Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Interview with Dr. Rachel Jordana, Founder of Creative Dance Psychology

Dr. Rachel Jordana Horodezky, Psy.D25159 is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of California and the founder of Creative Dance Psychology. She holds a private psychotherapy practice in Santa Cruz, CA and teaches workshops internationally. Her mission in life to get more people dancing. For more information please visit www.creativedancepsychology.com.

Exciting news: CREATIVE DANCE PSYCHOLOGY IS COMING TO TORONTO in May 2013. Dr. Rachel Jordana Horodezky, clinical psychologist and founder of Creative Dance Psychology will revisit her Toronto roots from her home in Santa Cruz, California to offer Toronto its first taste of Creative Dance Psychology. The Introduction to Creative Dance Psychology Weekend Workshop will be held Saturday, May 11 to Sunday, May 12, 2013 and is open to anyone wishing to explore traditional psychological interventions through expressive movement in the safety of the Creative Dance Psychology context. Contact robbiesea@gmail.com (local producer), racheljordana@gmail.com, or visit www.creativedancepsychology.com for more information.

I caught up with Dr. Horodezky on her last visit to Toronto in November. Here's what she had to say about this exciting fusion of Creative Dance and Psychology:

Robbie Wychwood (RW): What is Creative Dance Psychology (CDP)?

Dr. Rachel Jordana Horodezky (DRJH): 
"CDP is a seven layer system that spans the psyche from a microcosm of the self (who are we independently) all the way to the macrocosm of the collective unconscious. So, not only ‘who’ are we as a group; but who are we as a group ‘unconsciously.’ "

RW: What are the seven layers of CDP and how do we work with them?

DRJH: "The seven layers are: the self, relationships, families, community, ancestry, culture and the collective unconscious. 

You can do a full week long, even month long workshops in each layer, as each layer is infinitely interesting. But, even in a day long, or in a weekend long, especially in the introductions, we touch upon each layer. Because, how can you not: -all of this, although we can examine it independently, is intertwined.

In the introductory workshop, which touches very briefly on the seven layers. With each round of dancing and processing, everyone takes off another layer, let’s down the guard separating them from each other, and goes deeper. Each person shares more about what is happening in their life and is more willing to be vulnerable, more willing to be authentic, and also is more willing to create healing: -to put themselves in the position where they have the opportunity to work through really deep material.

Even in the focused workshops the layers cannot exist completely independently.  For example, the layer of ‘the self’ and the layer of ‘ancestry’ is hard to distinguish, because in a way, you ‘are’ your ancestors, and in a way your ancestors are ‘you.’  If you look at the layer of ‘relationships’ and the layer of ‘community,’ who are you ‘in relationship’ in community? We can also put the seven layers next to each other and see how each layer intersects with the others."

RW: Do I have to do an introduction to CDP workshop before doing any particular CDP layer workshop intensively? Is it a nested form? ‘Self’-layer before ‘relationship’-layer, and ‘relationship’-layer before ‘community’-layer etc? 

DRJH: "No. You can go to any workshop at any time. There is no prerequisites for each other for any of the different CDP workshops. The exceptions are with the facilitator training. You have to come to at least one workshop to attend a level one facilitator training. The level one facilitator training is a basic overall introduction of the teaching. It doesn’t give you a whole lot to actually start teaching. The level one facilitator training is a prerequisite for the level two."

RW: What would you say would be the intention as a participant? What is my goal?

DRJH: "Different people come in with different intentions. Usually the way it works is at the beginning of the workshop I will have people create an intention, say whatever it is they are working on. So, they can get some insight and healing around the topic. The larger overall intention is to feel better, to feel connected, to have some healing, to make some changes in your life, and to find some resolution in something that you have got a problem with. The specifics differ for everyone."

RW: Why CDP? Why not just Creative Dance? What is the distinction?

DRJH: "The difference is intention. The intention to use your body as a vehicle for psychological processing and healing. Ask your body specific questions and get specific responses, and to respond to them with your voice. Respond with your words. 

It is a big difference. In creative dance people can have absolutely no intention: -dance just because. Dance, because its fun. You can do that with CDP, but the intention really shifts what you get out of it. You could also just go into an ecstatic dance and do CDP:  just say I am going to psychologically process now; but there is something about creating the container of safety, setting up the intention, and some verbal instruction as a group that is co-created that allows for a different layer of depth that you wouldn’t get if you just did this on your own."

