In 1993, I began attending a spiritual dance class on Sunday mornings . It was started by a well-known local alternative therapist and many of the attending members learned of it through their own therapy or recovery process. The format was non-verbal and followed a sequence of five basic rhythms as pioneered by a former professional dancer named Gabrielle Roth. According to Roth's theory, in moving successfully through all of life's processes or activities there are five basic rhythms of life-feeling: 1. flowing (fear), 2. staccato (anger), 3. chaos (sadness/letting go), 4. lyrical (joy), and 5. stillness (compassion). This sequence of rhythms, if successfully achieved or lived through, constitutes a spiritual death-rebirth cycle, thus facilitating a holistic healing movement both in and through the life process itself. The dance activity was used as a tool or metaphor for allowing the body to learn this natural healing process.
For each weekly class, a facilitator brought several instrumental soundtracks to match each of the five basic rhythms and gave verbal instructions such as asking members to pair with a partner or to switch partners. The first three dance rhythms belong to the earth, with a rhythmic stepping back and forth between the grounded feet. The rhythm of flowing is basically feminine in nature and involves smooth, flowing, unending circular movements through which fear may be navigated safely without becoming destructive to self or others. This is followed by Staccato ---a masculine rhythm--- characterized by sharp, straight, angular movements initiated upon each powerful exhale and often directed outward from the body, symbolically representing directed anger. The chaos movement then starts as a slow rocking between the two feet and builds up to a flailing of the entire head, arms and upper body, like a loose ragdoll completely losing control. It is accompanied by intense and powerful drum music building to the climax of completely letting go.
The lyrical rhythm is not earthbound, but rather thrives in the air. It is the leaping energy of a childlike sprite, spontaneously emerging in those that have learned to completely experience and honor their earthbound feelings of fear, anger and sadness, so that they may release them. This movement belongs to the magical world of playful innocence, that is each human child's birthright. The final rhythm, stillness, is the deep peace, wisdom, and connectedness that emerges after having returned to and lived one's childlike spontaneity and inner joy. It is often performed by connecting silently in meditation with the eyes of a partner.