What Have I Done? (News from the Mad House)

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I usually never post twice in a row on the same topic, but teaching dance at the ‘Mad House’ (a South London psychiatric hospital) is currently becoming the centre of my life. It feels like the first time I’m actually doing something. I mean that I am finally producing something of true value and creating something from scratch out of all the things I’ve learned. I’ve studied, hanged out and traveled most of my life. These are easy zones though. They allow you to fail and quit. I have a lot of opinions on a lot of things. I’ve built a network of amazing people and creatures, almost a human cabinet de curiosités. But what have I done? What have I made?

Teaching my Wednesday classes at the psychiatric hospital is becoming my heartbeat. That’s crazy. I never expected to fall so deeply for it. I hated it with passion in the first few weeks. Now, some kind of magic is operating. I don’t know yet what is happening, but it feels like I am finally taking action on what I really want to do in life.

My favourite patient is leaving the ward on Friday. She was there at my first class and almost hasn’t skipped one since. I hopefully won’t see her again in that context. I’ll miss her but I’m happy she gets out of there, she’s only 19. She’s pretty and gentle, and always accommodates herself with everything. She’s a peace maker. When other patients create trouble, she never gets distracted from her own dances and she liaises between me and them. Today I tried to stretch her legs in the downward dog position but she couldn’t. She explained me that her legs are too long for her body because her parents gave her growth hormones and tortured her as a kid. She thanked me when I left, she said she enjoyed the classes and would miss it. She looked so much better than at the beginning. She asked me where to take dance classes on the outside world. I hope she continues. I want her to be fine. I’ll remember her.

Stern 2004 Marlene Dumas born 1953 Purchased with assistance from Foundation Dutch Artworks and Bank Giro Loterij 2007 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T12312

I had a new student tonight. As soon as I got on the ward, she stood right behind me, close enough to touch me. Then she started following me, still touching me, as I walked to the TV room where the class takes place. She wore her bra on top of her clothes and wouldn’t take off her flip flops to dance. She was talking, shouting and pressing the security buzzer all the time but we managed to work anyway. It’s stunning how troubled people become “normal” as soon as their body and attention are engaged.

An older lady who always watches the class but never participates told me: “You’re a free spirit”. I thought I didn’t hear properly. “I’m a free spirit?” She said she could tell from the way I dance. I laughed and I replied: “Yeah, I suppose so. It puts me into trouble on the outside world.” Everyone laughed. I think they got what I meant.

At the other ward, where I teach my second class, the occupational therapist had a word with me before we started. She told me that they got the news in the morning that one of the patients committed suicide at her flat after she was released. I knew who she was. She came to the class once. She was a tall woman with dreadlocks, late 30s or so, beautiful face. She’s the only patient so far who knew about 5 Rhythms dance, we talked about it together. I didn’t know her very well at all, but I remember her. It’s strange that someone was here and now she’s not, just like that.

As I got in the dancing space – which is the diner, we just push the tables and line them up against the wall – there was the lady who wouldn’t stop insulting me last week. She said horribly vicious things like I was a failed ballerina cause I was too short or if I had lived during World War 2, the Nazis would have put me in their big vacuum cleaner for people. Then she was describing in detail how much I was hurting all her senses. I was surprised at my own reaction. It didn’t impact me at all. I thought it was funny and super creative insults with thorough almost poetic descriptions. Anyway, she apologised for it tonight. I said that it was OK and that she probably had had a bad day. She said she had a bad few months. She joined the class and was very present to herself when she danced. She was so internally focused, I felt like stopping and watching her.  The patients dive way more into themselves than regular people do. It strikes me when I see the members of staff dancing next to the patients. The patients are so much more engaged, more expressive, more raw, more edgy, more everything. They have a real story to tell, and I am really drawn to look at them so much more.

I was briefly struck by the thought of the people in the outside world who tell me that I’m a hard person. I came to the conclusion that I’m only hard to people who deserve it and I felt in peace with myself and my so-called harshness.

Things start picking up at Mad House. The ladies are awesome. All of them. I just love them. I got an email from the hospital this morning that we are going to start filling in weekly forms to track the attendance and the progress of the patients and study the positive impact of dance on them. They have targets of some kind regarding the physical health of the patients.

Hurray! That’s serious stuff happening!

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Paintings by Marlene Dumas : #1 – Mamma Roma   #2 – Stern    #3 – Passion

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Mad House Sistas

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In December, I started giving dance classes at a psychiatric hospital in South London.

I still can’t really explain what was the trigger, why I wanted to do that. I’ve had a fascination for psychiatric hospitals since my teenage. Was it because I thought the line between my own mental sanity or what is perceived like insanity was thin and challenged at times? Is it a fascination for the place in itself, which obeys to its own rules, where there is a discontinuous management of time and space? Is it because the patients’ relationship to what you are supposed to do or not is so different from the outside world?