RW: Typically people think of the realm of psychology as the arena of talking about the processes of the mind. So, why the body?

DRJH: "Well, its both. Its not just the body. Its not just the mind. You can have the experience of healing deep wounds in the body, and then not bring it up to the conscious level. So, nothing really changes in the outside world. I feel an emotional release, but then go and live my life and recreate the patterns I’ve always lived. 

Same deal with my brain: I can talk about something, and I can get insight. I can talk forever, but having insight doesn’t necessarily lead to lasting change. There is a gap between what is going on with the mind and what is going on in the body. We can heal the mind and the body on these separate levels, but unless they communicate with each other healing might not lead to direct change.

Healing happens much faster when you take a body process and make it conscious by verbalizing it, or take what is conscious, verbalize it, put it in your body to resolve it, and then bring it to the conscious level again.  ‘Healing,’ is actual direct change in your life, versus the feeling of release or the feeling of insight."

RW: I think of healing processes using dance modalities or other physical modalities like yoga as ways of releasing emotional trauma or energy that might be blocked up in various parts of my body. In a sense engaging with it all physically can move the energy through me and allow that energy to flow more readily through me. But you are talking about something that involves the integration of mind and body? How does that work?

DRJH: "It is beyond release. That is part of the difference between creative dance and CDP. With dancing you can just dance your butt off... You can exercise... You can release... But until you process it, until you have witnessed it, until you actually bring it to the conscious mind, or witness and bring it back into your body, until you really work with it change won’t happen. You have to get your body and your mind working together. It is using your body and your mind to make the unconscious ‘conscious,’ and take ‘the conscious’ back to the unconscious: -a creative feedback loop.

If you look at the Feldenkrais: one of the systems of Feldenkrais is that when you make these new movement patterns you are changing the neural networks in the brain. You are actually changing the system in your brain. That is what you are doing with CDP. We are creating new movement patterns and new verbal patterns so you can actually in turn go out and create new patterns in your life."


Also, watch Daniel Mollner's beautiful Creative Dance Psychology Film, and check out his incredible 52-week dance film series (Details below):

SPONSOR THIS PROJECT AT www.danielmollner.com and to see all the videos and learn more. 

Music by: A Tribe Called Red "Electric Powwow"

Dr. Rachel Jordana Horodezky met with two friends to explore relationship patterns using a process she has developed called Creative Dance Psychology. This film was entirely unscripted and results from the dancer's willingness to share their authentic, personal experience using the power of movement. This is the 30th installment of Daniel Mollner's Project 52. Daniel is producing an original, dance-based video every week for all of 2012! Help him on this marathon of art and creativity by sponsoring his project at http://www.DanielMollner.com

Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 30 of the 30 Day NaNoWriMo, Novel-Writing Challenge

I am a winner!

Yesterday I uploaded my novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Suburbia" to the NaNoWriMo Website for the word count verification, 60, 437 words.

So, here is how I feel about being a winner:

Stressed!  That's okay. You don't have to be stressed too. My closest friends know I am not big on celebrating my accomplishments. In fact, I am about as quick to file them under "G" as I am to take up new things.

So, here's the thing. I want that to change. I want to invite the glory of magnificent transformation to enter my way of being, loop me up in a spring of vibrant growing, and blossom into a blooming anthem of "We are the champions."

So here to celebrate the success of exceeding the 50,000 word target in 30-days I offer what I have learned.

1. I have a lot to say. I wrote 60,437 words about something that happened to me when I was seventeen, and did not even breach the subject on its deepest levels.

2. I can write so deeply about something emotional, and have it spill out into my current life in ways that have my partner, Gayle and I looking at each other going "what the hell was that?"... and, basically avoid hitting the deepest most significant channel of emotion stirring beneath it all.

3. There are whole veins that remain untapped: my story is incomplete. Yay! I get to write more.

4. Did I mention that I get to write more?

5. I totally need a break. While writing this story has given me some amazing passages with word tangles that make me laugh so hysterically, they are so beautiful; -I need to live some life in December. I feel like I have lost touch with my bank account, and the laundry. I don't remember where I put that important letter that needs to be signed and dated immediately. I probably have not seen my friends in a while, and somehow, I have forgotten all about Kale other special greens that make you healthy and happy and regular.

