"Sweat your prayers!" is the idea here. 5Rhythms originated in the 1970s and uses tenets of shamanistic, ecstatic, mystical and eastern philosophy – although to the uninitiated it looks like flailing around to music.
On Time Out's visit there are around 150 of us, on a fire-hazardly hot day at Abbotsford Convent. A DJ is spinning languorous ambient music, causing one woman to roll around on the floor, showing her knickers. Others wave their arms around like trees in the wind. We’ll be doing this – to varying BPMs – for the next few hours.
Ten minutes in, I’m still grimacing at ground level. At some point I’ll have to get off the floor, upon which I am trailing the odd limb, and get jiggy with it. The BPMs are rising, and in response, people are running around the room like aeroplanes or bucking their hips wildly, as though reenacting the voodoo sequences in Live and Let Die.
I get up and get stuck in, and after some initial dying inside, I find I’m completely forgetting myself – and pulling awesome shamanistic dance moves, hitherto unseen. I sneak a peak at my mate. One minute she’s interpretative prancing through the air with her frock sailing behind her, the next she’s raving to an internal munt0-mix, happy as Larry.
An hour goes by. I love this. I’m secretly dying for someone to gasp of my chops: “You mean to say you’ve had no formal training?” However, I can’t quite lose the shitty attitude whenever someone comes whirling dervishing into my space.
One shirtless man with an unruly beard and orange fisherman’s pants curls up in the foetal position on the floor. Another man drifts over to him in a non-threatening manner and slowly reaches out a hand to touch his shoulder. They remain in this tableau for many minutes.
The BPM rises some more. There is clapping. Some people tumble on each other like acrobats. They embrace. Women have, by and large, tucked their dresses into their knickers and are rolling their eyeballs around their sockets. One woman curls into a ball and a man wraps himself around her like a limpet. Another couple touch each other’s fingers and won’t stop staring into each other’s eyes and kissing.
“Feeeeeeeel it” a disembodied voice shrieks over tribal drums. We’re feeling it, we’re feeling it; if only in the form of flashbacks. In fact, I have my suspicions that while for many this is a spiritual experience, for others this could be an old ravers’ home, for those who have long since blown a fuse.
Which makes it just the place for the likes of us to come and cut loose, frankly. Will we be back? Oh yes. With wings on.
As well as this event every other Sunday at Abbotsford Convent, there are weekly workshops in St Kilda (St Kilda Primary School Sports Hall, 2 Brighton Rd, St Kilda 3182. www.5rhythms.com. 7.30-9.30pm. $15. Thursdays) and in Fitzroy North (St Brigids Parish Hall, Cnr of Nicholson & Alexander Pde, Fitzroy North 3068. 7.30-9.30pm. $15. Tuesdays.)