5Rhythms® with Karen Ritscher

My final blog post this summer is an interview with Karen Ritscher; a violist, pedagogue and 5Rhythms® teacher who I really admire. I've studied with Karen over a few summers and was lucky enough to meet her in Prague this summer for the first Karen Tuttle Coordination Workshop outside of the U.S.! The workshop was amazing and I would recommend it to violists of all levels.
In Prague, Karen led two 5Rhythms® classes which were a lot of fun and very centering. I had taken a 5Rhythms® class with her two years ago and was once again amazed by how the practice gets people who aren't dancers to move so freely. I've included a short paragraph on 5Rhythms® from Karen's website for those who are unfamiliar with the practice. Here are the questions that I had for Karen about the correlation between music-making and 5Rhythms®!

"The 5Rhythms® Dance Practice is a simple yet profound movement meditation that anyone of any age, shape, size and physical ability can practice. The Five rhythms are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness and together they create a “Wave.” In this Waves class we will explore how these rhythms move through our body and soul, helping us to become more grounded and free. There are no steps to learn and previous dance experience is not necessary or even useful. During this fun, sometimes wild, sometimes soul-searching, always sweaty dance we are taken on a journey into, out of, through and beyond ourselves and back to the vibrant center of our most essential being.

We will dance together, alone and as tribe with a balance of structured direction and “rocking-out” freedom. Simply, come with your sense of adventure, your breath and your feet."

What has drawn you specifically to 5Rhythms® instead of other practices involving a mind-body connection like yoga or martial arts?

I love the practice of 5 Rhythms®, but it is not my only practice. I do yoga, Continuum and sitting meditation (zazen) as well. I love the body and am fascinated by how it works in movement. I was greatly influenced by my teacher, Gabrielle Roth. When I first took a class with her, I felt like I had come home to my core. This encounter in many ways paralleled my first lesson with Karen Tuttle when I was also hit smack-on with a Truth that resonated through my whole being!

How does 5Rhythms® help musicians? Do you see it affect people in some general ways or is it too personal of a process?

The 5Rhythms® Practice is extremely beneficial for musicians. I have seen it help people with their confidence, personal charisma, performance anxiety and freedom of expression. It also helps people feel their whole bodies and play from a more connected and unified perspective, not just with their arms and fingers. Another "plus" is that people develop more clarity in their chamber music communication. In 5 Rhythms®, we work with three levels of relationship: to self, to a partner and to the whole group. So these relationship skills greatly enhance our work as musicians.

Is there a particular body part that instrumentalists generally have a difficult time connecting to?

I don't know if there is a body part that musicians tend to have more difficulty with, but I do often see that because we sit so much and have repetitive motions, we are often quite stiff through our backs and shoulders. I like to help people sink into their lower bodies, using deep breath work to access the power centers through the hips and belly.

One curious observation is that string players often have an inhibition around staccato expression, perhaps because we are so used to "trying to get it right." It is hard for many of us to be clear in movement and to connect with our "inner fire."

Does this practice generally help musicians to experience music in a new way? If so, do you hear an improvement in their playing?

I have observed huge transformations for musicians through this practice and yes, I hear big differences in their playing. I think it helps people find their authentic musical voice and have the courage to play their hearts out on stage.

To learn more about 5Rhythms® and to find a class near you visit www.5rhythms.com

To learn more about Karen Ritscher you can visit www.karenritscher.co

Los-Angeles native Anna Heflin is a classical violist who is passionate about contemporary music. Anna holds a Bachelor of Music and a minor in art history from UCSB, where she studied with Helen Callus and graduated with honors. She is currently studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she is pursuing her Masters of Music. At SFCM she is studying with Jodi Levitz while working with MaryClare Brzytwa and David Garner.

Anna has a passion for contemporary music and composes works for herself in addition to premiering works. She enjoys incorporating electronics into her compositions and has experience working with Max/MSP and Ableton Live. This summer she is attending New Music On The Point and interning for HELLO STAGE in Vienna! When she’s not playing music you can find her drinking coffee, doing yoga or exploring.

Author: Anna Heflin
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