6. Sigh!

7. I want to start writing tomorrow, but I should take this opportunity to learn how to celebrate.

8. I am soliciting suggestions on how to go about patting myself on the back and making it all feel like I am celebrating being a winner.

9. "I won! I won! I won!!!"

10.  Dear friends, thank you so much for this past month, checking in with me to see how the writing is going. Thank you for asking me about my novel and for telling me how cool writing a novel sounds. Thank you for telling me that my life is going great and that it seems like wonderful things are happening for me. Thank you for being supportive and for encouraging me to stick with it.

Dearest friends, I love you so much and cannot tell you enough how your support and encouragement was needed, lest I tell you that you job is not yet over. Like mine, your job remains open. I need support more now than ever. I have half an unedited story. Now, the real work begins. Now, I call upon you to help me get this thing read and commented on, chewed up, spit out, burned, cleansed of garbage, grammar checked, story inconsistencies smashed, not mention the emotion support of both hearing the honest truth, and about pushing myself into the darkest places I avoided this whole month. Napping, apparently is a wonderful place to visit while you are trying to avoid writing about certain things that connect you with a difficult subject or painful emotional memory. For the next month I want to see you and hang out with you and just connect with you, then starting in January, the next phase of writing begins. Editing concurrent with writing. The January challenge is to get into the scenes I avoided writing this month, to get them out, and try to squeeze them into the book I wrote this month. What do you say? Did I mention I miss you and love you?  I make a mean chocolate chip oatmeal cookie too. 



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 20 of the 30 DAY nanowrimo Novel Writing Challenge

I have made it to day 20 of the 2012 nanowrimo 'write-a-novel-in-30-days' challenge.  At 38,433 words I am six days away from meeting the 50,000 word target, four days ahead of schedule.

However, I am not really near finishing the story. The way I am sizing up against my initial outlines, I am going to have a 100,000 words novel by the time I am finished, and that means I have to write 10,000 words a day not to be finished by the end of November.

Can you see me heading out to the upcoming write-all-nighters for the Toronto nanowrimo group?  Yep!

Sadly, my video blogs are on hold due to technical issues with video file formats and my camera.  : (

I wish to pay thanks to Natalie Goldberg, author of "Writing Down the Bones" for the crucial piece of advice that put me in the mindset I needed to attempt this 30 day challenge. A nanowrimo writing buddy and dear friend of mine tells me the Anne Lamott has a slightly different take on the same sort of advice. Natalie calls it composting. Anne Apparently calls it writing the shit out.

Natalie Goldberg is the author of a series of books on writing as a zen practice. Anne Lamott is a novelist and political activist and has also written various blogs and articles on writing as a practice.

What made me think that I could really do this challenge was taking to heart the advice that I can permit myself to write 'shit' if it gets me writing. Permission is the keyword there. Making a start was the single most important and powerful step I ever took in this whole 30 adventure. I think I even started my novel this month with something like:

"Natalie Goldberg says I should just start writing down what ever comes out and keep going until I've got something that wants to be told and grows legs. And so here's my shit version of an idea I have for this story.. I suppose my story is about a seventeen year old boy who...."

38,000 words later I am pretty proud of some of the stuff I have gone back to read. I love this story I am writing. I love the characters. I hate the characters. I really love the lovable ones, and really get mad when the ones I hate show up on the scene. I am protective of the ones I love and wish for rude awakenings for those that are up to no good. Then, I get to sit in a room with the villans and make deals about how they can't win at this point in the story, but promise them I will stumble my main characters if they agree to tell me how I can stumble them.

The new challenge is, two thirds of the month is up and I've got less than half a story, regardless of how many words I have written. So, dear readers, I am challenging myself to turn it up a notch. 10,000 words a day might be unreasonable, but 5,000 I can do. Okay, so maybe not. But, I am having fun with it and that the most important thing right now.

Hmm..maybe I am just talking shit now instead of writing it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

30 Day Novel Writing Challenge Days 7, 8, 9, 10

The American Election threw me off my game for a couple of days. I still wrote everyday, but I didn't get around to blogging about it.

So much has happened in the last couple of days. First of all, my characters are talking back to me now, and my inner critic has finally reared his ugly mug.

No, it wasn't for all the excitement of Zomney apocolypse averted. Phew! Wecome back Obama!