When I walked out of my last session, there was a big lady rolling naked on the floor in the corridor, screaming with her legs wide open. Two nurses rushed to cover her with a sheet and told her to go back to her room. I wasn’t shocked by the scene. I wondered what the story was like in her reality. Was she giving birth? Was she begging for sex? I caught myself envying her for just a second. My first thought was: “This must be really liberating!” I wish I had the guts to roll around naked and scream in my office or in my house if I feel like it. Why should it be necessary perceived as offensive, just because it is somewhat disturbing the established order? What if it was socially accepted to do that, just because this is what someone needs at that precise moment? I’ve always had the belief that there is no such thing as “madness” or “craziness”, just different perceptions of reality and different modes of self expression.

I think my psychiatric hospital immersion is the natural continuation of my 5 Rhythms dance and my sexual explorations. It is another aspect of liberating the body from rigid mindfucking rules. It is crossing the lines of what is socially accepted. Of course, I am aware that the patients may be a danger to themselves or to others, and that’s why they are locked in. But even so, I think they challenge a lot of unspoken self integrated rules, and I secretely admire them for that reason.

After tough beginnings, I finally start finding my rhythm with the patients. It has been nothing but easy. I have had to struggle to find adequate support from the institution itself and was tempted to slam the door for a moment.

Holding a “class” there is like dancing tango. I never know in which direction the next step is going to be. Whatever upsets them, they don’t force themselves to cope with it, they just leave the room. Once, everyone left. I had no more students. I managed not to take it personally.

Every session is dramatically different. Everything changes from one moment to the other. I have to be so present, so so so present every second, and readjust constantly in response to the ladies. At the beginning, I was preparing the class, but I quickly realised that there was no point. The best I can do is preparing myself to be physically and mentally engaged.

I start building a core group of 2-3 girls. The first time I saw one of them, she was sitting still in silence for half an hour, just watching the class. She had just received medication and looked stoned. I wondered if she was autistic, because she wouldn’t even answer my questions. The patients left the class one after the other, but she stayed. When it was just me and her, she finally spoke. She asked me if we could do some stretching exercises. She had done ballet before. I showed her some moves. Suddenly, she looked different. She was beautiful, engaged, alive again. She was sighing with relief while reconnecting with her body. When I left the place, she looked like a healthy person again, just like me.

The girls of my core group are young and pretty. Sensitive and wild. Last session with them was awesome. I stop pretending I am “teaching” them anything, because they know more than me at so many levels. I just turn off the lights, play music, and we dance freely together in the dark.

Last time, I was amazed at how far they went, how abruptly they express themselves and don’t give a shit about what the others may think. It really doesn’t seem to be part of their mindset. Whatever direction I was giving, they were picking it up super fast and were immediately twisting it into magic, way beyond my expectations. I played the song ‘I Am What I Am’ and they all started singing amazingly. I was stunned. The words were so meaningful in their mouth, too. We were all repeating “I am what I am”, whatever it meant. We laughed. It was a nice moment. I was the student in the end. I don’t know, I am just learning so much. They have so much to say, they are so intensely emotionally charged.

We got together in a small circle at the end, holding hands in the dark. They treated me as if I belonged with them, as if I was one of their sistas. One told me: “You should totally get a room here with us at Mad House!”

I giggled, but I was tempted for a minute. Yeah. I’ll think about it. I am glad I am finally hanging out with people who speak my language.

Take Those Potato Chips And Go

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Wednesday evening,

I went to a “sex communication” workshop at Gordon Ramsay restaurant. We had a private room, but the waiters were incredibly mindful and kept coming in with large smiles to make sure we weren’t short on drinks. A guy even started making a pizza. As an exercise, we had to tell our most embarrassing sex moment. A girl said that she was sick all over a stranger’s floor one night, and when she saw him again, he asked her to s**k him while watching Harry Potter. He then told her to leave.

Thursday morning,

I went for a DBS check at the crack of dawn. That’s a legal thing to ensure you don’t have any criminal records. I had to fill in a form with all the addresses where I’ve lived in the past five years. Given my inclination for house movings, that was the hell of a mission. I kept asking random questions to the lady who was in charge. “What about the phases when I was homeless? Like sleeping on a lot of different friends’ couch?” “Shall I include the house where I lived only 24 hours because my ex-girlfriend had a mouse phobia and she found a mouse trap in a kitchen cupboard on the first night?” “Will I get in trouble about the live-in guardian house that I was illegally sub-renting from a  friend when she was in Thailand for 9 weeks although she wasn’t supposed to leave for more than 10 days?”

It was funny.

