Richard McConnell has only been living in Germantown for a short while, but he’s wasted no time getting involved with his community. McConnell, who moved from England three years ago with his American wife, Claire, teaches 5 Rhythms dance classes out of his home at 217 W. Queen Lane. He has been a dance instructor for 10 years, seven of which were in his homeland, England.
McConnell said 5 Rhythms is a form of dance discovered by a woman named Gabrielle Roth. The dance is fairly unstructured, focusing on the rhythm of five different forms of fluid movement. “It’s basically a movement meditation practice, but we do it to music, and at points, at times, that music can be very loud,” McConnell said.
Richard and Claire said they hope to expand awareness of their local operation and gain more consistent participants. On Tuesday afternoon before the class was scheduled to begin, Claire sat outside watching a stray kitten that had shown up the day before. A small garden in the yard and wooden furniture on the front porch help to create a welcoming environment for new dancers.
For many, this form of dance even provides therapeutic benefits. Just being given “permission to move” is a freeing experience, McConnell said. The five steps each have practical application to every-day experiences. “Essentially, the movement comes from you, so it comes from the dancers and the 5 Rhythms and just different waves of moving that connect to different ways of being in the world,” McConnell said. “It’s a body-mind thing, but the essence of that that connects body and mind is the heart. Oh how am I feeling in this moment? And there’s a great permission there, too.”
5 Rhythms dancing allows participants to face feelings and process them through movement. “We’re taking in experience. What is my experience? How do I feel about what’s going on right here? And for some of us, that’s a really difficult thing,” McConnell said.
The McConnells host weekly dance meetings in the heart of Germantown every Tuesday night. Other regular meetings are available in West Philadelphia and New Jersey as well. McConnell is also involved in occasional weekend workshops available in the area.
It is McConnell’s hope that the practice of this dance will help individuals in their daily lives, regardless of their personal struggles. “All these things are experiences we all have. We can all breathe together on that, in the rhythm of stillness.”