I think it is because the fact that I am writing a novel is finally catching up with me. So the characters in my story started reminding me that we are 19,000 words into a year in the life and I've got 51 weeks left to cover. "Nobody wants to read this shit. Nobody cares about us." And so, they are right. Or rather, that's exactly what many seventeen year-old's believe. So, while they are doing great about being true to their nature and helping the narrative right along, my inner critic has started to dialog right along with them.

He keeps telling them to fight with me. He keeps telling them that this work is unimportant and that their lives have no meaning. He wants to kill them before they are finished being born.

I ignore him as much as I can, but every once in a while when I feel the characters are going to keep me busy writing 1667 words a day right through to January, he gets a few jabs in and I land flat on my ass.

Yesterday I stalled and today I have taken the entire day off. The critic has landed a blow and I need to take long walks in the park with the dog, and watch him punch holes in his new frisbie. Then I can splash around in the aromatherapy tub, light some candles, chant alms to "Ganesha" and meditate until my thoughts start to make some sort of sense to me once again.

The critic wants me to believe that this whole endeavor is stupid. "Taking an entire month off to write a novel is fool's play.  There's real livelihood out there, and you are wasting your time."

To my inner critic, I say, "have your say, and pass the honey. If I get anywhere at all with this, I am going to tell everyone in the world all about how helpful you were while trying to pull my chair out from under me, and by purposefully hiding my ideas in the drawer with the elastics and corkscrew."

My sweetie has just informed me "you're not getting any," for having left her out at this point. Honestly, she is seeing me through this in such a big and magnificent way. I love you so much, and I wouldn't be doing any of this without your encouragement and pep talks.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

30 Day Novel Writing Challenge Days 5 & 6

What I don't yet know about my characters and places, doesn't really matter.. Thanks Sophia for the tip on [research goes here]... Enjoy!!!

30 Day Novel Writing Challenge Days 3 and 4

The most important piece of advice I have discovered as a creative person comes from my 4-month old puppy, Odin. Thank you Odin!  I love you!

30 Day Novel Writing Challenge Day # 2

Video blog from Day #2 of the nanowrimo 2012 challenge "Time to Write"

One of the first tips I heard when I started writing years ago was "make time to write." Make time to write everyday. It helps when I set the intention to sit down and write every day. It helps to make the time on the calendar, to block it off and set it in stone. That way, even if I don't feel like writing, habit will walk me through it, and some of my favorite writing sessions have been just like that: -begun with a feeling of not wanting to write.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

30 Day Novel Writing Challenge Day # 1

Today is Day #1 of the 2012 www.nanowrimo.org 30-Day Novel Writing Challenge. I have written the first 2054 words of my novel, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Suburbia."

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to Suburbia" follows a year in the life of seventeen year-old, Calvin. Calvin meets sixteen year-old Jessie. They fall in love and begin to release the emotional pain each suffers from growing up in broken and abusive homes. Dreaming of leaving the suffering behind and 'making it' on their own, they rent a small basement apartment in the suburbs and start their dream life together. The harsh realities of adult responsibility, earning a living, and paying the bills are no honeymoon. The young lovers succumb to pressure from their peers to use sex and drugs as an escape from the harshness of life and lead them on a self-destructive path that will ultimately push them both to face and deal with the traumatic events that shaped their lives. Calvin learns that sometimes the only way out is to go through.

The novel navigates the suburbs of two anonymous North American cities, where administrative autonomy varies and authority is either non-existent or unforgiving.

Video blog: DAY # 1 "The Digs"

Monday, April 23, 2012

Creativity Collaboration is the new D.I.Y.

“Collaboration is how most of our ancestors used to work and live, before machines came along and fragmented society.”  - Twyla Tharp: The Collaborative Habit

I grew up in the shadow of a successful career painter who’s impressive artworks lined the walls of my Grandparent’s house. My life was thus punctuated with encouragements to draw and paint as my great uncle had, whenever my small family could make it out to the country for a visit.

The city is where I spent most of my time. It was a terrible place for my creativity to develop. I had plenty of talent, but without guidance, structure, and materials for my learning there was little point in the pursuit arts as a career. I went long periods without practice.