Thursday evening,

I organised the first LGBT group gathering at work. We were seven people and I was the only girl. And the only single. And the lowest in the hierarchy. Everyone was kinda super married or “buying a flat together”. It was fun but I was once again feeling out of place within my supposingly own crowd, and my flamboyance didn’t help me that time. So I had two Pornstars – a fab passion fruit cocktail that comes with a shot of champagne on the side – and I went drunk to the 5 Rhythms dance class. The effects of alcohol made me cry and my face ended up covered with mascara. People asked me if I was fine. “Don’t worry, it’s the pornstars”, I said. Since then, I’ve decided to take a break from drinking.

Saturday afternoon,

I went to the Body Mind Soul show at Alexandra Palace. It was funny in a creepy way. It was all vegans, yoga teachers, magical stones and tarot readers. There were lectures such as ‘Find your inner Goddess’ or ‘Meditate with your dog’ (I swear that I am not making anything up). My flatmate Ο took me there because a friend of his was giving a talk about the Law of Attraction. O is heartbroken. While I was in the Californian desert without wifi, some domestic drama happened in London. My female flatmate left my male flatmate and moved out. So now, it is me & the boys at home. O & I decided to be partners in crime and do as many random things as possible to help each other on the path of reopening to life.

Saturday night,

O & I went to a party in an art studio in Archway. It was a beautiful white space with several artists studios and a DJ. I was wearing my poney pencil dress and drinking smoothie because alcohol makes me see life in a dark light (see above). I made a LOT of new friends. One of them wanted to set me up really hard with a super cool lesbian who wasn’t at the party. She even started Facetiming the girl to introduce me live. Thank God she didn’t pick up, cause I wasn’t exactly prepared for this. The cool girl is a high level barber. I am meeting her next week.

Sunday evening,

O & I watched The Seven Year Itch in our pyjamas. It is the cult movie where Marilyn Monroe stands over a subway grate which lifts her cult white dress and reveals her cult legs. It is a brilliantly written comedy. At some point, the poor married man trying to resist her charms kicks her out and says: “Please go! Take your potato chips and go!” We both cracked up. I told him that we must make a bet on that line. Whoever manages to bring a girl over and asks her to leave with “Take your potato chips and go” will win a priceless price.

Oh yay. I sense this is going to be a fun winter.

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The Shapeshifters

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I haven’t slept since November and I am just landing from one of the most intense weeks of my life.

Where did it start?

There’s been Christmas. Brighton, seaside, friends’ house, gifts.

In Brighton, I caught up with Í, and this is where unbearable intensity begins. I have always loved him to pieces. We met 9 years ago at university. We were equally dissatisfied with the course and we rapidly clicked because we were both incarnated and hurt. And gay.

Back then, he once told me: “Your sexual energy terrifies me.” And he languorously kissed me in the middle of the pub.

We lost contact for 7 years when I dropped out of uni. He randomly reappared in my life on my birthday this year, at a 5 Rhythms dance workshop. I got in the studio, and there he was, beautiful and loveable as always.

We saw each other last week, right after Christmas, to go partying in the trashy gay bars of Brighton. Night of wildness. When we are together, the rest of the world doesn’t exist and I understand that people may find us outrageous. We encourage each other in our natural Eros: hyper dancy, hyper sexual, and hyper inappropriate. It is so liberating. We say obscene things, laugh our heads off and dance till exhaustion.

We went from one club to the other till 4 or 5am, pole danced with the bears, laughed at a woman who fell down, chatted everyone up, burned every single dance floor doing the 5 Rhythms. I even taught him some Martha Graham moves near a karaoke stage where an old Asian guy in duffle-coat was exclusively singing Christmas songs. We were doing diagonals of triplets across the space, not paying any attention to the weird looks we were triggering. That pretty much sums up our relationship.

We came back to London together the day after to do a 5 Rhythms dance workshop entitled “God, Sex & The Body“. He crashed my bed for a few nights.

The workshop was about the male and female archetypes: Father/Son/Holy Spirit and Madonna/Mother/Mistress. We explored the change of personae, we shifted from one rhythm to the other and from one archetype to the other. We embraced the shapeshifter in us. Everyone impersonates the male and female archetypes, it has nothing to do with our gender. A girl can live her life like a wild son. A man can have the intuition of a Madonna. Everyone is a shapeshifter and navigates between the archetypes. It is fascinating.

On Day 1, as a first exercice, the Master of Ceremony, Jonathan Horan, asked the 100+ people in the room to stand still. He then said: “If you are married, walk.”  Very few people – less than 10 – walked. “If you are single, walk.” Most people in the room started walking. “If you are in a relationship, walk.” Some people walked. “What situation is left?” asked Jonathan. A tall beautiful and very pale girl raised her hand and said: “Polyamourous.” And she walked alone amongst 100 people looking at her.

