Within the realm of so-called conscious clubbing, 5Rhythms has come to the fore as a great way to unwind and get out of your head and into your body without the need for external substances. Taking place in a totally sober environment, the practice is one that can have highly transformative effects on those who participate in the liberating atmosphere it encourages. DLTM traveled to Vauxhall in south London, where we took part in a 5Rhythms session called ‘Sweaty Thursdays’ hosted by Christian de Sousa (of Dancing Tao) at the beautiful St. Peter’s Church. There we also met Richard Wiltshire, an avid follower of Christian’s sessions, who has witnessed big changes in his own life thanks to the rhythm-based dance event…
Five Rhythms then, what’s it all about? On Christian’s website, Dancing Tao, it states, “The Rhythms are called Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness, and together in sequence form a Wave. Simple, archetypal, creative and vast in potential, the 5Rhythms are a potent map to body presence and soul realisation.” In addition to this, we learned that the 5Rhythms invite: fluidity (Flowing), rhythmical movement (Staccato) embodied surrender (Chaos), expansion (Lyrical) and presence (Stillness).
What that translates to is an absolutely rollicking time, should you invest all of your energy into the experience and discard any inhibitions (or not). 5Rhythms, for some, is a means to unbridled self-expression on a par with some of the most euphoric moments you might have in a club environment. During the class we went to, which lasts for two hours, we gradually edged towards to a feeling of liberation that’s very rare to find these days. There is no talking, which encourages everyone to communicate through body language and eye contact: smiles and knowing glances and gestures. Subtle movement that speaks to our innate understanding of the world around us. The brain is able to process what’s happening around us at such a high level that there is very little chance of invading someone’s space, bumping into someone or some other such faux pas.
This connectivity with the people in the room, of whom there were over 100, and with one’s own body was empowering and gave us a sense of freedom in every movement. To speak of it in this kind of tone, intellectually, gives the practice the level of respect it deserves, but if we were to present it to the everyday person who may not be spiritually, or intellectually, motivated, then we’d tell them that it’s a bloody good laugh. 5Rhythms is a huge amount of fun, where the enjoyment factor increases as the night goes on, lifting you up to heady heights and ending with a gloriously relaxing climax.
Rich has been practicing 5Rhythms since 2005, and credits the dance event with saving his life. Starting out with Tai-Chi and being an avid participant in squat parties, he was introduced to 5Rhythms via ID Spiral, a collective that put on squat raves, which also had a community space in Camberwell, south London, where they held conscious events. “I went to 5Rhythms and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing. This is what I’ve been missing all these years’, and I started going to the Vauxhall class after that,” Rich explains. He now leads his own classes, guiding people through the 5Rhythms several times a month. He continues, “I was 30, and it had an appeal because it was so different. There was space to move, space to express myself, I could dance the way I wanted to dance.”
Rich’s point was demonstrated perfectly throughout the evening DLTM attended at 5Rhythms. There is no uniform way that everyone moves, little conformity, in fact we witness a myriad movements and dance styles at St. Peter’s. One of his mantras is to ‘dance your dance’, he repeats this several times, reiterating the notion that everyone has their own dance inside of them, and 5Rhythms allows them to release and embrace that fully. Some people may just stand there with their arms swinging loosely from side to side, others may hop, skip and jump from one side of the dance floor to the other. There was a broad spectrum of styles on display, which change and morph with the music itself as the night progresses.
“5Rhythms helped me find who I am. In life you can feel a bit lost, using booze and drugs to numb your feelings to get through the week, the month, the year… Through the classes I was like, ‘This is who I am, this is what I want to do, and this is how I want to be,” Rich says. Adding, “It’s so easy to get stuck in patterns; that daily routine, that weekly routine, you get constrained by that. We get comfortable in those patterns, we get safe; it’s safe to be in that nine to five, it’s safe to be in that relationship, sometimes we need to break out of those. Attending 5Rhythms really helps with that.”
Rich also credits 5Rhythms with helping him through some tough times, “I’ve had a lot of health issues over the last 10 years and I don’t think I would have successfully got through them if I hadn’t have been attending 5Rhythms. The mental stress of going through all of that and the physical pressure of having a chronic illness was freed up by 5Rhythms,” he explains. Certainly during our time at the event, it became apparent that there is the potential to release stress, angst and tension and to, eventually, heal one’s self.
We also spoke to Christian de Sousa, the main man at 5Rhythms in Vauxhall. Speaking about his route into the dance practice, he told DLTM, “I’d always loved music and I started raving when I was 17. I was going to free parties because I’m from Norfolk and that was what was happening there; in the woods, on old airstrips, wherever people could put on events. I’d always enjoyed music, but when I started raving I was like, ‘Oh wow, dancing!’. Moving my body was a whole new way to enjoy music. Then there was the chemical side of things and the extraordinary experiences that came with that.”
After moving to Brighton, Christian began to experiment with partying without chemical influences. “I heard a rumour about this thing called ‘wave dancing’ and you get really sweaty and it’s pretty wild, but I never found it, it was always this rumour.”
In 1998 Christian finally encountered the ‘wave thing’, he explains, “When I moved to London I heard about 5Rhythms and I thought that was it, the ‘wave thing’. I went with a couple of friends and I’d found it. It brought together all those elements; the music, the embodiment, the release of dancing, the group energy and the ecstatic surrender.” Christian was hooked and he attended classes and workshops on a regular basis, eventually being tutored under Susannah and Ya’Acov Darling Khan, who now run the School of Movement Medicine, followed by Gabrielle Roth – a woman who he calls one of the ‘grandmothers of conscious dance’.
Now holding his own classes in Vauxhall, where DLTM might add, he plays superbly with a DJ controller and laptop set up to fill St. Peter’s Church full of immersive rhythms that really cultivate an environment where you can find your dance and explore it to its full potential. His aim has been to bring 5Rhythms to a younger demographic (though the classes comprise a good mixture of ages) by playing good quality, ‘underground’ electronic music. “When I first started it was intended to be for older people and it had, and still has to a degree, a ‘rainbow hippie vibe’ to it, some people go to certain classes and it puts them off – but I like the diversity of it, there are so many teachers who put on different types of 5Rhythms classes. Some people integrate meditation into their practice while others use more psycho therapeutic disciplines.”
“It’s got a really important part to play in ‘the revolution’ and in people adopting more conscious lifestyles,” he says. “Not everyone dances or places much emphasis on dancing, but most people do have some kind of physical response to rhythm and to music, at the basic level that’s all it is. It’s up to those of us that practice it to merge those simplistic ideals and the roots of dance with contemporary urban life.”
And therein lies the success of his venture. It brings together elements that so many people, young or old, can relate to; dancing, fun, expression, tension/stress release, community, socialising, happiness, laughter, music… elements that perhaps, some nightclubs are now devoid of. DLTM considers what it would be like to express one’s self the way you can at 5Rhythms in many of London’s best-known clubs and how ridiculous it would be to attempt that. An aggressive and/or judgmental response would be very likely, sadly, a lot of club spaces have become superficial arenas in which one poses or conforms.
Events like 5Rhythms fill the void left behind by the increasingly inhibiting atmosphere at nightclubs – for that, and a myriad other reasons, the movement is essential.