In memoriam: Gabrielle Roth

"To sweat is to pray, to make an offering of your innermost self. Sweat is holy water, prayer beads, pearls of liquid that release your past. Sweat is an ancient and universal form of self-healing, whether done in the gym, the sauna, or the sweat lodge. The more you dance, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more you pray. The more you pray, the closer you come to ecstasy."
-Gabrielle Roth

Dancer and healer Gabrielle Roth died last Tuesday at 71, from cancer.

I took a workshop with her in the early '80s; she was articulate, warm, luminous, funny and fierce, but it's what she did–her freeing of the dancer within everyone–that I appreciate.

Body size, age, rhythmic sense and physical limitations were simply not factors in her classes, now taught by certified instructors around the world as 5Rhythms. We moved to live music, drums and song; we sweated more than I  dreamed possible. We stilled the turmoil within and were awed by what appeared. Though the dance was partnerless, I felt connected to everyone in the room.

5Rhythms felt like nothing else, though I've heard athletes who practice various sports talk about similar escape from overbusy brains, and several friends have told me of their sweat lodge visits. (A bonus: sweat benefits the skin, opening and unclogging pores.) 

The broadest term for Roth's life work is ecstatic dance, also found in some religious ceremonies, folk dances and a slew of rave-ish gatherings. Common elements are that the dance is made by the dancer and is non-competitive

I discovered that there's a 5Rhythms class in my city and plan to visit, despite a nearly thirty year pause since first experience. Besides training 5Rhythms teachers, Roth worked till her last days to bring dance to communities where it's normally not welcomed, like hospitals and prisons.

Movement was, for Gabrielle Roth, divine. She talked about the spiritual power of dance in this Huffington Post article. A nine-minute You Tube video, The Wave Dance by Gabrielle Roth, guides a viewer through the process.

She moved me.


Kristien62 said…
How fortunate that you were able to learn from her. Stopping by a class would be a lovely tribute to her memory.
Susan said…
. I did some further research online and discovered that she was, at one time, a masseuse at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur and later taught dance there. We go to the Esalen Institute each summer while in Big Sur and have had some of the best massages there.

If you go to the wikipedia article about Gabrielle Roth, there is more interesting information about her life.
Unknown said…
For me dance is like a form of meditation. I remember doing "dance of the elements" on one of my training courses and it actually seemed to change ones outlook on the world.
Duchesse said…
Kristien62: Yes, ad I may re-establish a long love of this form of dance.

Susan: Esalen is where I took the workshop; spent a month there as a work-scholar as well as other, shorter visits. Agree- there is no massage like an Esalen one!

Chicatanyage: Ecactly; she called her work a "moving meditation". The movement forms like it and t'ai chi are excellent for mature women's health and equanimity.

materfamilias said…
What a moving tribute you've written. Roth sounds like a wonderful, large, generous, and creative personality who will be much missed. I wonder if you will be inspired now to find your way back to some classes -- sounds like a really fulfilling way to move a body and spirit.

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