Association Maria



Association Maria meets weekly, a group of 50 impoverished elders, living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Bogota, Colombia. They meet to pray and chat, to attend lectures, dance and meditation classes, and to be in community -- a high point in otherwise work and trouble-filled days. While they are used to being taught “steps”, they had never experienced anything like the 5Rhythms®. With the help of my interpreter (and student) Carolina Rudas, I gave a quick introduction, put some music on and started moving!

Having worked with elders in the U.S., I simply did what I had done before -- taking people by the hands, moving with them, paying attention to them (attention transcends culture and language) and soon most of the room was in motion. The biggest surprise for me was how much more energy this group of elders had compared to my more affluent and better cared for group in New York City. My NY group wanted a break after every song -- the elders in Bogota would have danced all day and into the night! While some rhythms resonated more strongly than others, most amazing was how the group surrendered to a gentle Chaos (something, once again, that my New Yorkers resisted over and over again). One woman, head held high and noble, cheekbones speaking the tongues of ancient tribes, suddenly dropped into the beat, lost in the rhythm, letting go both gently and fiercely. Beside her, a dapper fellow with a teasing grin shook his bones with glee, and a toothless woman in a brightly colored sweater gripped my hands with the strength of the ages as we danced together, her eyes searching mine to communicate beyond language (she suffers from incontinence and is often shunned by other members of the group; having someone touch her and move with her was clearly a great gift). There was no resistance to trying on this new experience for most of the group and I was amazed at how easily and quickly they took on the simple basics of the practice.

When we were finished, my ears were filled with good wishes, prayers, and loving thanks, my hands held by hands rough and wizened, strong and delicate, memories imprinted of 50 faces, brown, white, rough, smooth, toothless, pristine, some alert and hearty, others addled or ill, all in motion. After the session, the two women who volunteer to help the group, bringing in lecturers in nutrition and health told me how amazed they were at how quickly and joyfully the group responded to me and to the 5Rhythms. I said something about how open and welcoming everyone had been. It was then the volunteers told me that what had happened was in no way the norm; usually the group sits back, arms crossed, refusing to participate in the special program. That afternoon was very rare and that they hoped we would not forget them and would come back. And we have done so.

-- TAMMY BURSTEIN - Bogota, Colombia - November, 2009