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.

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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.

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.