On Day 2, we worked on the Mistress archetype – needless to say it is my favorite. The 100 dancers gathered in a huge circle and Jonathan pumped up some Christina Aguilera and said: “Give me your stripper dance!” That was SO liberating. The group was a solid sample of the human kind – male female old young skinny obese white black gay straight – and we were all going as far as we wanted in our stripper talents with no apprehension of being judged or labeled or getting dirty looks or an unwanted hand on our bottom. 5 Rhythms is the place of extreme permission within safety.

On Day 3, a few women started getting rid of their bra in the dance. I was looking at them, dying to do the same but constrained by my big-boobed-girl self-consciousness. I mean, I have been naked in front of people in various contexts and I am not exactly modest – I just had never danced topless up to that point. When I saw that older ladies were doing it, I was like, yeah, if they do it, I’ll do it. It made me extremely happy to dare, especially knowing that my therapist was in the room (I know… it is weird. That’s the first therapist to ever see that much of me.)

So, that was my days this week. But there were the nights, too.

After the dance, Í and I were pursuing the shapeshifter exploration in the dark. In my bedroom, in my bathtub. 24 hour research.

We stand in a similar turn of our life, some kind of rejection/fascination for the opposite sex. I’ve had this growing curiosity for male energy in the last 6 months. There has been my desire for a man I’ve met which is gradually getting out of control. There has been a variety of men around me. I love men. I am a lesbian and I love men. No need to justify anything. This is just how things are.

Í has been forever gay and knows nothing about girls. He doesn’t even have a mum, cause she left when he was a kid. He’s terrified by female power.

So we worked on taming each other’s energy, body, and fears on the course of 5 nights. We didn’t even have sex. We explored. It was slow, sweet, pure, beautiful, almost innocent, like teenagers confronted to their first experience. When he was touching me, I was feeling like a whole new continent. I was 12 and he was 13, or the other way around. That was so insanely beautiful that it doesn’t translate in description. I want to be a sex beginner all my life.

My flatmates were laughing at us, because they didn’t understand my sudden male intimacy. They were calling my bedroom the “Straight School”.

We went to the New Year Eve drag ball included in the workshop. Everyone was dressed in one of the 6 archetypes. I came as a boy (but ended up as a whore) and Í was an extravagant Sacred Mistress. It was even more confusing when we were making out. The male/female boundaries were getting real captivating and playful. This lady at the ball was entirely painted in blue with a wig like Marie-Antoinette. I asked her: “Wow, are you the Smurfette?” -“No! I’m the Holy Spirit!” 

Ouch.

On the last day of the workshop, I danced in my knickers with another awesome girl in the middle of a circle. No one wanted to ever leave. I suddenly felt some arms embracing me from behind as Jonathan was doing the closing speech. It was this very pretty Middle East girl that I had been looking at since day 1. We started talking after the closing ceremony. Apparently, she had been looking at me too. I wish I remembered her exact words – the meaning was “I was looking at you and finding you beautiful on the dance floor.” She gave me her card. I want to dance with her again, I think I want to know her. I haven’t said that in a long while.

Sexual charges make the Holiday season so much more interesting.

Portraits of Frenchies #2 : La Fille qui n’aimait pas gâcher

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Je ne connais que des gens inhabituels.

Ma copine C² fait partie de ces quelques personnes que je vois toujours dans une ville différente, parce que nous sommes toutes deux en refonte perpétuelle de nos aspirations. 

Nous nous sommes connues à Londres, où j’habitais depuis environ un an, tandis qu’elle était venue étudier l’histoire de l’art dans le cadre d’un échange Erasmus. Elle écrivait un mémoire sur le motif du pont dans la peinture de Monet. Une amie commune, Σ², nous avait organisé une “blind date” amicale dans l’idée qu’on aurait des atomes crochus.

C² est repartie vivre à Paris, où nous nous sommes croisées quelques fois, mais pas tant que ça non plus. On a notamment manifesté ensemble pour soutenir le mariage gay. 

En septembre dernier, j’ai eu de ses nouvelles. Elle partait passer trois mois à New York, seulement deux semaines après avoir emménagé avec son amoureux à Paris. “Il a dû être touché”, me suis-je dit. Et j’ai aussi vachement rigolé, parce que je trouve ça génial de commencer la vie commune sur des bases claires. Le hasard avait voulu que je séjourne à New York en même temps qu’elle. Mi-octobre, on s’est donc retrouvées dans l’appart de Brooklyn où je passais la semaine, pour manger des pâtes en forme de lama. Le samedi suivant on a fait un pèlerinage au Zabar’s , l’épicerie fine chic et kasher de Broadway, parce que c’est là que Meg Ryan faisait ses courses dans “Vous avez un message”. C² avait la liste de tous les lieux que l’on voit dans le film. Ne me demandez pas pourquoi.