Like many teens I struggled with my self-esteem and attributed this in part to my inability to experience any kind of success with all my natural gifts and talents, artistic or otherwise. As an artist and musician, “I was not yet good enough,” I told myself. I often gave up making any kind of art for lengths of time, and eventually I would come back to it with a renewed commitment to try harder than I ever had before, only to “fail” and quit again. I did not know it at the time, but I was far from a failure.

In my 30’s I was still struggling with these same issues. I had jumped ship on a career in Wildlife Conservation to pursue work as an artist in the animation industry, where I struggled just as hard to find success as ever before, in spite of my abundant talent and recognition among my peers. Approaching decades of developing professional-level technique and skill I still could not earn a living or conjure my most passionate creations into physical reality. I felt like a complete liability to my community: unable to make any kind of worthwhile contribution to the world around me. In short, I was the epitome of “dime-a-dozen talent,” and “it’s hard to make a living in the arts.”

Why, I thought if Joseph Campbell so convincingly encouraged, “follow your bliss, and the world will conspire to set you on your way,” was my way fraught with minor bursts of bliss and vast expanses of disappointment, and lacking in fulfillment? It was a puzzle perhaps too grand for my introverted self to gather in the blossoming culture of extroversion.Today, I know the one important tool missing in my art box then was an ability to successfully work in collaboration.

In her book the Collaborative Habit, award-winning Broadway Choreographer and Best-selling author Twyla Tharp explains, “ ..most of us grew up in a culture that applauded only individual achievement.”  I was no different. I had never heard of painters collaborating on a work before. I too believed Michael Angelo had painted the Sistine Chapel single-handedly. The idea that an artist would ever work in collaboration seemed antithesis to everything I understood about being an artist. Consequently, I struggled to find success with anything I felt passionate about my life, until I found Ecstatic Dance and Contact Dance Improvisation.

Being a dancer opened me to the most valuable creative skill any artist can ever learn. Whether a dancer, photographer, painter, musician, writer, actor or director etc., no amount of talent, skill or technical knowledge can blossom without understanding the subtle art of collaboration. Artists work together with each other and with non-artists to bring their creations out of the ethers and into physical reality. Learning to dance ‘alone’ was not enough for me to get it. Partner dancing seemed way too complicated at first, until I learned to improvise in step with other dancers I had never truly made the connection. Improvisation requires letting go of attachment to outcomes. Once that happened, I was able to surrender my “I’ll do it all myself” ego and open up to the possibility of accomplishing something far more powerful and moving in collaboration with others. As a bonus, I started to truly enjoy what I was doing for the first time. I even became a better musician.

Twyla Tharp explains, successful collaboration is not simply about people working together. Many talented people can work together to smash up something awful and loathed by everyone. Successful collaboration requires more than people with an ability to grunt and groan at each other in the hopes that something creative will emerge. I know many artists who for one reason or another kept themselves tucked away in their studio bitter and cursing at everyone that had failed to help them bring their masterpiece to life. If “everyone sucks and wants to steal your idea,” has yet to be made into a bumper sticker, art colleges could make a killing with it. 

To this I say, “drop the attitude.” Artists don’t get anywhere easily without learning to work together, and to get along well with the people that will help them find success. Success with art-making is a collaborative process. Selling art requires a collaboration with collectors, buyers, sellers, suppliers, dealers, marketers etc.. Hit songs require the convergence of songwriters, musicians, producers, engineers, distribution channels, and an audience. Sadly, so many artist waste away their precious energies on developing their own websites and brand images, with little prior knowledge of Web technology. This is not to say that an artist should not be tech savvy, or versed in social media marketing. If website development steals energy from your passion for producing music, get someone else to do it. Hire a pro. Barter if you have to. It is worth it.

This blog entry begins a series posts sharing stories of successful artistic collaborations. Click “Join this Site,” for updates and posts, videos and interviews with a wide variety of creative people as they share their tips on how to learn to be successful in collaboration, and how to kick your art into overdrive.

Next: How to co-paint a picture and why more practice at your art is way better than more planning.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coming Down from "the Embodied Heart" 5 Rhythms Dance Workshop with Gabrielle Roth and Jonathon Horan in Montreal, April 2012

Things are winding down for me back in Toronto after the amazing “Embodied Heart: 5 Rhythms” Easter long-weekend workshop in Montreal. Sadly, I am already feeling the everyday urban cacophony buzzing inside me, dissipating the incredible emptying out my ego and emotional body to find the pure, embodied being in the dances of the 5 Rhythms.
The Embodied Heart workshop weekend was organized by Montreal 5 Rhythms teacher Erik Iversen. He began studying with Gabrielle Roth in the 1980’s, and invited her back along with her son Jonathon Horan to offer this special Heart-themed weekend.

