected by this experience with Reiki. Reiki is an energy-healing lineage wherein the Reiki practitioner channels and directs universal energy to invite positive transformation. In my case, transformation on many different levels took place at once. The teacher called on the Reiki spirits repeatedly, asking them to help when she gets “in the way.” She emphasized again and again turning toward light, and doing everything in service to light and love as she channeled the energy of the universe to help me to heal and to thrive.

At the beach, I stayed in Flowing for ages. Even with the excitement of the Reiki-influenced vision, I grew languid and was captured by the weight of inertia for some of the long period of the first low tide.

The very same day as the Reiki empowerment, my five-year-old son, Simon, and I were joined by my uncle and cousin, who would share our final week in Costa Rica. This was a slightly jarring transition, and I found myself irritable, trying my best to be loving and grounded, but not always succeeding. My uncle and cousin are very easy to love, but I noted the depth of the work I had done so far in the month and my aversion to abandoning my own deep engagement. Too, I noted the change in our relationship to the place. It felt like we shifted from being members of the community to being tourists. To make it more challenging, Simon started to act up—absolutely crowding my cousin’s space again and again. The two of them vied to be first, to get the biggest, to be the best, to unlock the door—anything and everything seemed to lead to bickering. My uncle and I have similar parenting styles, but when you are together every minute of every day for several days in a row, even small differences seem huge.

For the day of this long dance, my uncle had Simon and my cousin—his daughter—for the entire day, from sunrise to sunset. They came to see the performance at around 11AM, after I had already been dancing for five and a half hours. By then, one great wave had rolled up and erased the entire rainbow spiral design.

The swells of high tide crashing, swirling and colliding around the cliff island gave me a lot to respond to during the entire phase of high tide; and, despite feeling tired at moments, I became engaged and inspired. Rolling, turning, following the waves, walking the edges: I immersed myself in participating in the dynamic activity around me. At times, the waves coming from the two different sides of the cliff island faced off, crashing into each other, vying for dominance, pulling, pushing, twisting and receding—the soft plane of white salt bubbles moving calmly back beneath a newly presenting wave.


The woman who owns the (spectacular, beautiful) place we were staying, Nosara B&B Retreat Center, appeared during the early stages of high tide. She advised me that a friend and her sister were waiting at the Retreat Center to assist me with the piece. I was, as when my friend’s boyfriend appeared, confused. I had asked my friend if she knew anyone who might assist me with the performance, but since I hadn’t heard back from her, I assumed she hadn’t found anyone. I told the owner to please let my friend and her sister know that I worked it out, and no longer needed help. This was not without torn guts and stooped posture, however. I reflected that every action in the world involves a terribly high risk of causing harm. Self-dislike sparked, as I feared that I had taken people’s time lightly and failed to communicate. Though I realized no one was devastated, it still made me want to repair to a dark cave and live in seclusion.

My contemplation for the month was “Everything is perfect.” Many different takes on the phrase came to mind, but I especially considered the belief that absolutely everything that arises, including very uncomfortable or even painful feelings and events, are part of the exact material that we can use to wake up to our lives. Twelve hours of dancing gave me plenty of time to experience both sacred beauty and afflictive emotions, including self-dislike and the belief that I had caused harm.

My uncle was supportive when I shared this reflection during their visit to the performance. As they were leaving, he said, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” This wish touched me deeply. He also said, “It is great that you are willing to project this out. Not everyone is willing to do that.”

Owing in part to the blazing sun, the dance was more subtle than I had anticipated. I was grateful that I had not promoted it widely. Somehow, even the friends who were determined to come out and support could not find the site and did not, in the end, make it. Overall, the day evolved patiently. At around 2.30, I realized that if I did not sit down in the shade for a little while, I might faint or vomit. My uncle had the keys to the casita, or, to be completely honest, I might have called it a day and gone home. I found a small piece of broken surfboard and used it as a meditation cushion, settling into sitting meditation for over an hour in a tiny wedge of shade cast by a tall cliff. The landscape crawled, alive with hermit crabs, insects and lizards.

