Arts and Entertainment

Charting an inner course through dance

Dancers gather at the Deer Lagoon Grange Hall every Monday morning and evening for the 5Rhythms Wave class taught by Christine Tasseff. - Patricia Duff / The Record
Dancers gather at the Deer Lagoon Grange Hall every Monday morning and evening for the 5Rhythms Wave class taught by Christine Tasseff.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

BAYVIEW — They are bound by the beat, following the path of their dancing feet toward freedom.

Island resident Christine Tasseff provides that beat for dancers each week in Bayview.

On her Web site, click here, Tasseff emphasizes the connection between the body and the spirit attained through the practice of the 5Rhythms Wave dance, a form founded by New York City-based dancer and healer Gabrielle Roth.

“When we dance the rhythms, we experience movement as a spiritual practice — a way of re-uniting spirit and flesh,” Roth writes of the form.

“We track the natural currents of energy that are moving through all of life. In this body of work, we call these flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness, each of which catalyze a different aspect of our beings. When we dance through these rhythms in succession, we call it the Wave.”

The practice of these dancing rhythms is becoming popular in several areas of the country, including on Whidbey Island.

A trip to the Deer Lagoon Grange Hall for the Monday Morning Wave revealed a group of about 15 people of all shapes, ages, genders and sizes who trickled into the candle-lit hall, with the blank slate of a wood floor welcoming them, along with their teacher. The sound of “Krash Zen,” musicians Joseph Sanchez and Rachman Ross playing a variety of percussion and wind instruments, drew the crowd onto the floor, while Tasseff, with gentle voice, guided the proceedings through a series of “waves” of movements.

The Wave, Tasseff said, is a way to breathe the spirit back into the body, and it was the breath, she said, that is always the most important link.

“We can go anywhere if we follow the breath,” she said.

The music was slow at first. Here began the “flow” from which the breath’s pattern emerges, and bodies move in smooth lines, caressing the air, warming the muscles, entering the ready-to-dance zone.

The drumming intensified, and bodies began to move in “staccato,” that movement that follows the beat of one’s heart. In the realm of the 5Rhythms philosophy, the staccato wave helps to ground one’s feelings in the body, so that the heart is connected to how a person takes action in his or her life. Such movement is crucial to the navigation of one’s emotional life.

At one point, Tasseff had the dancers gather at one end of the dance floor.

In groups of three, they practiced the expansion and contraction of breath by moving across the floor through a pattern of rising and falling movements.

In another exercise, partners worked to find the breath in themselves, then in their partners, and finally in the space between one another.

“Stay private and connected,” Tasseff told them. “There’s no need to look in the eyes. Find yourself, the ‘I am here,’ and then shift to your partner and find the ‘you are there.’”

The dancers navigated the space around their partners exploring the bottom and top, the light and the heavy and the chances for expansions and contractions, while discovering the third unseen body between them.

“There are no limits,” the teacher called out gently. “What grows between us is a little bit of you and a little bit of me.”

Therein lies the key to Roth’s vision as 5Rhythms being a form of community building. To find the common space between yourself and another body is a form of neighborhood.

The final wave came in a frenzy of sounds that sent the entire group into a whirling, high-energy mass of bodies finding all manner of motion and filling the room with unlimited movements.

In an interview with Michael Stone on AreWeListening.net, Roth said that by dancing the 5Rhythms, one can have a direct experience of a spiritual nature and can find a vehicle for profound self-examination and revelation. But in order to do that, she said, you have to show up again and again. You have to have the discipline to face yourself and let it all go.

Tasseff has been showing up a lot.

She has been teaching the 5Rhythms as a certified teacher since 1997, and has practiced the form for more than 20 years. She is certified to teach the Wave and Heartbeat levels of the program.

Additionally, she is a practitioner of Authentic Movement, and conducts private sessions, classes and workshops in both forms.

Besides Monday Morning and Monday Evening Wave classes, she teaches six-week courses including “Biography of Shape,” “Deep End of the Floor” and “Prayerbody,” a sacred movement series coming up at the Whidbey Institute at Chinook.

The music fell to soft wave and bodies slowed.

Finally, the dancers were ready for “stillness” and made their way slowly to the floor, slicing the air gently with their bodies as they breathed into repose. Ross pulled long sounds out of the bodhran and the gong, while Sanchez weaved through the prone bodies on the floor with his didgeridoo, soothing the air and each dancer’s ear with the horn’s quiet song.

The dance was done, but the breath continued.

The Monday Morning Wave is from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. by donation and has childcare available on-site. The Monday Evening Wave is from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for adults only, and is $10 to $20 on a sliding scale.

Visit the Web site for more info, or call 221-0161.

You can also hear Krash Zen play a show from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26 at Island Coffeehouse & Books in a benefit performance for the café.

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