On a personal note..
It took an hour of conscious dancing to drastically move my life in a new direction. The year was 2001 and the setting a conference for body-oriented psychotherapists. I was a young psychologist working in a psychiatric ward and training to become a Gestalt therapist. While I was learning the ropes of my new profession, I felt increasingly tied down. In part by the machineries of my workplace, but mostly by my tendency to overthink. As I observed and analyzed other people, I also became a spectator of my own life; always at a slight distance of my own body. As I watched life slip by, I grew more and more restless. I took to martial arts and thrill-seeking to escape my thought bubble and release pent up tension. This worked... a bit. The adrenaline spiced up my sedentary life, but as soon as the rush was gone I was as stuck as ever. Moreover, I was horrified by the person I was turning into: a mild-mannered professional, settling for a predictable lifestyle. I missed magic and adventure. I missed rock and roll. My Gestalt therapy training offered plenty of opportunity to reflect on the patterns that held me back, but understanding these patterns did not equate real life change. I could not therapy my way out of my predicament, I had to find my feet and start moving.
I think it is a particular Western delusion to think that all the answers are found within. Sometimes you need to go on a quest to hear what is calling you. My search brought me to this body psychotherapy conference where I spent the day taking in different integrated methods: all interesting, but none entrancing. The day came to a close with a dance workshop by Anna Witholt, a fellow psychologist and 5Rhythms teacher. After a gentle start, she had us moving up and down the room, which was the perfect antidote for a day of professional posing. As I danced passed some initial reservation, Anna played On & on by Erykah Badu. Soulful beats began to animate my body. It started as a little fire in my hips that soon spread throughout my whole body. I was no longer thinking or 'making' moves, instead I was being moved. Fast percussion followed and peaked us towards trance. Past and present rewove as I disappeared in the dance. I was back in my local, teenage disco where dancing hip hop cured my shyness; I was back in industrial halls raving till the sun came up. And when the dance workshop came to an end, I had the strange feeling that I had discovered something familiar.
Discovering the 5Rhythms was like a lifting of amnesia. How could I have forgotten the freedom, the ecstasy and the sense of community I had experienced on the dance floors of my youth? The sad truth is that dancing never was a credible contender for me. My wagers were on more important things like intellectual endeavors and becoming a psychotherapist, and over time I forgot to dance. Luckily for me, dance was the proverbial dark horse that emerged when these 'important' things ran out of steam. Dance announced itself with a new found voice. It had been repackaged and re-branded and it reasserted itself now as a barefoot healing practice. The 5Rhythms was therapeutic, shamanic, tantric and spiritual, all wrapped in one. I was hooked. In the years that followed I worked, saved money, danced the 5Rhythms and repeated the process. This eventually led to becoming a 5Rhythms teacher in 2008. Inspired and freshly certified, I thought I would follow in the footsteps of my favorite teachers and travel the globe spreading the gospel. It did not go quite that way.
Not long after finishing my teacher training, I was leading a community building workshop and met Sarah Kate Gardiner. Sarah Kate is a dancer, choreographer and all-round creative whirlwind. Since we both shared a passion for dance and working with communities, we decided to explore possibilities. Over the period of a year, we met in a dance studio to exchange ideas and movement practices. Out of these exchanges we developed PLATFORM1660, a cross generational community dance project (2010). The studio time with Sarah Kate proved to be a turning point. Sarah Kate had studied and sampled many kinds of free form dance, from Laban to Contact Improvisation. In comparison, I only knew one thing very well, but once outside the 5Rhythms frame, I felt out of my depth.
In sharing my personal story I also hope to share a personal window on a larger.. sharing a light on a larger issue. I am hardly unique in this. As a human species we forgot to value dance as a healing practice, that is, as a way to transcend our crystallized ego's and reweave ourselves in the fabric of life. But, dance as a healing practice is making its comeback at a time when our we are trapped in a consciousdisembodied and . Its like the proverbial dark horse that emerges when our overactive minds threaten to destroy life as we know it.
After nearly a decade of dancing the 5Rhythms, I had reached the pinnacle of my practice and became a teacher. However, Sarah Kate was a generalist, she had studied and sampled many kinds of free form dance, from Laban to Contact Improvisation. In comparison, I only knew how to play one game really well. What is more, I
I was embodied, but what did I really know about the anatomy of the moving body? I could dance expressively, but what did I know about improvising and composing movement? My know-how was limited to facilitating self-expression and psychological, release and spiritual vagueries.
It was an unsettling exposé of style over substance. In the Urban Dictionary, an author by the name of gigabyte46 explains it like this: 'for the general public the "substance" is not interesting cause it's complex and takes time to understand, while "style" is interesting cause it's quickly pleases eyes and ears while engaging your own imagination about yourself in this world.' The 5Rhythms, with teachers as Gabrielle Roth, Ya'akov Darling Khan and Andrea Juhan, had given me a lot of substance covered in thick wrappings of style. I ventured out into other dance and art forms, like contact improvisation, instant composition, somatics and theater to fill in the gaps in my know-how and to unpack dance from its New Age wrapping and I am, honestly, still on it.
not only 5r dance niche. archaic, primal.
Sure, I knew things, I could move, once the words masque. Someone who is not in the know, vague.
My know-how was patchy and poorly articulated. rules game same community. safe space.
he confrontation with my limitations, set me on a whole new dancing journey across different fields and disciplines to fill the gaps in my background.
I had the privilege of doing the last teacher training fully led by Gabrielle Roth.
important to me. context. Here was a practice that said dancing is a spiritual path.
