Dancing Your Way Into 2019 Stone Cold Sober

Sights

Have you resolved to take more exercise and have at least a booze-free January? The problem is that it can be hard to find a way to work out that isn’t mind numbingly boring and the thought of going out and having fun stone-cold sober fills many of us with horror.

Which is why you might like to try 5Rhythms dancing. 5Rhythms was invented by American dancer and musician Gabrielle Roth in New York in 1977 as a meditative system of movement. Dancers move through five rhythms – flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness – in what’s called a wave. A complete wave usually lasts for around an hour to 90 minutes.

During a two-hour 5Rhythms session, there will also be short breaks where the teacher encourages dancers to take part in mindfulness and sharing exercises. If you’re new to holding hands with a complete stranger or staring mindfully into their eyes or not particularly keen, don’t worry. You don’t have to share your soul if you’d rather not.

I first tried 5Rhythms around ten years ago on a dare. Much as I enjoyed dancing, I hadn’t been to a club since I was in my 20s and I don’t think I’d ever strutted my funky stuff without at least one drink inside me. Although my first experience was a tiny bit intimidating – I may have been the only guy in a room full of gyrating women – I ended up loving 5Rhythms and it’s been a regular part of my life for years.

For me, 5Rhythms was a great contrast to yoga. If you throw yourself into the practice, it’s exhausting and completely empties your mind. As a woman at the class I went to at Eötvös10, a smartish cultural center not far from Oktogon, said afterwards, “It’s therapy.”

Warm Glow

The class was taken by Péter Fejér, a teacher with perfect English who received accreditation to teach from Gabrielle Roth herself in 2011. Sadly, she passed away in 2012 aged 71. Her son, Jonathan Horan, is now executive director of 5Rhythms Global.

Music is obviously extremely important in 5Rhythms, as a wave progresses through gentle upbeat house, through the hip-hop that accompanies staccato, into the wild tempo of chaos, through lyrical to silence. The best teachers are also good enough to DJ in clubs. Péter played the right mix of house with a world music flavor and the occasional odd little number thrown in to keep us dancers on our toes.

There were between 15 and 20 of us, which was not a bad turnout at all for a bitterly cold Thursday night. It looked to me like the other dancers were regulars.

One of the great things about 5Rhythms is that you don’t have to know what you’re doing to enjoy yourself. I’d explained the principle of the wave to my Hungarian partner but, being a free spirit and prone to turning her nose up at New Age waftiness, she opted to do her own thing for the duration of the class.

She wasn’t the only one. Two or three of our number spent most of the time on the floor undulating like seaweed or, in the case of one woman in bright red, purple and orange Thai fisherman’s trousers, sitting absolutely still for at least 30 minutes. One couple had clearly practiced contact improvization dancing, which involves exploring your body – not in a PG way, I hasten to add – by tying yourselves in knots and rolling around together.

Lowering Boundaries

Even if you haven’t stuck your head underneath someone’s arm or rolled up their back, 5Rthyms is very much about lowering your boundaries, overtly or discreetly. So, by the end of a class, when you all sit down together, it’s always with a pleasant, warm and shared glow.

Not least because 5Rhythms is an excellent workout. It’s every bit as good for the body as a session at the gym and nowhere near as tedious. I always finish up a class with a good stretch and it’s a wise idea to have a hot shower as soon as you get home.

Another side effect of 5Rhythms is that you’re invariably starving after a class. Fortunately, Eotvos10 is just around the corner from TGIF, on Oktogon. It was a little strange to go from the touchy-feely environment of a 5Rhythms class into the bustle of a bar packed with office workers and couples on dates who clearly weren’t interested in abstaining from alcohol.

I was tempted by a Cowboy Triple Meat Burger but remembered just in time that I was meant to be vegetarian in 2019. My partner, who doesn’t eat meat but enjoys a little tipple almost weakened and had a Banana Cream Pie Shake, made with Bacardi Black rum. Instead, we fortified ourselves with soup and bruschetta followed by a Fridays Sundae for me and Coconut Mango Panna Cotta for her.

Although what we ate probably cancelled out the calories we’d burned off bouncing around the room, we had that smug feeling that comes from knowing we’d exercised and had reasonably good fun.

I could see in my partner’s face a certain degree of satisfaction because she’d taken me up on my dare and survived two hours of sober dancing surrounded by people who wanted to reach out and share with her. I also knew she was filing away the experience to remind me of how much she does for me. This is usually before she suggests we hit the Mammut shopping mall in Buda.

Péter teaches 5Rhythms three times a week. The cost is HUF 300 per person. He also organizes a number of retreats throughout the year. You can find out more at 5rhythms.com/who-we-are/teacher-communities/europe/hungary/

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