Elle a décidé au pied levé de venir m’accompagner à Philadelphie où je partais quelques jours plus tard. “Peut-être qu’on fera le tour de tous les lieux que l’on voit dans le film avec Tom Hanks”, ai-je pensé. Comme je ne savais pas encore où j’allais habiter (classique), elle a eu la bonté de nous dégotter un AirBnB avec la déco la plus moche du monde, mais l’hôte le plus chou qui soit. Du coup, on ne faisait pas trop attention aux dessins de fleurs fanées accrochés au mur (véridique).

C’est à Philadelphie qu’on est vraiment devenues amies, parce qu’on ne s’étaient jamais vues plusieurs jours consécutifs avant ce voyage. On a vraiment beaucoup ri. On se moquait de tous les objets moches de la chambre où on dormait, et Dieu sait que c’était une joie sans cesse renouvelée même après plusieurs jours.

C’est durant ce séjour que j’ai percé une des caractéristiques de C². Elle adore récupérer et elle déteste gâcher, surtout en matière de nourriture. Elle appelle ça “faire son intendance”. On était raccord là-dessus, parce que je ne suis pas la dernière pour le système D et les trucs gratos, mais je dois avouer que sur ce coup-là j’ai trouvé mon maître (je n’ose pas dire “ma maîtresse”, sinon ça fait bizarre.)

Déjà, C² est arrivée de New York par le bus avec un reste de quiche dans son sac à main. “Sinon elle n’aurait plus été bonne à mon retour”, m’a-t-elle expliqué, alors qu’elle prêchait une convertie. Quand on est allées à l’American Diner du quartier – où soit dit en passant on a passé des soirées mémorables – elle mangeait le ketchup à la petite cuillère. Là, j’ai commencé à la mettre en boîte: “Ben oui, c’est cadeau, autant en profiter!”

Le meilleur restait à venir. Un soir, nous nous sommes retrouvées à la fin de notre journée philadelphienne respective. Je lui ai raconté ma journée d’atelier de 5 Rhythms dance et mon attirance pour le prof de yoga gay dont j’adorais la couleur de peau. Elle, elle m’a raconté avec des yeux pétillants qu’elle avait pénétré dans un jardin communautaire où elle avait cueilli du persil et des tomates, et que ça avait bien agrémenté son pique-nique. C’est à cet instant qu’elle a accédé au rang de mes idoles. Dans la foulée, elle m’a dit qu’un de ses lieux parisiens préférés était le cimetière Saint-Vincent, à Montmartre, et qu’elle y avait déjà cueilli des figues avec lesquelles elle avait fait de la confiture maison. Suite à cette fabuleuse anecdote, je l’ai rebaptisée “La Cueilleuse urbaine”.

Après ces quelques jours enchanteurs, je suis rentrée à Londres et elle à New York.

A mon retour, j’ai reçu de ses nouvelles par email: “Je vais aller à la plage de Rockaway cet après-midi pour ramasser des moules!”

Ben voyons. Une mouclade à la new yorkaise.

Il n’y a vraiment qu’elle pour faire ça.

Everything Is As It Should Be

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October was about being thrown off centre from my original plans by the universe. And finding myself being grateful for it.

# La Fille coupée en trois (The Girl Split in Three)

Four days before I took off to America, my iconic friend H who was supposed to come with me on my New Orleans and New York adventures got offered a dream job in Japan. She had to cancel. We had planned to rail trip across the country and write the script of her short movie on the Amtrak. We were calling our train-to-be the “Mystery Train” in tribute to Jim Jarmusch. I got the news that it was all falling through on a Friday night as I was all dolled up, waiting for a girl I had met once for a sexy date.

Throughout the night, I was a girl split in three. Head against body against soul. As I was giving and receiving sex, and liking every aspect of it, my brain was running high speed to establish plans B. Cancel everything and go take care of my injured brother? Swap Louisiana for Canada? Get on a sleep cure to recover from the last thirteen years?

My body was fully present though. I had an awesome night. But in between the waves of fever, I was briefly struck by the ocean of my loneliness and the meaninglessness of my life. The truth is, my heart was sinking as I was realising that I had let myself love H more than I should have. We had grown mysteriously close over the last two months and I was sensing the presages of our becoming creation Siamese twins, intellectual lovers. My feverous gaze was intermittently focusing on the black void on the other side of the barely known body that was bringing me to trance. I was contemplating the redoubted limbo of love where I was surely heading, perceiving random shapes dancing in the dark. I was shortly carried back into action and sensations and my gaze was getting out of focus again to celebrate life just as it was coming along.

After multiple tergiversations, I finally maintained the trip as it was originally planned, on the verge of exhaustion and with a cloud of question marks in my head. New Orleans has been the wonder that it has been and changed my life in some ways. The day that I arrived in New York, H sent me a brief message from Japan which was turning her world upside down: “It feels like our lives are aligning right now.”

It was so right to be taken apart by the universe on the path to our respective adventures. We both found some missing clues about the true nature of our existence. And I thank-godly aborted falling in love with her.