The 5 Rhythms are a form of ecstatic dance developed by dancer, musician, and author Gabrielle Roth. One wave through the 5 Rhythms includes Flow (Earth), Staccato (Fire), Chaos (Water), Lyrical (Air) and Stillness (Etheric).

As I understand, the flow rhythm is about connecting with the body and earth, arriving to a place where the world and the feminine* are invited to our dance.The sharp-tempo staccato rhythm invites the masculine* energies to enliven our core and set our hearts ablaze and power our dance through the remaining rhythms. Chaos opens us to the emotions within us and allow them to begin to effortlessly flow out, to be expressed, leave behind our sense of self, get out of our head and give completely over to an fully embodied sense of being. From this chaos we enter lyrical rhythm. Having let go of our ego-self we are entranced by the spirit and in the full flow with the universe. Stillness comes and there is no thought or ego. We are fully given over to breathe and enjoy a sense of peace and wholeness in connection with all things.

In the Embodied Heart workshop Gabrielle offered heartfelt discussions about her experience of life, what it means to be alive, and to break free of worldly illusions through the map of the 5 Rhythms, which she calls, “the DNA of the creative process.” I was truly surprised by the level of movement, demonstration and instruction she offered personally. She spoke openly and freely about her struggles with lung Cancer, and about her current sense of mortality. She was masterful and sweet and accompanied by the Mirrors bandmates Robert Ansell (Gabrielle’s husband) and Nigerian influenced, Sanga on drums. Gabrielle’s son Jonathan Horan’s bristly charm and whit gave a humorous tone to the weekend. He offered many of his own heartfelt stories about how the 5 Rhythms transformed his life, helping him him come to terms with his emotional experiences of growing up.

The workshop was well-attended. I drove up with some friends from Toronto. We rented an apartment for the weekend through www.airbnb.com, which I totally recommend to everyone. I will never get a hotel now if something is available this way. We were right around the corner from the studio, off Mont Royal. There were plenty of great cafe’s and restaurants, and amazing boutiques. Like Gabrielle had caught boutique fever: -during her welcome speech Gabrielle says “this is a dangerous place for me. Its all the boutiques.”

Back in February I attended Lucia Rose Horan’s Waves 5 Rhythms weekend at the Great Hall in Toronto, which is prerequisite for Embodied Heart. It was real taste of what the 5 rhythms had to offer my regular ecstatic dance and moving meditation practice. Like Lucia, her brother Jonathan offered Embodied Heart participants masterful facilitation, and DJ’d an awesome mix of beats to make our hearts beat, our feet move, and spark the magic link between the heart and the breath of the dance. A note for DJ’s, Jonathon guards his mix like a carefully treasured secret, but during a break he kindly tipped me off to a 90’s Electronic gem for my own Ecstatic Dance collection.

The walking meditation gave us opportunity to learn to share space and be firmly in the flow of things, but giving of space. Moving into Staccato I found myself slipping out to the periphery acting out some ingrained pattern of avoiding my darker more fire-based emotions. I went with every intention of working through ‘my shit’ at this workshop, but felt I was disappointing myself.

Instead of blasting out my emotional baggage my work was turning out to be about staying with the dance. I wanted to unload, empty out, and let go, to get mad and express any pent up frustrations I had about life, but every time the beat changed or a short-lived authentic improvised burst found its way into being and dissipated, I subsided to the edge and sometimes left the room entirely. “What am I doing here again,” I asked myself. Catching my evasive mood, I prepped myself to give it another try. “All you have to do is stay with it,” I told myself. “That is my work this weekend.”

Not so easy.  I got back out onto the floor as many times as I left it, only to find myself avoiding it again. It was the part of the session where we were called to bring up anger. Clearly I was afraid of my own anger and responding with avoidance.

But, with Gabrielle’s encouragements fresh in my head I thought, “if I cant work on the emotion, then I will work on the avoidance.” To my surprise I was able to arrive at anger in the dance, not by thinking of my own anger or conflict, not by thinking of the ways the world makes me angry, not by taking in the images of atrocities in the world being shouted out by the facilitators, not by thinking at all... By mimicking other people’s angry dances, I was able to reach these emotions in myself. From this place I expressed “fire” emotion without attaching value or ideas to it.

