Changes Start with... THE SPARK "at the heart of the alternative west country"

Spotlight on dance

Transformative, warming, energising… we kick off our outdoor shoes and head inside to discover and unravel some of the lesser known (and more unusual) ways to dance yourself through the winter months...

We welcome your comments about other dance opportunities in Sparkland - please add them to the bottom of the article.


therapeutic/transformative dance


5 Rhythms

5 Rhythms dancing is a moving meditation practice devised by Gabrielle Roth in the 1960s. It is sometimes also referred to as “the Wave”. The five rhythms are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. Roth developed the practice over time, having watched people moving in certain patterns that seemed to repeat themselves. She has described the dance as a “soul journey” which frees creative expression and enables the dancer to develop their unique path to a blissful state and spiritual release.

When I tried 5 Rhythms, our teacher allowed time for us to warm up and connect with our bodies. She then played us music which represented each of the five dance rhythms with one flowing into the next. She guided us through the class but made it clear that feeling the music and moving with your breath is more important than knowing exactly which stage you are in at any time. She encouraged us to move alone, together in small groups or in pairs at different times and to follow our instinctive movement.

People talk about feeling greater awareness, gaining perspective on their lives and emotional states and feeling joyful release and a sense of peace after doing 5 Rhythms. I liked the natural exploration of body movement and I enjoyed finding ways to dance with others and on my own. I liked the sense of community and personal expression that was encouraged and left feeling very blissed out.

Try it with:
• Bernadette Ryder teaches 5 rhythms at the DMAC studio, Hamilton House, Stokes Croft, Bristol. Tuesday 7.45-10pm & Friday 8-10.30pm, £10. 07903 497700
• Dawn Morgan teaches ‘Shapeshift Dance’, a form of 5 Rhythms, in Bristol and Stroud. “Respond from your authentic core to open up to the freshness of unhindered movement and dance.” 01453 750608,
• Sue Kuhn’s Ecstatic Dance is a regular 5 Rhythms drop-in class in Bath, Wednesday 6.30-8.45pm, St Mark’s School, Baytree Road, BA1 6ND, £10. 01225 465846,
• Leigh Tolson teaches 5 Rhythms in Cotham, Bristol, Wednesdays 7.30-10.30pm (termtimes), £10,



Biodanza was developed by lecturer of psychology and medical anthropology Rolando Toro Araneda, in Chile in the 1960s. The name translates as “life” (bios) and “movement full of meaning” (danza). He proposed that life is comprised of 5 key elements: vitality, sexuality, creativity, affectivity and transcendence, and believed that by fully realising these aspects we can develop our innate potential.

Participants of Biodanza tell me that it improves their sense of community and integration with others, and is also a useful tool in personal development. Dancing can be alone, in pairs or as part of a “tribal” group of dancers.

Try it with:
• Antoinette Williams 0778 478 7635
• Elizabeth Barnett, December 11, 2011 (and then every 2nd Sunday of the month), St Michael’s Primary School, Park Lane, Bristol BS2 8BE. 1-6pm £30/£25 conc. Bring food if you wish. 0117 955 6297 / 07786 226153,

Kundalini Dance

Kundalini dance is known as an ‘ecstatic’ dance form which combines dance movement therapy, rhythmic breath, tantric healing and shamanic healing music to explore the body/mind consciousness and gain insight for healing the body, mind and spirit. Kundalini energy is understood to be an unconscious potent life force that lies coiled at the base of the spine (dormant in the body until it’s awakened). When activated the energy may then rise up through the spine giving expanded consciousness as it passes through our psychic centres, or chakras.

Mark Keane is the only practitioner working in Sparkland. He completed his training in 2005 in Byron Bay, Australia. I found Mark’s approach to be open, supportive and playful. He encouraged us to tune in to the energy in our bodies and let our bodies lead us. The class began by honouring the four compass directions and a brief sharing of our intentions for the class. We then worked together and separately, with vocal guidance from Mark throughout. I enjoyed the communal “fire” dance where dancers raise the group energy. I also enjoyed the freedom of the class and felt relaxed and invigorated afterwards.

Try it with:
• Mark Keane, Mondays, 8pm, Wilder Street Studio, Bristol. Mark also facilitates ‘Conscious Clubbing’ nights at the Wilder St Studio, where dancers socialise in a drug/alcohol-free space. 07726 892631,


Carla Esteves runs a nine-week dance journey for women called “Inhabiting the Feminine Earth Body”. In her unusual work Carla combines personal and ecological awareness through dance. She says: “Somaterra offers a practice that helps women/men to get into their bodies as a gateway for an encounter with the natural world. Our attitude to our bodies reflects our attitude to the earth and one another. Inhabiting and nurturing our bodies/minds/soul is the first step towards relating to the Earth ecologically from within. Women’s cycles, for example, are not only a deep source of connection to the Earth’s natural cycles and female wisdom but also great teachers of sustainability!”

Find out more:


wild fusion

This form of belly dance came out of the Bay Area of San Francisco in the late ’80s. It takes influence from street dance, hip hop, tango and contemporary dance, using traditional Egyptian belly dance movements (in the 1800s women were banned from dancing in Egypt so the men learnt the dance to preserve it). The music used in tribal fusion is modern and the overall feel is contemporary bohemian.

The class began with some conditioning exercises to strengthen our core, legs and hips. We were shown how to isolate certain muscles, how to move our abdominals and how to execute ‘pops’ and ‘locks’ (there’s the hip hop influence!). The class is open to men and women, of all abilities. We were encouraged to draw on our own experience of different dance styles to bring our own interpretation to tribal fusion.

