Saying Yes to 5Rhythms / by Carolyn Busa

My sister, Jen, is (and has always been) 5 years my senior.

We are told all the time we look like twins.

There are some pictures I see it: 

But most of the time I don't:

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I remember once on a family vacation to Disney World being told by the Peruvian employees at the World Showcase* that I looked like the older one. At the time I was thrilled! Especially because I was a 15-year old, gangly mess experimenting in short hair and covering my body in all things Old Navy, while my sister was a beautiful woman entering her twenties with some fashion sense. Anyway, my sister and I may share similar physical attributes, but to us, we are very different people. 

Except when it comes to dancing. 

The Busa sisters need to dance in order to shake things off. There are videos of us shaking it off at an early age in our living room to New Kids on the Block or Bette Midler as well as countless dance recital videos recorded by our father. 

While my sister’s dance trajectory took a more professional route (dancing throughout college, splits, flexibility), mine stayed pretty simple (box steps, dancing in my underwear, etc.). We both continue to dance today but our stages for dancing have become much different. I find release in the chaos of a morning rave, my sister through a practice called 5Rhythms. 

5Rhythms, as described by Jen in her own blog“is a meditative dance/movement class, described most fully in founder Gabrielle Roth’s book,Sweat Your Prayers…students are led through a ‘Wave’ of motion. 5 distinct rhythms comprise a single Wave: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness, in that order. The music, which can range from classical to country to techno, is carefully selected to guide students through each segment; equal time spent in each rhythm ensures the ebb and flow of movement become natural, rather than choppy and disjointed.” Jen has been doing the practice for over five years now and truly loves it. She always wanted me to join her so when she happened to be in the city on the same day as a class, she begged me to try it. Being tired but still inspired from the museum sleepover the night before, I said yes

The class took place at the Joffrey Ballet Studio. We rode a shady elevator up to the 5th floor. I gave Jen an eye roll as the elevator crawled and probably quoted something from Tower of Terror. The Busa sisters love Disney too, can you tell? The doors opened and we were in the cramped quarters outside the studio. The fee for class was $20 so I asked if there was a ‘New Student Discount Fee.’ No, she apologized, 'But there are New Student Hugs!’ 'Booooooo’ I thought as I accepted the hug. 

Jen knew a bunch of the people there so while I stood alone by a trash can awaiting instructions, she exchanged pleasantries. I felt like the comedian from out-of-town at an open mic, not knowing how things worked or to whom I should speak to. HoweverI noticed people filling up the studio so it was then I decided to shake off my negative energy by embracing the situation full force.

“I’m going to act like I fucking own this.” I said to Jen as I walked into the studio with blind confidence. 

I sat on the floor of the studio and began stretching. Or at least my version of stretching. I lay on my back. I pulled a leg close to my chest. I pulled the other leg close to my chest. I was ‘stretching’ for awhile! “When’s this going to start?” I thoughtto myself. I was waiting for the instructor to bring us together and give a pep talk, a speech, a smudging, I don’t know, something! But then I realized, shit, it did start. People’s bodies were moving differently. Some remained on the floor but others were up and about. My god, we were Flowing!

Flowing is the first of the movements in 5Rhythms and it’s when the pace picks up a little. I knew from my morning rave experiences that I was capable of sober, AM dancing but I was struggling to feel the flow. Every movement made me feel weird. I put my arms over my head and felt like a creep. 'Get over yourself!!’ I repeated but it was hard! There were mirrors everywhere and you know me and mirrors! I HAVE to look at myself. 

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The room looked like it was about to break out into the world’s weirdest orgy. All sorts of ages, races, body shapes were slinking around. I was half-expecting someone to get naked or to suddenly feel a tongue in my ear so I started moving around the room with a bit more purpose. “You’re not gonna catch me!”

A woman in the room picked up a mop and started using it as her dance partner. Yes, I admit, I judged her for this. Another older man found joy in clapping, my sister, always a beautiful dancer, was making her way around each corner of the room. I felt like I was invading her privacy, like I was watching her do something intimate. She was in the zone and I wanted to join her.

When I dance, I look to the DJ to provide me my next move. While the DJ doesn’t actually dictate my movement, they do serve a great purpose in my dance journey. This was different. Yes, there was a woman in charge of music and every now and then she provided some words of wisdom, but really, the journey was all mine to decide. 

I finally started to feel more like myself once the Staccato and Chaos rhythms began. The beat was alive and my hips relaxed. I didn’t recognize all the songs being played but there were definitely familiar tunes. I think that’s what my biggest fear was about 5Rhythms. I was afraid the music would be something out of the lobby of a new-age, salon, ‘plinky plunky’ sounds as Phoebe Buffay might describe them. 

At first I thought a two-hour class was way too long but when I suddenly realized an hour had passed just when I was getting comfortable, I was grateful. We completed our first wave and it was time to start the next. 

It was during this second wave I felt it. The hair came down, the hands in the air, aaaaaand I began making eye contact! There were moments when my mind lost control and my body took control. This was fun. 

I looked at everyone dancing around me, practicing their art. Then I thought of how I practice my art: open mic, show, open mic, show, record, listen, edit, record, listen, edit. How nice it felt to be doing something fulfilling for my brain and body and not have to worry about saving it to fix later. No one in the room was recording this or ever going to repeat this performance. It was there. It was happening. And it was going to be gone very soon. It wouldn’t live on camera and it wouldn’t live on my phone. Done.

During the last Lyrical and Stillness rhythms of the wave, I found myself dancing with other (sweaty) people. We played off each other and there was never a move that felt wrong. I felt accepted. I felt good. And I felt like a strong woman. I was turned on and it was me who was doing the turning. 

My sister writes this: 

Certain music, certain movers will extract that essence out of me, and I feel wise, vibrant, strong, feminine, proud, daring. There is a head-to-toe, bone-to-muscle-to-blood connection with myself, and I feel so whole, so womanly, so pure.

Likewise, even though I don’t necessarily feel “grown up,” dancing has certainly given me comfort in my femininity and allowed me to move beyond the boundaries of girlhood.


Later that evening, while still riding my 5Rhythms high, I got caught in a sudden downpour. I stood under an awning but only for a moment. 

Soak up. Grow up. Say yes. Those are my rhythms.