Gradually, the sun moved west and flared, illuminating the patient, gliding flights of the vultures—their shadows dancing over the sand. After this rest from exertion, I found another small burst of energy, dancing on the soft sand revealed again by the second low tide, dipping and casting a reverent arm toward the sea. I recalled my uncle’s wish of many hours before, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” Slowly, I brought the images of the many people in my life to mind and said to them, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” This was the only time during the day that tears erupted, as I moved softly, fascinated.

July 29, Nosara, Costa Rica

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

Being Worn Away in Bits


Pura vida literally means “pure life.” In Costa Rica, you hear it many times a day. I was trying to explain “pura vida” to my five-year-old son, Simon, yesterday. It means “life is extremely beautiful.” It can also mean “you are welcome, I offer this thing to you with grace and generosity.” Too, it can mean, “Yes, I totally agree with you,” or “We are so lucky to be alive.” It is often used as the closing for a note or for the end of a satisfying conversation. It implies a kind of presence, joy and wholeheartedness; and, when uttered, acts as a reminder to take note of the spectacular moment that is unfolding.

The contemplation “Everything is Perfect” at first seemed too obvious. In so many ways, everything is perfect here. Costa Rica is the closest I have been to paradise. For the last few days, however, the complex meaning of the phrase has been apparent—that absolutely everything that arises in our path is part of the material we use to wake up, even (and especially) the afflictive emotions—such as grief, anxiety, jealousy, anger, self-hate, blame and guilt.

On the way to Simon’s school, a large, black dog barked viciously and chased us. We can only drive about 10 mph in the golf cart we are getting around town in; and I floored it, afraid that the dog might actually try to attack us. This was the 5th or 6th time this happened, and I found myself imaging how I would kill the dog if it tried to attack Simon. Adrenalin lingered in my legs for a long time after.

On the way back to the beach after dropping Simon off, I crossed paths with a woman who makes my blood boil. Two nights before, she had attacked Simon and his slightly-younger friend, claiming that Simon’s friend was unkind to a smaller child, and complaining that they were being destructive in the restaurant. I was flooded. I didn’t know what to make of it! I had lagged behind by just a minute or two, and I didn’t have any idea what she was talking about. When I arrived she was speaking with anger and contempt to the two children. The woman was accompanied by an acquaintance—a woman I know because she is lodged, along with her small son, at our previous hotel. Simon met her son on his own, and went to great lengths to share a prized toy he thought the little boy might like. I went to call him back to our room, and found him speaking with the toddler in the gentlest possible tone—explaining something from a big boy perspective.

I was totally thrown off by the woman’s aggression. After I got the boys settled, I went to speak with my acquaintance to gather information. She expressed that on other occasions, my friend’s son had been “mean” to her small son—that when the baby said “I’m Spiderman!” my friend’s son said, “No, you’re not!” repeatedly, causing the child to cry. I asked where, when? She said it had happened at various restaurants, recently. She also claimed that other parents had agreed with her and shared similar stories. I was still very thrown off. I said, “I can see how that would be upsetting. He is just four years old, you know! He looks much older, but he is just four. We will work with it! He is just a little kid.” I told my friend something upsetting had happened, and sketched only the vaguest details, planning to have a conversation with her at another time. Though I dance at a remote edge of the beach, this woman has crossed my dancing path there three times since this incident, forcing me to look at my reaction to her and to attend to its insights.

In addition to these challenges, there are problems at home. For one, I am having a serious problem with a roommate in Brooklyn. She had a lawyer send a threatening letter and I feel bullied and disempowered. Also, I just found out that, although I wore a robe and attended graduation, I did not graduate from my most recent program of study. It seems that I failed to fill out some kind of form. Which could pose problems for my employment. In the idiosyncratic recesses of my mind, both events were causes for self-abuse.