# The Teacher Training Miracle

On the last day of August, I submitted my application for the next 5 Rhythms Teacher Training starting in Spring 2015. It would imply that I’d be on a marathon to complete all the missing pre-requisites workshops and raise a shit ton of money to pay for the tuition fees by the end of next year. Why not? I love challenges that seem out of reach. I needed a short-term goal to escape the ordinary.

In October, after a few days at the Cycles workshop in Philadelphia, it was getting obvious that I wasn’t ready to train as a teacher six months later. I was instinctively guessing that I needed to take my time, absorb and soak in the fun and ecstasy of being an achievement-free student. It is not in my nature to renounce, though. My application had been submitted, so I was going to go for it if it was successful, just to commit to myself as I always do.

The second to last day of the workshop, I was happily walking to the yoga warm up in the automnal sunshine of a beautiful morning. I was feeling light, bubbly, at the right place. The assistant of the teacher – a renowned 5 Rhythms lady that I sometimes dance with in New York – was coming in the opposite direction and stopped me. She kindly asked me if we could have a chat. She is on the 5 Rhythms teacher training board and she told me she had read my application the night before.

“How do you feel about the training?”, she asked me. What a relief! I told her the truth, that I was full of doubts and had overestimated my readiness to teach. I just wanted to dance and be naive about it for a couple more years. We agreed that I’d postpone my application to 2017. Who cares? I have all the time in the world. I have to learn how to enjoy the path to my goals rather than beating myself up to get it over with. She hugged me and thanked me for my honesty. I entered the yoga class feeling much lighter, as if this tiny lady who is my height had freed me from a massive burden.

I went to get a coffee after yoga. A girl from the workshop was coming in the opposite direction, and again she stopped me with a huge spontaneous hug. “So nice to dance with you!” she said. “What’s your name?” We started talking. She wanted to do the 5 Rhythms teacher training but she felt under pressure to start in 2015 so she was going to apply for 2017. She said word for word the speech that I had given an hour before to that kind lady. I laughed. The timing was just so clear and so funny. I wanted to high five the sky and tell the universe: “I received the message. Thanks for checking on me!” This super cool girl with a Maori name is going to do the Mirrors workshop in Bilbao next year. So am I. Ten days of intensive 5 Rhythms dancing. She told me: “Mirrors is life-changing. I’ve done it once and I divorced after it.”  (For the best).

I am guessing this person will be an important relationship for me. I felt connected with her and I am grateful we are meant to have crossing paths.

# Vivienne Was Waiting

Right before my US trip, I bought a Vivienne Westwood dress for £80 instead of £445. I wish every woman to at least once slip her curves in a Viv dress, just to experience the feeling of being embraced by a designer with such expertise of the female body. I wore it for a drunken karaoke night at the office so it got immortalised in a few embarrassing videos. The day after, I heartbrokenly returned it to pay for my New York-Chicago flight. When I returned from America a month later, I went back to the shop, moved by hope but free from illusions. The darling was well hidden, but still there. I couldn’t believe a Vivienne dress had been waiting for me on a hanger for a whole month. I touched her soft fabric, admired her patterns again and whispered to her: “I couldn’t get you out of my head”. The belt had gone missing in the meantime, so I was given a further 20% discount. £64 for a Vivienne Westwood dress. You got it.

Vivienne was the cherry on the cake which reinforced my certitudes.

Everything is as it should be.

Portraits of America #5 : The Jazz Player of Chicago

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In my last 5 Rhythms dance workshop in Philadelphia, I met π, a man born in 1942. We paired up on an exercise where we had to tell each other our father’s life story.

π‘s father had the most extraordinary existence and he gave me the authorization to share it here.

His name was Harvey Brown. He was born in Chicago somewhere in the 1910s in a family where all the men were alcoholic. He therefore had to bring financial support to the household from an early age. This was the era of the birth of jazz. Harvey began to play music in the first jazz clubs of Chicago with his little brother who was going blind. He soon had to be his brother’s protector on top of being a family breadwinner.

To a background of Prohibition and Al Capone atmosphere, Harvey got involved in peripheral activities with the mafia, wiped floors in a printing shop where they were forging notes.

Harvey was a very charismatic man, handsome, clever, narcissistic, a womanizer. He could get whatever he wanted. He was also an entrepreneur who could make everything with his hands. He was some kind of self-taught prodigy. He wasn’t given the chance to study so he read all the volumes of the Encyclopædia Universalis to gain knowledge. He learned drawing and magic by himself and used to perform magic tricks during the intermission of his jazz concerts. His magic skills enhanced his charisma and hypnotic aura and helped him obtain what he was aiming for.

But the ghosts of alcoholism were chasing him. When π was about two years old, his mother threatened his father to divorce him if he didn’t stop drinking. Harvey remained sober till the early teenage of his son and was a good father.

