The room at the Coloma Community Center on T and 46th streets is laid out as a vast, open floor space. As a newcomer, I am encouraged and welcomed by the sight of veterans of this weekly practice. Already, there are people around the room, moving rhythmically to the soft music. More people shuffle in, exchange greetings, shuck their shoes and baggage of the day, and ready themselves to dance.
Gabrielle Roth developed the 5Rhythms Dance workshops as a form of movement meditation. The five rhythms—flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness—are dictated by the music. There are no boundaries, no rules for the dance. Everyone is instructed to listen to the self and express what lies within. Much like yoga, it is a way to center the breath, exercise the body and free the mind.
In Sacramento, physical therapist Bella Dreizler shares the 5Rhythms practice in this space. She leads the Thursday-evening practices as more of a guided dance meditation, but the Sunday morning “Sweat Your Prayers” sessions are two hours of purely uninhibited dance. No rules, no guidance, just flow.
I attended on a warm Thursday night to find out what it was all about. I arrived unsure of my own body. I hadn't danced like this in years, but from a dancer's standpoint, I was ready to let the music move me. From a skeptic’s standpoint, however, I was like, “Really?”
Then, the music started, and Dreizler talked us through the motions. I was expecting Enya-type New Age music—a little cowbell or maybe some didgeridoo—but instead, she played myriad sounds, including instrumental jazz flute, big-band swing and salsa.
I closed my eyes and listened. I couldn't help it. My body began to move. My feet tapped, my hips swayed, my arms flailed. I'm sure I hit someone.
But no one cared. Everyone else was doing their own thing, and I really mean their own thing. Hearing the music in our own ways—honestly, I wasn't sure if we were all hearing the same tunes—there was an understood acceptance of everyone's movements. While I was twerkin’ my robot arms to Latin jazz, others shook, leapt and rolled to the music.
Through the haze of my sweat-drenched hair, I could only make out the shapes of the other dancers. My heart was pounding to the beat of the music. There were no thoughts in my head other than, “Move.” I wasn't thinking of anyone else in the room or anything in my life outside the room. All I heard was the music, and it fed my body like a burger after a long workout.
As we sat in a circle at the end of class, all breathing heavily on each other, I figured out why people are drawn to meditation practices like this. This is probably about the closest we middle-class yuppies striving for a sense of community and spiritual connection are ever going to get to tribal dancing.
Or maybe people just like to get down, get funky and let it all out. No judgment.