I parked at Playa Pelada, and set out for the farthest reach of the beach, carrying all of this with me. There was so much to move! I consciously set out to move it, settling into a long Flowing dance. I moved with incredible patience, imaging that I could dance for hours and hours if need be.

Simon had been all over me the day before—clingy, impatient, demanding. We had planned to have dinner with friends, but a torrential rainstorm kept them home. I didn’t have any way to contact them, so we went anyway and waited. In Flowing, I realized that Simon is lonely here in Costa Rica at times. We have been here for just three weeks, really. He doesn’t have the same kind of networks that he has at home. The other day he told me, “Everyone else at school has a sister or brother to help them, but I don’t have anyone.” Dancing, I wished (as so often happens) that I had been more patient and supportive of him. The truth of it struck me and I cried as I moved. I thought of a time when he said, his face crumpled and crying uncontrollably, “Mommy, you are being mean!”

Despite the fact that we had a beautiful day together, including playing happily in the waves at length, I held the discordant part of the experience most tightly. My self-talk was appalling as I began to move.

I had sent my friend an email about what happened at the restaurant with our sons. But I also decided to add that I had seen a little meanness in her son, too, especially when I had both boys for the afternoon the previous week, and again a few days later. I even said that she gives her son a lot of freedom and could, possibly, be missing some of the behaviors that are coming up.

As I moved into Staccato, I gave up on staying in the shade, and used up as much space as I needed. I grew sharp, expanding to my maximum volume and contracting again, moving fast and covering vast ground. On Saturday, I went dancing with the same friend. We went first to a swank, new club, where an indie-rock band from Guatemala called Easy Easy and a sexy female hipster MC from Mexico unleashed a dancing storm. I couldn’t stop moving. Though the crowd stayed mostly in a happy groove, I found a huge range, expressing edges, deep hips—freedom, specificity, sexuality. The party shifted to Cumbia and Regaton and still this vibrant inspiration sustained itself. Later, we went to Tropicana—the only discotequa in Nosara. Still, I couldn’t stop moving, even as we walked out to head home, even in the parking lot. I was reminded that I was born a dancer. We are all born dancers!

My friend told me, “It was so great to dance with you! You are such a good dancer! You are such a free spirit, especially when you dance!” On the beach yesterday, as I started to move, I felt like the exact opposite. I was conflicted, self-abusive, small, hesitant, doubting. Anything but free.

Gabrielle Roth, the creator of the 5Rhythms practice, would say famously, “5Rhythms is not free dance. It is dance that frees.” My friend asked if I was a 5Rhythms teacher and I said, “No, I wish! My circumstances make it hard for me to complete the pre-requisites to apply and to undergo the training even if I was accepted.” She asked if I could just do a sort-of-like 5Rhyhms-y thing and start teaching kids. I said, “There is no way to do that. All of the teachers—every single one of them—is fucking amazing. They have to undergo thousands and thousands of hours of very targeted training. It is no small thing. It is not like yoga where you can do a 200-hour training, then start calling yourself an expert. There is also a lot of oversight, intended to keep the tradition from becoming corrupted.”

Although you don’t need to know anything about the system to benefit from practicing 5Rhythms, there is actually a very precise system that reveals itself in stages, only as we are ready to receive it. It is important to note that the independent journey I have embarked on this month is technically not 5Rhythms, since there is no certified teacher guiding the practice. That being said, ultimately, I think 5Rhythms leads us back to ourselves, and that if we practice with deep commitment and integrity, we can recover our birthright—to dance with complete, undefiled freedom—which, in the end, transcends even the 5Rhythms system.

As Staccato started to take me over, my body returned to the movements I found at the dance clubs on Saturday; and I sang the chorus of one song again and again. I started to leave the small, damaged self behind and to inhabit my power—explosive, expressive, precise, clear. I could really stamp my feet on the soft sand without fear of injury, and I lept—crouching and rising, circling, advancing, retreating—landing repeatedly in a deep, square-kneed squat with my arms, also, squared and raised.

