I’ve just returned home after dancing 5 Rhythms in the Universal Hall with about fifty other sweaty Findhornians of all ages. I’m feeling inspired and energised, so much so that I’ve decided to write this post about dance in our community.

We’re a community that loves to dance and 5 Rhythms is just one of the many forms we enjoy in regular sessions, classes and workshops.* Others include: Open Floor, Sacred Dance, Céilidh and Biodanza. And there are at least four other dance forms I can think of (Ecstatic Dance, Biodanza, Belly Dancing and Contact Improvisation) that periodically beguile us here in Findhorn, all of these forms are celebrations of life, love and the joy of being human. Every few weeks, we hold a dance party in our Community Centre which has an excellent new sound system and mood lighting. And of course, there’s dancing at private parties as well. Finally, we boast a resident dance company, Bodysurf Scotland, which has delivered dance activities, performances, workshops and events for over ten years. Based in the Universal Hall, their vision is to be an international centre for dance in Scotland. Findhorn is undoubtedly a haven for those who like to dance.

My personal journey with dance is not dissimilar to the one I’ve had with singing (which I wrote about in the post title, Taizé). I’ve spent most of my life convinced that I was irredeemably poorly coordinated and feeling awkward and self conscious when dancing. But Findhorn has cured me! It’s taken a while, but over the years as I’ve slowly been drawn into the culture and the social milieu here, I’ve relaxed and opened to the joys of dancing. I believe that my journey of personal growth is, in good part, due to the high quality of our social relationships, which are generally loving, trusting and non-judgemental. In an atmosphere of trust amongst close friends, such as I experienced in the Hall tonight, self-consciousness goes away, leaving one fearless and free to explore one’s edges i.e. self-imposed limitations. Tonight, my dancing was truly joyful and liberated in a way that just five years ago, I would not have imagined possible.

5 Rhythms was first developed by New York’s Gabrielle Roth in the 1970s. She drew on mystical, shamanist and indigenous sources as well as transpersonal psychology, particularly Gestalt. Lasting between one and two hours, the 5 Rhythm ‘wave’, as it’s called, comprises five different phases (rhythms) in strict sequence: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. The dancers are guided by changing musical moods orchestrated by a certified teacher. This evening’s playlist had a distinctly Scottish flavour in recognition of this week’s referendum. But this is unusual; generally there are no such overtones. Rather, the music is interpreted by each dancer in a highly personal way, “opening them to a new sense of freedom and possibility that is both surprising and healing, exhilarating as well as deeply restorative”.** 5 Rhythms is said to be a meditation, such that body movement is used to still the mind. And tonight I really had a glimpse of that. I danced with abandon, free from self-consciousness. As the saying goes, I danced ‘as if nobody was watching’.

In the last few months we have enjoyed a new dance form in the community. Called, Open Floor,*** it is a derivative of 5 Rhythms that has emerged since the death of Gabrielle Roth two years ago. Apparently, in what seems to have been a chaotic succession process, several long-term 5 Rhythms trainers who worked closely with Roth fell out with the organisation. It has to be said that Roth kept a very tight control on her intellectual property and the manner in which 5 Rhythms was taught, promoted and spread around the world. The disaffected trainers established Open Floor as an alternative dance form and are administering its development and promulgation in a quite different manner. They use sociocracy to ensure a flat management structure and democratic decision-making process. Furthermore, Open Floor is held under Creative Commons licence, ensuring that it will spread and flourish free from control. I haven’t yet danced a session of Open Floor so am not going to describe it here. However, I understand that, like 5 Rhythms, it invites embodiment of whatever is going on for the dancer: feelings, emotions, thoughts and passions. And that through the process, comes healing and liberation.

Sacred Dance has been closely associated with Findhorn ever since Hungarian, Bernhard Wosien, introduced it to our community in the 1970s. He was a professional dancer and professor of dance who collected traditional circle (folk) dances from throughout Europe, seeking to preserve traditions that were being lost. At Findhorn we recognised the spiritual dimension of these dances and the practice took hold. It has been a strong feature of the culture ever since. We typically hold one or two sessions per week and include a taste of Sacred Dance in our introductory, Experience Week programme. I can still vividly recall the Sacred Dance session in my FX (as we call Experience Week) some nine years ago. We had our eyes closed for the final dance to extremely slow meditative music (Pachelbel’s Canon, I think), starting in a widespread circle but magically ending up in a tightly clustered clump in the centre of the room. The feeling of oneness, of connection with others, stayed with me for days. The experience was a revelation, especially given that the last time I had done any folk dancing was as a very reluctant primary school pupil. I hated it back then; I enjoy it immensely now. I generally enjoy Sacred Dance once a week during Sunday Taizé, which begins with one or two circle dances of a particular type. Known as Dances of Universal Peace, these are Sufi in origin, danced at a very slow meditative pace. They involve singing or chanting by the participants and invariably induce strong feelings of connectedness and group harmony, joy and peace. I also make a point of participating in our annual Festival of Sacred Dance held at Easter. These week long events attract dedicated dancers from around the world, some of whom have been coming regularly since the ‘70s. This video is a 10 minute trailer for a much longer movie about Sacred Dance at Findhorn. The full length version is available here.

Céilidh, traditional Scottish dancing, is the third dance type that occurs regularly at Findhorn. The term céilidh is derived from the Old Irish céle meaning companion. It’s a traditional social gathering, common amongst Gaelic-speaking peoples of Ireland, Scotland and parts of England. Céilidh is an essential part of the community glue of these cultures. Traditionally, guests would play music and recite songs, stories and poetry. Sometimes they would dance. This style of event continues in some areas but in recent decades, dancing has predominated. Céilidhs are traditionally held in a community hall and occasionally on a smaller scale in houses and pubs. The music, if live, is usually provided by the likes of pipes, fiddle, flute, accordion and drums. The music is cheerful and lively, as are the dances. The basic dance steps can be learned easily; instructions are provided for the uninitiated before the start of each dance. Here at Findhorn, céilidhs are taught regularly and held on special occasions (such as weddings and festivals) and at the conclusion of conferences, courses and other events. They’re an opportunity for guests to learn something of our Gaelic culture and for all attending to enjoy a congenial social gathering with old and newfound friends.

I’d like to hand the last word on dance at Findhorn to my delightful neighbour, Anna Barton, a long-time resident who’s been one of the forces behind Sacred Dance here. These words were written about Sacred Dance but I think they equally apply to the entire gamut of dance offerings here in Findhorn. She writes:
At the Findhorn Foundation, the purpose is to enjoy dancing together in a totally non-competitive way, to learn that it is possible for everyone to dance together, young and old alike, to feel self confident in a group that is supportive rather than critical and to be able to feel in contact with the earth, spirit and each other through the different qualities of each dance. It is also used as a tool to channel a healing energy for the dancers and for the rest of the planet”.****

* The calendar in this week’s Rainbow Bridge, our community newsletter, reveals formal opportunities for dancing on at least seven occasions:
Thu 11: 7.30 pm, Open Floor Movement
Sun 13: 9.30 am, Sacred Dance; 7 pm, 5 Rhythms
Tues 16: 7.30 pm, Shakti Spirit Dance for Women
Wed 17: 7 pm, Sacred Dance
Fri 19: 8 pm, Ceilidh
Sat 20: 7.45 pm, James’s Dancing Scottish

** www.5rhythms.com/

*** See http://openfloor.org/

**** Go here for the full article.