5Rhythms was created in the late 1970s by a New York dancer called Gabrielle Roth, specifically to channel the energising and healing power of dance. While it is popular in various cities throughout the world, next week it will be taking Dubai by storm in a workshop called Body, Beat, Breath led by the international instructor Silvija Tomcik.
Unlike Zumba or salsa, 5Rhythms doesn’t involve any learnt steps, explains Tomcik. It’s all about freedom of expression. “I’ve always loved to dance but it was hard for me to imitate someone else’s moves. I was attracted to the freestyle aspect of 5Rhythms and even though I’ve been teaching it for more than 10 years now, it still continues to surprise and inspire me.”
Tomcik studied this soulful dance movement under the tutelage of its founder, who only selects the most promising candidates to complete two-year courses in New York and California. She then became the first person to introduce 5Rhythms to Croatia, her native country, where she lives with her French husband, Thierry François, also a 5Rhythms instructor.
Tomcik’s workshops are structured classes that follow five types of rhythmic music – flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. Movements range from Zen-like slow motion to a liberating letting-go, while anything from Latin house to tribal hip-hop plays in the background. “I choose the music during the workshop itself,” Tomcik reveals. “I’ll get a feeling about the group at the time and follow that. I try to play what I think the crowd will like – everything from radio pop that my daughter loves to classical music that my mum listens to. So one minute it might be Beethoven, the next Katy Perry.”
There’s lots of swaying, twirling, bending, shaking, leaping and gyrating to the beat , says Tomcik. To the uninitiated, it may sound like hippy-dippy types prancing around in a semi-possessed manner. However, the teacher says many stressed-out professionals come to get in shape and release pent-up emotions. One devotee likens the experience to “dancing in a nightclub minus the designer labels, booze and sleazy pick-up lines”.
This freestyle dance provides just as many physical benefits as an intense aerobics class. “The sessions are usually two-and-a-half hours long and are a great way of toning up and improving your flexibility, as well as shedding the pounds,” says Tomcik. “Expect to sweat and completely forget about your daily worries. You’ll also get a fantastic night’s sleep afterwards.”
Besides the feel-good endorphins fix that comes with exercise, some experience another natural high – a transcendent, trance-like state. However, not everyone feels it straight away, says Tomcik. “The moments of ecstasy depend upon how ready and brave you are during your dance and how deeply you surrender to your movements and emotions. It’s quite a personal thing. Some people feel exhilarated during their first class, others take much more time.”
For Tomcik, 5Rhythms has not only kept her in great shape mentally and physically, it has changed her outlook on life. “I’ve evolved and learnt lots. For instance, the tempo of this dance constantly changes – you move from flowing to staccato and so on. It’s a reminder that life is magical yet unpredictable. I’ve finally made peace with the fact that change is constant and rather than resist it, I now embrace it.”
What are the five rhythms?
The five movements are flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. They correspond to the five different musical beats and, when danced in sequence, they create what is known as a wave of energy.
- What does the Body, Beat, Breath workshop involve? Tomcik is an experienced practitioner and will lead participants through a sequence of five types of rhythmic music. Expect to meet different and sometimes unknown aspects of yourself as your dance unfolds.
- Can I try one session before committing to the full weekend workshop? Yes, you can try the introductory session on Thursday, October 11, from 7pm-9.30pm.
- Do I need any prior experience? No, 5Rhythms is suitable for all abilities and ages.
- What should I wear? Sporty, comfortable clothing.
- What should I bring? Lots of water and an open mind.
- How much is it? Dh200 for the Thursday session and Dh1,000 for the full weekend workshop.
Body, Beat, Breath Workshop is from October 11 to 13 in James & Alex Dance Studios, 813 Concord Tower, Dubai Media City. For more information e-mail email@example.com