He was caught by his lineage demons after that, and drinking led him to ruin. π didn’t get into detail when telling me how things ended. His admiration for his father still sounded intact despite the fall.

Harvey left three boxes of souvenirs to his children: one for his jazz player career, one for his magician career, and one for his business career.

A Philly Story: Cheese Steak & The Rhythms

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I spent five days in Philadelphia which felt like a month, even a lifetime. I know I often say that, but it’s a fact. What can I do? Travel and dance distort our perception of time.

I was in Philly for a 5 Rhythms dance workshop about the different cycles of life. I sweated my prayers six hours a day with about fifty other people from the most diverse ages, shapes and cultural backgrounds. That was AWESOME as in life-changing.

Each day was focusing on a theme and a rhythm. Day 1 was about our conception, birth and mother (Flow). Day 2 was about our childhood, father and male lineage (Staccato). Day 3 about our teenage and puberty (Chaos). Day 4 about maturity and leading the tribe (Lyrical). The final day was logically about death, including our own (Stillness).

I was staying in a very weird house in South Philadelphia, with two lovely hosts (one of them was a photographer who got punched in the face for his birthday – no joke), two cats and a strange decoration. There were piles of random objects everywhere and peculiar unidentified pseudo-decorative items hanging on the brown wooden walls. Most of the houses on that street looked abandoned so it’s a miracle that this one wasn’t. It was fun staying in an odd place though. It added to the extraordinariness of the overall experience.

My Parisian friend C², who recently moved in with her boyfriend and left to New York for three months after a few weeks of common life (I only know unusual people) came to hang out with me in Philly to share the bedroom. We laughed a lot. She’s obsessed with planning her meals and always carries left overs in her handbag. She even found the way to pick fresh parsley and tomatoes from a shared garden in the city and she had them for lunch.

Every morning, I was walking to the dance studio in the autumnal sunshine for the yoga warm up with a beautiful Israeli-American teacher from New York. I was attending classes half for the stretches and half to stare at his beautiful skin colour. I’m drawn to very specific complexions and he had the perfect one for my taste. It was hard to focus on what he was saying. Jaw-dropper.

The dance studio was in the heart of the apparently famous Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich alley. A bunch of Italian immigrants got the clever idea to put some steak and cheese inside bread in the early 30s and that got renowned worldwide. All the spirituality of the Cycles was therefore surrounded with fast-food, meat and neons. Interesting balance.

I was getting my bi-daily 50 cents coffee from Pat’s King of Steaks which is featured in the movie Rocky, back in 1976. Every time I was ordering, a sign under my feet was reminding me that Sylvester Stallone once stood there. It gave me goosebumps. By the end of the week, the dudes working there had become familiar with me. The nicest one gave me my ultimate coffee for free on Sunday. He made an announcement to the rest of the crew: “She’s going back to New York!” How sweet is that?

I tried to see some of the old stuff that is really constitutive of the American history, but I only got to see the Liberty Bell in the dark and a bunch of important buildings that I’m all mixing. A policeman told me off for getting too close to the statue of George Washington. That’s about it for culture. I’ll have to come back.

This trip wasn’t about architecture or history anyway, but about people. As often on the dance floor, I met the most fab tribe of dancers of the human disco. They would give faith in humanity to the most sceptical. I hanged out all week with a trio of hot ladies from Toronto who organically adopted me.

Above all, I found a spiritual father and a spiritual young aunt/older sister during these few days. Why do we click with some people like that and start liking them irrationally and instantly? No one really talks about this phenomenon outside the traditional “love at the first sight”. But what about “spiritual fathering at the first encounter?”

My “spiritual father” is π. He was born in the US in 1942. He told me the incredible story of his father. We danced a lot together, his gestures were unusual and full of his life story. On the last day, he told me: “You are delightful!” and kissed my forehead. He gave me a mini-pumpkin as a souvenir when we parted.

My spiritual aunt/sister is ε². She’s from Toronto. We have almost the same birthday, 19 years apart. On the first day, we randomly paired up and she said things that I’ve been thinking most of my life, picking the words that I would choose too.

I exchanged details with them. We will all cross each other again anyway, in one country or another. The 5 Rhythms is such a small wide world.

I’m heading back to London, the place I nickname Hostile City to myself, after this high time of my life. I’ve always been in conflict with it, and I sometimes forget where it originally came from.

Time for flow.

I don’t care about hating the city where I live any more. After all, London is a hot spot of earth with super cool human disco dancers too.

Dusk of Brooklyn, Dawn of Philadelphia

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I read the phrase “Dusk of Brooklyn” in a magazine or leaflet somewhere, years ago. I don’t remember the context, but I remember contemplating this appealing mental image with desire. I wrote the expression at the top corner of a random note book. See, I need it now.