I simply danced, felt and found I avoided the floor less. Free flow ego-less movement became easier. Gradually I found myself rocking out in ways I never imagined. Not only had I passed into emotional territory, but I was reaching new territory. I connected to a part of my core I’d never touched before.

Something in the impenetrable void that was my solar plexus and stomach was breached for the first time in my life. Suddenly, in the chaos dance, I felt into the mass of a part of my body that long remained mysterious to me. I could peer for a short time into the dysfunctional workings of my digestive system. Instead of a struggling life support system fraught with food allergies and nutritional sensitivities, and emotional scars that live there, I ignited a new spark of tremendous vitality. A new fire in my core propelled me completely and effortlessly. My breath and heart, passion and pace were all synchronized. As I moved faster, i breathed faster. As I stepped lighter, my breath become light.

And when the music stopped, I kept dancing. I kept dancing for another ten minutes before finally following calmness and space to settling in and bring me to the floor.

If the workshop had ended there, I would have been satisfied. It was money well spent. The experience was marvelous and life-changing. However, Gabrielle imparted other life-lessons before we were done. If I were to take nothing else away from this intense and invigorating workshop, I would want it to be this: “zero.”

Gabrielle’s concept of “Zero,” put a name on something that I had always been doing, but poorly understood. Though it was long a natural part of my dance practice, no surprise, Gabrielle’s honest and and intimate account of her recent new appreciation for “zero” offered a major transformation for my practice and for my life.

Zero is a place 5 Rhythms dancers go between their expressive, emotive dance gestures, repetitions, and interactions. Zero is a relaxed stance, arms at your side, both feet on the ground, or idling in rhythm, mind relaxed. We let go of the improvised dance sequence or pose we just held, and the allow any emotion to drain out of us. We physically let go of any muscle memory or tension in our body language and redistribute our weight to a state of rest. Our breath returns to calm.

From zero we are set to spontaneously improvise a completely new gesture or sequence. Jonathon or Gabrielle will call out a single emotive word and the whole room is inspired anew to silently and physically communicate the feeling behind the word, in time or in rhythm with the percussion or beat. Anyone looking at us from the sidelines will clearly recognize our body language, empathize with the emotion behind it, and clearly experience the meaning of the word that was spoken aloud by the facilitator.

So, how if “zero” is a place I naturally go in my practice, did Gabrielle’s  discussion so dramatically transform my ecstatic dance practice?

Until Gabrielle brought this very basic concept up I had a tendency to judge the moments my movement on the dance floor slowed or stopped. I associated these uninspired zero periods with falling out of the flow. In short, I saw my dance practice as failing. “I was failing to stay with the dance. I was failing to stay with my emotions,” or “uncommitted to working through my shit.” I often entered disappointment over my lack of effort to dance my pain and shatter my ego-sphere. Idleness and emotionlessness was not the expected outcome of my practice.

Gabrielle’s teaching at the Embodied Heart workshop changed the way I think about those idle moments. She helped me to see that we never need to pass seamlessly from one emotion to another, one expression to another, from one dance sequence to another, uninterrupted. Gabrielle’s simple approach pointed to a rigidity within my own ego about myself. Once I could see it, I could explode it. I was then able to feel gratitude for my idle moments when dancing out a feeling was fulfilled. It is only natural to return to zero, reground, settle into a softer rhythm, catch a breath, and be ready for the next wave of inspiration to take me through the dance of the 5 Rhythms

* masculinity and femininity are addressed here independent of gender. It is my belief that all genders include aspects of both masculine and feminine energies. I certainly do. : )

For more information about Ecstatic Dance and the 5 Rhythms, or for classes and workshops visit:


New York
Gabrielle Roth http://www.gabrielleroth.com/

Lucia Rose Horan http://www.luciahoran.com/
Jonathan Horan http://www.movingcenterschool.com/jonathan-horan
Esalen: http://www.esalen.org/

Erik Iversen http://www.erik.iversen.ca/5rhythms/

Taeji http://facilitatearts.com/Taeji.html

Ecstatic Dance

The Move http://www.themovecollective.org/

San Francisco
Ecstatic Dance SF http://ecstaticdance.org/