Try it with:
• Victoria (Pearl Boheme), DMAC, 07885 781088,




Children’s creative dance

Bristol Community Dance Centre offers creative dance classes for children on Saturdays. 10.30-11.15am  is 5 to 7-yr-olds, 11.20-12.20am is 8-10 yrs. BCDC say “These classes are friendly, nurturing classes that enable children to revel in dance. Sessions will help their creativity, confidence and interaction with other children”.

Find out more:
Jacobs Wells Road, Hotwells, Bristol BS8 1DX, 0117 929 2118,


eastern workout


Bhangra dance fitness

Bhangra is a form of folk music that originated in the Punjab region north of India. The ‘Masala Bhangra Workout’ was devised by Sarina Jain (the “Jane Fonda” of India) and combines some nifty dance moves with a high energy, cardiovascular workout.

In the class I went to, we tied scarves to our hands and placed bhindis on our foreheads, which was a nice way to get us into the mood. We danced for an hour, (with a short break in the middle), fitting traditional bhangra moves into a dance routine which needed stamina and focus. Our soundtrack ranged from traditional bhangra music, to a drum & bass fusion and we twirled, stamped and shook our booty through a happy and boisterous hour. One to shake away the winter blues!

Try it with:

• Monika, DMAC Bristol, Tuesdays 6.30pm,


high energy


Lindy Hop

Lindy Hop (or Jitterbug as it’s also known), has been through many incarnations. Originating in Harlem, New York in the ’20s and ’30s it forms part of the group of dances that include swing and jive. Its popularity has risen in recent years due in part to the many video clips available online. The roots are African with a small pulse or beat emanating through the moves in a four-beat rhythm. In this way Lindy Hop can be danced fast to an eight-beat rhythm enabling flashier, faster moves for the show dances. As a social dance it can be danced at whatever speed you choose and classes give you the chance to have several dance partners to practise with.

Ann and Graeme of “Hopping Mad” currently run classes in Bath and Bristol for beginners and intermediates with a short freestyle dance space offered after each session. My beginner’s class guided me through several basic steps where the male dancer generally took the lead. These moves can be put together to develop a sequence. There are no set patterns or fixed sequences: the idea is that each dance pair can create their own unique combination of moves to show off their skills when they hit the floor!

Try it with:

Ann Peskett and Graeme Puckett.
• Bristol: Mondays 7.45-8.40pm (Beginners practice 8.40-9pm; Improvers 9-9.50pm; intermediate practice last Monday each month 9.50-10.30pm). The Elmgrove Centre, Redland, Bristol £6 per class/students £4.
• Bath: Tuesdays, same dance times, at Scouts HQ
• Cheltenham/Gloucester: beginners 7pm, intermediate 8pm, advanced 9pm. £5 per class, £8 per two classes (students £4/£6), freestyle dancing between classes. Dowty Sports and Social Club, Staverton GL2 9QD


Dance centres in Sparkland



DMAC launched in 2010: a new dance studio space in central Bristol offering dance, yoga and performance arts from the world over. DMAC is made up of a collective of local artists, who hail from a diverse cultural and ethnic background, and the space hosts a wealth of creative classes, ranging from African dancing and drumming, to street dance, capoeira, hip hop, 5 rhythms, belly dance, ragga, hip hop, lindyhop, bhangra, yoga, pilates and more.

Find out more:
DMAC UK, Hamilton House, above “The Canteen”, Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3YQ,


Bristol Community Dance Centre

Bristol Community Dance Centre was formed in 1976 and has been at its current site (a former Victorian Baths sat atop an Elizabethan theatre!) since 1979. It has survived thanks to a dedicated staff and public support, and has played host to pioneering teachers and a wealth of dance forms from all over the world for over 30 years. It introduced salsa, capoeira and breakdance to the region in the ’80s, and has supported and nurtured students of contemporary and contact improv dance forms (amongst others) for many years.

Find out more:
Jacobs Wells Road, Hotwells, Bristol BS8 1DX, tel 0117 929 2118


Dance movement psychotherapy


Dance Voice

Dance Voice is the South West’s pioneering Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP) centre. DMP is a process that uses movement and dance to facilitate emotional, physical, social, mental and spiritual growth. The centre provides a safe space where clients can explore their own feelings and behaviours through physical movement, with expert support and creative input from trained dance movement psychotherapists.

If you are interested in DMP, you can access Dance Voice through one-on-one therapy sessions. They also welcome volunteers into their group sessions (to work with clients with learning difficulties) on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. Any volunteer/student has to be CRB checked but is never left alone in a client group.

Find out more:
Contact Kate Marsh on 0117 953 2055 or email her at


The lost dance?


We’ve given you a taster of the kind of transformative and unusual dance opportunities available in Sparkland but this is not an exhaustive guide. If you know of any missing gems, please add them below: it’s really easy to do and will make a great resource for dancers new and old across the region.

Apologies to anyone who feels they should have been included in the print article.


written by Melanie West

photograph of Dawn Morgan (2nd photo featured) by Ben Jarlett

first published issue 67, Nov 2011

All details correct at time of publishing, but may now have changed - we recommend checking class times with the provider first.


Re: spotlight-on-dance

Posted by: Emilie - 01/12/2011

You missed hoop dance - there are a hundreds of people in the region getting moving in a hula hoop. It's practiced as a form of fitness, dance and movement meditation. I teach in Bristol and Bath and there are other teachers in the South West. Check online for local classes and events, try google or UK Hoop Database.

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