I had danced like this before and not.
Deep down a voice affirmed 'this is it'. I had traced myself out of the maze of analytic thought and self-awareness.
Something profound and simple. So simple that it is easily drowned out by things that seem more important, as careers, ...
This not only applies to my personal history, but is also indicative for Conscious Dance as a whole, the 5Rhythms included. Something ancient and primal is speaking to us again through various conscious dance forms.
as we moved into stillness, I had not found something new, but something had found me again. was talking, calling my mind back into my body.
Re-minding me how I could move pent up emotions without crystallizing them into stories. It was both simple and profound and right then and there I knew I had arrived home.
Looking back, I was on a quest for soul retrieval, tracing the tracks of my lost parts, and learning how to do that for others. was one of these things to the plan was to include the body in all my heady business. The exact opposite happened. nd after countless powerpoints my head was suddenly empty.
, I started seeking thrills to regain some sense of spontaneity, which worked ever so briefly. And so I turned to the body, or I should say, I re-turned to my body. My childhood and teenage years were filled with movement, first with martial arts and later dance. And whether I was battling it out on the tatami or the dance floor: I felt alive.
The 5Rhythms taught me how self-expression can be a tool for transformation by taking dancers through a 5 phased process - moving from sensing, to expression, to surrender, to expansion and stillness. It is a beautiful, healing practice.
while I was teaching 5Rhythms classes and workshops.
, I dove into dance and contact improvisation and got involved with dance as a performative art. Contact impro was another homecoming. Growing up, Judo was my bread and butter. I knew how to play with weight, lifts, etc.
Gaps, in contact, sharing weight. In space, composition. Not only dance as self-expression, but also as a way to communicate to an audience. listen not only to self or partner, but also learn to listen to the whole. discipline of being a performer, in service, availability. Explored several of these threads somatics and theatre.
was tamed by and I felt some despair at spending most of my time reflecting on the lives of others, while my own life slipped by.
And although I landed I grew increasingly restless, both with the and with the talking-therapy-format .. I wanted to break free and turned to the body.. Movement had been a staple diet in my upbringing
But more than that I felt stuck in my life.
It just took an hour of dancing to release the grip of my analytical mind and to let my body talk -as it had done during my teenage hip hop
When I discovered Conscious Dance it was both self-evident In 2001 I visited that took my I had finished my master's in psychology two years earlier, worked in me
Léon has been exploring movement and mind matters for over 20 years. He holds a MA in psychology, studied Gestalt therapy and worked as a psychologist in education, mental health care and business. Léon grew up with martial arts and hip hop and is a certified 5Rhythms movement facilitator. He has been teaching 5Rhythms dance since 2008 alongside practicing the disciplines of instant composition and contact improvisation performing dance on a regular basis. In 2014 he finished the Somatic Practitioner Training at the Somatic Movement Institute.
From 2007 Léon has been co-directing the Dutch NGO Diversity Joy which offers training programs on community building and bridging diversity. Diversity Joy got started with the help of the South African organization Phaphama initiatives. Léon received his training from Phaphama and is a senior trainer in its methodology working nationally and internationally in often marginalized communities.
In 2010 Léon co-founded and co-directed PLATFORM 1660, a cross generational community dance project which featured the newly developed dance dialogue methodology.
I grew up as the eldest son of a Dutch/Frisian mother and an Indo-European father. Movement was a staple diet in my family and I got into martial arts and hip hop from an early age. My active upbringing and mixed heritage fostered a passion for movement and a curiosity for what moves people. After receiving my MA in psychology, I studied Gestalt therapy in search of a more integrated bodymind approach to mental health and personal growth. My first 5Rhythms experience in 2001 hit home and set me off on a global dancing journey, eventually becoming a 5Rhythms teacher in 2008.
After finishing university I worked as a psychologist in mental health care, education and business. I loved working with people, but struggled with the professional roles that restricted body awareness, creativity and that put me on a safe distance from the people I worked with. In 2006 I ran into the Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP), a conflict transformation program that originated in the US prisons in the 1970's. Although I had been educated as a trainer in different programs, AVP was a revelation. It showed me ways of creating shared experiences in which we can all grow. I became a lead trainer in the methodology and from 2007 till 2014 I co-directed the Dutch NGO Diversity Joy, offering AVP and other training programs on community development, conflict resolution and bridging diversity. I currently serve as a board member and trainer of this organisation.
My community work and dance had to meet somewhere. That opportunity arose when I met Sarah Kate Gardiner, a British dancer and choreographer. In 2010 we developed and co-directed PLATFORM 1660, a cross generational community dance project. Sarah Kate and P1660 inspired me to explore dance further as an art form. I started practicing Instant Composition and Contact Improvisation, became part of different art collectives and performed dance on a regular basis. I also delved into different somatic practices to deepen my understandings of the bodymind foundations. In 2014 I did the Somatic Practitioner training at the Somatic Movement Institute. A year later, while living in Stockholm, dance and community bridged again when I co-founded the Artchitects, a collective keen on building social infrastructure through art.
I'm currently back on my basis in Amsterdam, weaving the different strands of my career(s) together in new patterns. My recent studies with Paul Linden play an important part in that. Paul is an Aikido sensei who integrates martial arts with somatics in working with trauma and conflict. My recent Dance Dojo is partly based on his work, but also on the many people I have been blessed to work with -students, teachers, colleagues- all of whom helped to shape and inform my teachings. Thank you.