In what year was your first class with The Philly Tribe?
What was your relationship to dance/movement before taking class with The Philly Tribe?
Before finding The Philly Tribe, I had never been a dancer. Dance was always something I found to be intriguing from a distance, but I was always too scared to try it myself. I opted for gymnastics classes instead of modern dance or ballet during my childhood, and the most I would dance in public was bopping up and down at school dances. I will admit to attempting to teach myself dance moves to my favorite songs when I was alone in my bedroom during my pre-teen years, but beyond that, dancing made me pretty uncomfortable! I was never aware that something like 5Rhythms even existed until my dad brought me to my first 5Rhythms class when I was 16. I immediately fell in love with the rhythms; it allowed me to express myself in ways words could never satisfy, and it brought me into my body for the first time in my life!
What keeps you coming back to class regularly?
The community is the main reason I come to class regularly. While I do dance alone occasionally, I find that community is a necessary component to my personal dance practice. The Philly Tribe is my family; I started coming to classes when I was just a junior in high school, and I have consistently attended classes ever since. The tribe has helped me grow, and we have certainly grown together. The tribe is an incredible support system, and dancing with them regularly is very important to me! Also, nothing beats the energy of a full room during an intense chaos!
In what ways does this dance practice influence or inspire your non-dancing life?
I have essentially grown up dancing. I have grown into my young adult self with the help of the tools many conscious dance teachers have given me. I sometimes view the world through the lens of the 5Rhythms. I wake up and roll into the stillness of meditation, then relax into the flow of cooking myself breakfast. I move into the staccato hustle of my college thesis work, directing all my focused attention on my schoolwork. Periods of chaos blossom during high-stress times throughout my day, and here I drop all the metaphorical pieces of my thesis projects in my mind before surrendering into these moments of not knowing where to go next. I thrive in chaos; after I give up trying to push through these moments with the sheer force of my staccato-like will, I can succumb to feeling the chaos. Only then am I able to approach the task(s) at hand from the vantage point of lyrical, somehow more elevated and clear-headed than when I first engaged with them. I sink into lyrical as I transition into my evening routine, songwriting, painting, and journaling my heart out. Stillness arrives yet again at the end of my day when I sink into bed, breathing into the still calm of midnight. The rhythms continuously influence, intrigue, and inspire my daily life in more ways than I can even begin to put into words! The tools I have learned from the various conscious dance practices The Philly Tribe offers are always moving through me, being utilized and expressed, as I carry them with me everywhere I go.
Tell us about a specific Philly Tribe class or workshop that you thought was especially powerful.
I have attended so many incredibly powerful workshops and classes with The Philly Tribe that it is extremely hard to pick just one! However, I think my very first workshop was the most significant. Michael Skelton led the workshop, which I believe was called Unmasked. I had just begun dancing 5Rhythms a few months before attending this three-day weekend workshop, and I had no idea what to expect. I was actually very uncertain about my ability to dance for three days straight, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found that a workshop did not mean simply dancing wave upon wave until exhaustion.
Everything about this workshop touched my heart and soul in a way that I had never previously been exposed to. Being in a community of other loving and caring human beings who truly saw me as an equal even though I was just 16 years old was so incredibly touching. Michael Skelton, of course, is pure magic; I was moved to tears many times throughout the weekend by his words and exercises. There are two moments from that weekend that I will never forget. One occurred during the ritual portion on the final day. I was sobbing my heart out and suddenly stopped, kneeling in stillness, which was a signal in the ritual for someone to come over and whisper healing words to that person. Michael immediately came over to me and whispered a phrase that I can no longer remember in its entirety, but it echoed in my head throughout the next week as I walked through the halls of my high school; he spoke of my power as a human being and the spark that is clearly present within me.
During the final portion of that same afternoon, all the dancers were sitting in a circle around the room, and we had the option to enter the center of the space and say something about our soul as expressed through an art piece involving words we use to describe ourselves as well as the metaphorical masks we put on. Though I was very close to tears, I decided to stand in the center of the room, and the first thing that came out of my mouth (which surprised myself as well as the room) was, “This is the soul of a WOMAN, not a girl!” I think that weekend was when I solidified my place in The Philly Tribe as an equal despite my young age. It was the weekend I gained my second family and shared my whole self to a group of loving individuals while also bearing witness to their own whole selves in a beautiful and magical exchange. It was also the weekend I dedicated myself to the path of 5Rhythms and conscious dance!
Is there anything you’d like your fellow classmates to know about your dance-floor personality, preferences, or quirks?
It’s pretty obvious that I have a lot of hair. I like to view my hair as an extension of myself—I really enjoy dancing with it down! Although I take the first few songs of a wave as time to dance by myself, I generally also enjoy dancing in partnership or in a group of people, so please do not let the hair in my face discourage you from engaging with me! I have begun putting my hair half-up, which typically signals that I am open to partnership; this allows me to open my field of vision a bit while also still being able to have my hair down. Even though I am still learning how to seek out partnerships, I will engage with you if we make some sort of contact and I sense that you might want to connect.
I also tend to go wild in both staccato AND chaos because they’re my two favorite rhythms. If you need someone to shake out with during an intense chaos, I’ll be there!
Finally, my dad and I attend the majority of the tribe’s classes and workshops together, so that’s a bit of a quirk. :)
Tell us a little about your current life off the dance floor.
At the time of this writing, I am finishing up my senior year at Arcadia University! I’m studying psychology and sociology, and I’m working on two separate thesis projects so that I can complete both majors on time. It’s a lot of work, but I am able to balance my theses because I am a naturally driven person and genuinely enjoy school and what I’m learning in both disciplines. In my spare time, I have begun teaching myself astrology and greatly enjoy giving tarot readings to myself and others. I keep myself grounded however I can; tarot is a practice that helps me do that, as does meditating each morning before I start my day so I can enter into it a bit peacefully.
I also am a self-taught hula hoop dancer, which I have been doing for about four years. I like to express my creativity through journaling, singing, playing guitar, writing poetry, and writing songs. I am also a backup singer in a local band called Flat Ernie. I wish to integrate my passions off the dance floor with my conscious dancing life as smoothly as possible; someday soon, I will train to become a 5Rhythms teacher alongside obtaining my master’s in school counseling. I wish to become a middle school counselor and lead conscious dance classes for middle schoolers; I know how beneficial the 5Rhythms were for me in high school, and I only wish I had gotten involved in the practice sooner. Middle schoolers need conscious dance, too!
Is there anything else you’d like to share—personal accomplishments, struggles, epiphanies, questions, or stand-out life experiences that have helped shaped who you are today?
Conscious dance certainly is the practice that has shaped me into who I am today. Apart from this, the past few years of my life have been extremely emotional and difficult. Two years ago, my stepmother, who was also a conscious dancer, was murdered, and recently, my cousin committed suicide. Coping with death is something that has always been very tough for me, and facing my own mortality always goes hand-in-hand with this coping process. I consider myself very lucky to have the 5Rhythms and conscious dance as well as my own spiritual practice to lean on during these tough times. It has enabled me to fully enter the grieving process without completely shutting down.
Throughout these past few years, I have also experienced the emotional rollercoaster of two fairly toxic relationships; again, combining dance with my spiritual practice enabled me to find solid ground and come into myself as my own person apart from romantic relationships and the toxic nature of my past relationships. It has provided me with a solid foundation from which I can continue to build up my relationship with myself as well as branch out into connection with others.