Amber Ryan And The 5Rhythms® Dance, A Celebration Of Humanity, At The Hanuman Yoga Festival.
By Ashley Shires
The 2019 Hanuman Festival is happening June 13-16 in Boulder, Colorado. The festival offers a vibrant lineup of yoga, music, and this year, 5Rhythms® dance, taught by movement meditation instructor, Amber Ryan. I was happy to catch up with Amber in advance of the festival, to find out more about 5Rhythms® dance as a moving meditation, an attunement to ourselves and our community, a transformative celebration of all that we are.
Can you give us an overview of 5Rythyms®?
The 5Rhythms® were developed by Gabrielle Roth about 40 years ago, a map to unlock different gateways in the body to let go of the mind, to quiet down and listen to the body wisdom. It’s all done through the dance, through movement. The movements are practical and rhythmic; we pay attention to our hands, we become more aware of our shoulders, we feel what it is like inside and put that in motion; the dance is a gateway to quiet the mind and come into the body.
What are the five different rhythms?
The five rhythms are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. It all begins with the energy of flowing. We start with the element of Earth, listening in to what's going on for us, the energy of receptivity. Then we move to Staccato, the masculine energy. The element of Staccato is fire, and the teachings are around connection and expression. Chaos is next, and is often experienced as a catharsis, letting go of control, we practice with the element of water in this rhythm. Lyrical is the rhythm of Air, expansion, and Stillness is when we have danced all of those rhythms fully. We can arrive into that space of totality, breath, the spaciousness of the still point. Collectively, those rhythms create a wheel and a wave of energy, with a beginning, middle and end. By moving through the 5Rhythms®, we become more connected to ourselves, to each other and to our environment. We get to the place where we are being danced by the elements, by life itself.
How did you first discover the 5Rhythms®?
I was in theater school at Florida State; I’ve always been a dancer – I’ve been teaching dance since I was 13 years old. At Florida State, I broke my foot the night before a musical theater performance. I realized I wasn’t fully listening to my body – the injury brought me to my spiritual path. My voice teacher handed me one of Gabrielle Roth’s books, and on page one, I knew that she would be my teacher. I met her not long after that, and she asked me to come to New York and do theatre with her. I studied with Gabrielle and was mentored by her for about ten years. It has been a spiritual journey, a soul journey.
Was it a long process, healing your foot?
When you injure soft tissue, it is a long healing process. It took many years. That experience opened my compassion to elders, to people moving with injury. to the moments we have when we want to do more than the physical body can take on. In this movement practice, we can still do the dance when we take great care of ourselves, when we listen and pay attention; when we move with great listening new creative pathways open. Often time we move sitting on the floor or in a chair. The dance helps us to meet the mirror of our own ego. We learn we can move with what is, to be at greater peace with ourselves instead of battling our life. We find acceptance, and we still get an amazing, healing release, move some energy around and feel much more connected than when we begin. This is movement medicine.
What are you most looking forward to about teaching at Hanuman Yoga Festival?
One of the wonderful things is that Hanuman Festival has a theme, which gives me something to contemplate. At the beginning of the festival, I will teach a movement journey called True, using dance, the arc of energy, to peel back the layers. By the time we’re complete, the aim is that we will be attuned with our essential self, our authentic self. Often we arrive at a place carrying the stress of the workday, of travel with us – we will move that energy.
My next offering will be a realm I love to explore, called “Soul Ignition.” We will tune into what is our uniqueness – our talents, our gifts, the things that we bring to connection, to relationship, into the world. How we can we heighten that? How can we honor it, celebrate it? This dance lets people come alive in their soul’s purpose and share it.
I will also offer a dj set called “Tune.” We will attune to ourselves, through dance, through music, to each other. It’s a celebration of music and community to bond us together, as we drop into the beat, collectively. We’ll be using music as a catalyst into soul, into passion. Music is such a connector. Such a unifier. Such a healer.
Can anyone dance the 5Rhythms®?
You just need a body and a willingness to move, to show up and move, even if you feel a little shy. The wonderful thing about 5Rhythms® is it is so simple. Relatively quickly, the self-consciousness dissolves. Someone who feels like they have 5000 left feet finds that all of a sudden they are moving like they never have before. It is for everybody. I love having multi-generational age groups – so often I’m dancing with people in their early 20’s to late 70’s and beyond, everyone moving at their own pace and everyone welcome. It’s a celebration of humanity, of all that we are.