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Feel the fear and 5-Rhythms anyway.

“As is my way, I try things” — Tom Savage.

A friend of mine started a blog he wrote about Ayahuasca with this opening. I really liked it.

I tried 5-rhythms last night!

But what is 5-rhythms?

To the initiated, it’s a 2 hour guided and ecstatic rave of an evening.

To the pioneers is a moving meditation. A Therapy that changes your life and equips you with options and space in the present moment.

To the uninitiated… It’s a kookie remnant of the 60’s. It’s a bit flowery and weird. It’s where the people who took too much acid go to re-live the trip. It looks intimidating at the very least.

The very first thing you are confronted by is your own judgements about these people, this space, the music, the movements, the clothes and the sounds. It’s all an off-beat rhythm, it’s not ‘normal’ in fact it’s scary and I was certainly feeling intrepid, nervous, anxious and pretty bamboozled. And that was just at the thought of entering a space with strangers where they gyrate, prance and tick to the music – sometimes with random partners or more. Oh, did I mentionthat there’s no alcohol or drugs or talking and that you dance barefoot, with the lights on in a big room with nowhere to hide… and, they lock the door! You can’t leave until it’s over! Gulp!

The first time I tried to go to 5-rhythms was 10 years ago in London. I managed to talk my ex-wife and close friends into giving it a go. They had seen a sketch of it on Peep Show and were willing to give it a go. When we rocked up to this random location in a church hall amongst houses in North London my friends made us do a walk-by first. We glanced in the door, we looked at the other people going in and they decided “no-way am I doing this”. It was a confronting sight (as described above).

So we went for a very normal and, in my mind, boring and disappointing dinner. I was sad! I was also, despite trying to talk my friends into going in, relieved. I was scared of the space. I had Inhibitions! Not that I let on.

So 10 years later with renewed courage having heard two friends speak about their love of 5-rhythms I decided to “feel the fear and do it anyway”

It was a Friday night. I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep but I had rare availability. Lately, I’ve been dancing a lot with my kids which they love and I could feel myself opening up to the movement of dance and the feel of the music on your skin and within.

I booked an advanced ticked and cycled the 30minutes to the venue, an old suburban church hall (again!) Apparently, with a magnificent sprung floor. [‘F*ck what am I doing’] I entered the space in my tired haze and rejoiced in the fact that I didn’t see anyone I knew. I put my stuff down de-shoe’d and remarked at the other people who were clearly all insane or uninhibited, I couldn’t quite tell. There were people rolling around on the floor, people swaying eyes closed, one guy jumping and building energy as if to enter a fight, some older people prancing around the whole room. I felt awkward. But I did a little sway on the spot to the gentle and inviting music and took in the space. 

It’s funny how fear convinces you that something terrible is about to befall you. I realise now that as I innocently looked around I had also clocked the exits and sized up the other people as they flowed in. There was a part of me that was terrified. Thankfully a tiny and manageable part and then the music warmed up so I did as the person who let me in advised… I suspended my judgements.

Have you ever had the experience of dancing wildly? By yourself or with another? Where you are completely lost but also totally found in your own body, and in the music and the scene. Fortunately, I’ve had this countless times over the years. Be it moshing at the front of a Metallica concert in San Francisco. Raving in Dublin’s biggest venue to Orbital on NYE 1999-2000 or, same venue, at The Prodigy. Being spat at by the bassist of Nine Inch Nails in Brixton. Raving to Drum and Bass with my 4-year-old son at a festival near Bristol. DJing and dancing at house parties while at University in rural Ireland. I’ve danced. I’ve had some of the highlights of my life on the floor. But in my grey-haired, wrinkled years since having kids I’ve not done much ‘going for it’. After about 40min of 5-rhythms on Friday I was finding my way back to the zone of dance, of movement, of expression. Of feeling like a sail on a boat… I was pushed by the music and enrapt by my new tribe as they juddered and shook, swung and gyrated, clapped and squealed as their favourite rhythm descended.

Two songs were played that I love: Jilted and Tell me Why.

At one point the DJ, or ‘hostess’ as she referred to herself, said “take a partner…” gulp! It happened a few times and I coped, even had fun. I danced with guys and girls, we didn’t touch although some did. One lady I danced with (about 10 years my senior I’d guess)… it was amazing. It was like there was a ball of energy between us. I could feel it like a heat wave or a pressure wave. It ebbed, flowed and danced between us, it was an amazing experience. We both felt it!

So. Could 5-rhythms be the new Friday night out? One of my new tribes? YES! I literally can’t wait to return. And as for the therapeutic element. This is unquestionable… it is absolutely a moving meditation, a joyful and embodied way to shake off tension from the week and stress from your life. But, more than that it is an insanely good way to see just how insane our ego’s perspective on the world is. It’s only movement to music after all, what’s there to be so scared of?

And for those feeling too shy or inhibited to go… just remember that everything goes in this safest of safe spaces. SO even if you want to rock in the corner in a little ball and endure your own fear, well, that’s an option too and I’m pretty sure you’ll be left to that by the people who have discovered this world of shared movement and expression. So the question is… can you let go and just move to the music?

This is the class I went to, it’s on every Friday in Bristol: https://in-rhythm.com/

Let me know how you go. OR, save me an ecstatic prance.


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