All of last week, the dusks of Brooklyn were mine. I let them inundate me like I wouldn’t let anyone. My New York time was peculiar. It’s been the quiet part of this adventure, like a restoring pause between two hectic discovery phases. Feels like I’m a New Yorker now and nothing special happens there cause I’m melting in the daily scenery and routine of the City.

I woke up at 5am this morning and finished the night on the Greyhound bus bound to Philadelphia. As the tradition requires, I spent my last night in New York on the 5 Rhythms dance floor. Every time the teacher was asking to pair up with another dancer, I was looking through the window and chose the Empire State Building as a partner. I love dancing with New York and I was shouting on the inside “Manifest that shit!!!!!”

It was such a joyous leaving party, very tall muscled (straight) guy wearing leggings with cat faces was there, and it never feels like I’m leaving New York anyway. I’ll come back again and again and again and one day I won’t have to leave. That’s how the story goes. (I played the Green Card Lottery on Friday and purchased the long life payment option, the “until you win” one. I had found out in the morning that I’m homeless when I get back to London. The friend I was subletting from is getting evicted. How fun! No roof upon my head in Hostile City. So, Mrs Goddess up there or whoever runs the lottery of life, it would be very welcome if I became a permanent US resident by Monday. Thank you.)

I’m sitting alone at a 24 hour diner in South Philadelphia on a rainy evening as I’m writing this. The Wheel of Fortune is playing soundless in the background. I love diners because they never close and are available for drowning your loneliness/sorrow/hunger at any time of night or day (not like people), because they have cosy seats which feel like private booths, because coffee refills are unlimited, because waitresses wear a uniform, and finally, because they are one of the archetypes of America that I cherish from all the 80s movies.

I’ve seen very little of Philly so far, but what stroke me is the number of American flags (way higher ratio than any other US city I’ve visited) and the colourful mosaics on the facades.

I’m in town for a 5 day long 5 Rhythms dance workshop called Cycles, about the map of our family history. It is taught by Jonathan Horan, the son of Gabrielle Roth, founder of the 5 Rhythms dance technique, who passed away two years ago today. We focused all day on the Mother figure: the actual Mother and the Cultural and Divine Mothers. It is hard to describe. I started the class hating everything and everyone for no reason and I gradually sank into the seductive charm of this odd technique. I had to tell strangers the circumstances of my conception and birth.

I loved it.

Welcome To The Human Disco

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As a sweet proof of my softening, I am changing my site title from Fuck You I Rock The World to Welcome to the Human Disco. Yeah Yeah, I’ve been on fuck you mode for that last… 20 years? Or maybe since I was born. That’s 31 years of anger without knowing why.

I am attending a 5 Rhythms dance workshop with Kate Shela this week end. She was my first 5 Rhythms teacher 9 years ago, when I was still a kid with big cheeks living in Brighton.

Yesterday evening after 3 hours of violent sweat, Kate wrapped up the class trying to summarise what the 5 Rhythms practice is about – which I also struggle with to explain people who’ve never experienced it. She was like: “Fuck the spiritual bullshit! Welcome to the Human Disco!” and everyone in the room laughed. I got instantly seduced by the expression. It says it all.

I immediately started designing my 5 Rhythms teacher flyer in my head with this as a header. It is a perfect motto for a Master of Ceremony. So there we are. ‘Welcome’ advantageously replaces ‘Fuck You’.

There is a guy dancing the Rhythms in London whom I’ve been seeing around. I don’t know his name or anything about him. I only know his vibe. He was there last night. He’s my chaos mate. Chaos is the rhythm of sadness – it is the one with highest level of energy, which brings people to trance. This mysterious stranger & I are building a super intense unspoken relationship. I always chaos near him because we have the same interpretation of this rhythm, the same musicality.

Last night during the dance, I turned around and I saw him. We were doing the same thing, but on another rhythm, without even being influenced by each other. I love the idea that someone lives up the 5 Rhythms at the same pace as me. Does that mean that we would get along well, or that we have energetic similarities? Does that make us compatible or incompatible?

When we are in the same class and chaos is coming, I know we are instinctively seeking for each other. We follow our energetic attraction and trance together in the unspoken. When we’re done, we get apart without looking at each other. I have never seen his gaze. He doesn’t know the colour of my eyes. I have never heard his voice. I love that we know the most important about each other without having ever exchanged one word.

I noticed his absence today. I start having an ambiguous attraction for him. But based on what? I observe him à la dérobée and I find him beautiful in stillness too.

I think we are avoiding each other outside the dance floor, because it would be awful to ruin the myth with a casual conversation. His voice might be horrible. He might hate my trashy jokes. We’ll fatally have to say something at some point if we frequent the same classes over and over. One day he’ll overhear my name or I’ll overhear him speak. Will we still be chaos lovers after reality hits us?

I am curious and positively excited as to where this is going to go.