On the beach with Simon on Saturday, a little yoga movement pulled me into a gigantic dance. Simon buried my foot with sand, and I told him it reminded me of when he was little and he would cling to my ankle in class while I danced. With this one constraint, I found powerful expression that I never would have found without the element of resistance that he provided. He tried to get sand on my feet and I danced away, changing direction fast, following my own high kicks, looping toward him and away. He laughed and started to throw more sand at me—all part of our game. Despite the challenges I have experienced lately, dance has been incredibly available, in everything, in every moment.

Chaos found me again, crying, released. The waves, the broad-leaved green trees, the cliffs, the vultures soaring overheard, the sand, all flashed together as I spun, dipped and whirled. Group 5Rhythms practice offers many opportunities for insight and healing, but individual practice leaves me mercilessly alone with myself and wears me away in bits. I can’t pretend that anything that arises comes from anyone but myself. I had the idea that the meanness I was afraid of with my son’s friend might really be my own fear of meanness in myself, and by extension and projection—in my own son. The thought was painful, difficult. I let it go again, subsumed in the casting circles of Chaos.

Often, Lyrical and Stillness are almost afterthoughts when I practice individually, but that wasn’t the case this time. Lyrical found me soaring, touching the yielding sand, drifting to the sky. A large group of vultures circled overhead. One vulture alone is not very interesting—just a long gliding arc, but in this case, an entire matrix of the huge, black birds, with two groups at different altitudes moved soundlessly above me. I curved and moved with them, gently, my body a matrix, too, crossing over myself as the birds crossed each other in the air. I continued to move gently—feeling the wind drying the sweat on my exposed skin, turning me slowly, toward or away from it. A tiny, yellow butterfly gasped along—clear on the other side of the cove; and I followed it with my motions, adding a tiny flutter to my slow, wind-carved gesture.

My friend wrote about the restaurant incident, “Don’t get pulled into currents that aren’t yours. I’m surprised you were so affected by it and actually believed them or began looking at (child’s name) through their perspective, which of course will influence your reception.”

The vultures—with such a reputation for bullying and meanness—when held in the vast blue space of the sky were no less than sublime. After all of this moving, I sat quietly in a clear tide pool in full sun. My half-closed eyes perceived golden reflected light ripples on the underside of my hat. Tiny fish lingered around me. A bright sunspot dazzled the corner of my vision.

July 20, 2015, Nosara, Costa Rica

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

Love is Love

This blog consists of my own subjective experiences on the 5Rhythms® dancing path, and is not sanctioned by any 5Rhythms® organization or teacher.

In the last post, I wrote about the intensive Mirrors workshop, Jane Selzer’s 5Rhythms class at my local YMCA, and a subtle prejudice that had crept into my mind—craving the “depth” that I experienced in the Mirrors workshop and believing the comparatively brief weekly classes were not as “deep.” In Tammy’s weekly class on Friday night, I found fathomless depths, the brief dissolution of my mind’s limiting stories, and the unbound capacity of breath and spirit.

I arrived a few minutes late to the first truly hot session of the summer. I spent a moment stretched out on the floor, but felt compelled to start moving through the room almost immediately, finding my Flow in relationship to the other moving bodies around me.

That afternoon, I heard an interview with the actress Maria Bello on NPR, who just published a book called, “Whatever…Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves.” When her son finally asked why she was spending so much time with her best friend, who had become her girlfriend, she told him they had become a couple. He responded, “Whatever, Mom! Love is love,” prompting the title of the book. She said she felt compelled to write about her own relationships when she was at a party with her son, her son’s father, her girlfriend and other friends and family. She was moved by how much love filled the room, and wanted to share her experience.

Flowing on Friday was nothing less than delicious. I was drenched within the first half hour of class, and my muscles quivered with all they were letting go of. In the previous week, I had been through a serious professional crisis, had graduated with my second master’s degree, and had been entangled in red tape, working through various issues and obstacles. As I moved around I met many people’s eyes, smiling, adapting a practice of Thich Nhat Han’s and saying internally, “I see you dancing there, and I am grateful for it.”

It wasn’t totally clear to me when Staccato arose based on the music, but once it was undeniable, I partnered with a woman I love to dance with. Our exhales became sharp, almost erotic and we used the directions—to find a way to define the empty space between us—as a jumping-off point for our investigation. Staccato found me creative, expansive, eager to experiment; and I carried that deep-hipped, close-in dance to my next partnership.

Usually I can remember many details of how the wave evolved and unfolded, but this time, it remains a blur, even as I read my notes from Friday. I took on Tammy’s suggestion, that we dissolve, that we let the dissolving happen. Chaos welcomed me then and I slipped completely inside—occasionally delighting in an arising edge, then moving again into spinning, rising, falling effortlessness.

Maria Bello was speaking my language. When I was in my early 20’s a psychic read my tarot cards. He listed several loves and lovers, including “Angela.” I had only dated men; and I couldn’t figure out what he meant. Shortly after our meeting, it hit me. “Angela! Oh! I know who he means by Angela!” Angela was this beautiful girl I had danced with at an all night party. She came up to me and said, “I think you are cute; and I want to dance with you,” smiling mischievously and looking me right in the eye. Our dance lasted a long time, and was as erotic an exchange as you could possibly experience. It hit me that that was love, too. After that experience, I went through a period of identifying as queer—I had more than one girlfriend, frequented women’s bars, attended Pride events, and even joined a social group for bisexual women. In the 1990’s, it felt important to stand up and be counted. It was, and still is, a political movement facing a lot of prejudice and hatred. Even then, I only very briefly took on a particular label. My relationships were very fluid and dynamic—even if I was with one person for a brief period. When I met the father of my son with whom I shared a monogamous, committed relationship for eight years, I continued to believe in the fluid, alive nature of relationships; and we collaborated in creating our alliance with this in mind. I still don’t mind if anyone wants to claim me as LGBT, but defining my sexuality—just as defining any other part of me—has not been an important concern for the last many years.

I had all of this in mind when I stepped into Tammy’s class on Friday—which is perhaps why Chaos had so much appeal. Tammy’s invitation to dissolve brought to mind the labels we put on sexuality; and I stepped across the threshold into Chaos with abandon—letting labels, stories, definitions, ideas of separateness and my own beliefs about who I am fly around in the air about my spinning body.

Chaos opened seamlessly into Lyrical. There was no dialogue in my mind. Several dancers who appeared to be in a similar energetic state magnetized together; and we moved in the same field, eventually finding the ground and moving with it as another partner. I felt quivery, liquid-like, whispery as Stillness manifested.

Tammy did not hold us in a pause to deliver verbal instructions between the two waves as is the usual custom, and instead moved us from this extraordinary space right into the next wave and into Flowing. I found movement easily and could palpably perceive that my energy field was intermingled with everyone else’s—the same “passing through” that I wrote about in a recent post.

Before class, I had showed a room for rent to a man who was going through the break up of a long-term relationship. We sat in the back yard chatting at length; and he shared that he wanted to establish a strong friendship with the mother of his two children, though they would no longer be a couple. I said, “Yes, I relate. My son’s father, my recently former partner (I have never found a phrase that feels right) and I have a beautiful friendship. It is not easy! There is so much cultural pressure to hate your ex.” He agreed, and I said, “The thing is, it really isn’t that important what form the love takes.” (Which prompted him to say he had just heard about this great interview with Maria Bello…)

I remain committed to the position that depth is anywhere you care to find it, and propose, in addition, that love exists anywhere you care to look.

May 31, 2015, Brooklyn, NYC