Reflexive essay


About 5Rhythms and Methodology

5Rhythms is a meditative dance practice founded by Gabrielle Roth, containing of the five rhythms flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. According to Roth, when we practice 5Rhythms, we learn to creatively express different feelings such as aggressiveness and vulnerability (Roth, 1997). The practice reconnects us to cycles of birth and death and the spirit of all living things. By dancing together as a group, we create connections and sharpen our instincts and intuitions (Roth, 1997). Our video project focused on the 5Rhythms dance group Canterbury-wave, the main question of the project being: What are the reasons for people, part of the Canterbury-wave to practice 5Rhythms? The methodology we used for our project was collecting qualitative data; conducting individual interviews (partly at the interviewees home), filming an entire 5Rhythms session, observational filming of groups after the 5Rhythms session and doing participant observation (me already being part of the Canterbury-wave).

Interpretation of the video

Through participant observation and qualitative data collection through interviews, the film is a documentary about the value of the 5Rhythms practice for particular individuals, part of the Canterbury-wave. The main characters of the film are Nicole, David, Katy and Ruchia, as we felt that these individuals naturally gave the film a narrative. Nicole and David are the representation of that 5Rhythms is for everyone and that people have different intentions for why they practice it and why they value the dance. Nicole values 5Rhythms because it is a journey of self-discovery, going inwards, while for David the practice is valued because it is a space for him where he can explore boundaries with others and interact and connect with other people. As for the mother (Katy) -and daughter (Ruchia) 5Rhythms, on the day we filmed was valuable for them, because they through the dance felt re-connected. The mother and daughter had not seen each other for a long time and on our day of filming they experienced a beautiful interaction, very different from verbal communication. Thus, the different characters in the film represent the diversity of 5Rhythms and how the experience of the practice is different to every person and from time to time. The end-bit of the film, where Nicole talks about the experience of having the camera present while dancing is maybe the most important part of the film, as it gives the audience the awareness of that 5Rhythms can not be fully understood through just watching it.

As she says, the essence of 5Rhythms has to be experienced. The camera can not capture each individuals feelings and expressions from the inside while dancing, it can only be understood when doing it yourself. Because of the huge emotional aspect of dance, anthropologists have found it challenging to describe dance practices ethnographical. As dance is a physical, personal practice, it has created difficulties in making it understandable to the outside audience, without loosing the essence of dance, namely its non-intellectual aspect. Therefore it is essential for the reflective component of our video, that the audience is aware of the fact that the video only conveys a partial truth about how 5Rhythms is experienced.

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Photo: Screenshot from our film. Mother explaining daughter about 5Rhythms

Theoretical perspective

As mentioned above, anthropologists have until more recently distanced themselves from researching and writing about “the body” and physical practices. Brenda Farnell in her article Theorizing “the body” in visual culture has provided an historical overview of attempts in anthropology to theorize “the body” in relation of visual material in anthropological research. Until now, the studies have seen the body as an static object, with little attention paid on the body as a moving agent (Farnell, 2011). She says that understanding the body as a component of visual culture, requires equal attention to invisible systems of knowledge and practices- cultural, perceptual and cognitive – that provide the visible with meaning (Farnell, 2011). Regarding the editing process of the video, I want the audience to be aware of the fact that we have consciously selected what we want the audience to see and how the narrative of the film should be build up. Elder has argued that collaborative ethnographic filmmaking is a method that permits the director to make films which are more responsible and therefore more valuable than if the participants are not included in the editing process. The ethical aspect of only us selecting the footage to be shown in the film, has been one of my major concerns throughout the editing process. By no means did I want 5Rhythms nor the characters in the film to be represented in a certain way. As 5Rhythms is a practice which is of high value to me personally, I was afraid of the different and especially negative ways the audience might interpret and view 5Rhythms. As Elder has pointed out; The idea that I can see through someones else´s eyes is a delusion. We see in the way we know how to see and in the way we have learned to see (Elder,1995). Therefore, I did not want to manipulate the film through representing the characters in a definite way. I have been thinking that we perhaps should have asked our characters to be part of the editing process, as they would have had more power and influence on the outcome of the video. However, we have send the video to Nicole and David and both seem very satisfied with the overall presentation of them.

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Photo: Screenshot of our film. Interview with Nicole after the dance.

In order for us to actually make a video about the Canterbury-wave group, I believe that it was essential for the members of the group to see me as an insider and as someone who is equal to them. Much of the success of insider film-makers, whose work is accepted by the subjects as responsible and accurate is due to their horizontal power position (Elder, 1995). The accountability to one´s community can be experienced in many ways: through kinship, reputation, moral base, and in this case it is the want to express oneself with the body and the willingness to open up. For the dancers, 5Rhythms is a sacred space and we identify with each other through that mutual appreciation of the practice. Thus, the access I had to the group beforehand turned out to be very beneficial for our filming process. Reflecting on the process of making the film and the final product, I must say that I am very satisfied. The video carries a nice balance between observing what happens in the Canterbury-wave class and a narrative of personal stories and personal views on 5Rhythms.


The technical aspect of the video

So, in this post I thought I would talk a little about my experience of filming and making the video and also the challenges I faced on the way. I did not have any previous experience in filming or editing before I started the course in Visual Anthropology. When I first decided to take this module, my hope was that I will learn all the technical aspects of using a camera. But I must say, I feel that I was left alone regarding the technical bit. It was especially difficult for me, because I saw that most of my class mates had some previous experience with filming, so I got quite worried about how I will manage. And I somehow managed.


Photo taken from: Google Image (film editing)

However, I don’t think that our video would have turned out that good without the help of Richie. Without him and his technical skills, the video would not have been of high quality. Because I felt that there was not much technical stuff taught to us in class, I relied a lot on Richie for the editing process. Maybe too much. Looking back now, I would have liked to have a little more detailed explanation of how to use the camera and how to edit and maybe less feedback sessions on the other projects.

My field diary/First day of filming

Today was the second attempted to film. And also, I had Richie with me. I was quite nervous to introduce Richie to the 5Rhythms community, as it is a sacred space with sacred people. And its not for everyone. On the one hand it was good that he was with me as he gave me more confidence in filming others. I have huge difficulties in pushing people to do something as I don’t want to step over anyones boundaries. However, once I have a camera in my hands I feel that I have power and authority over the people I film as I am the one giving instructions and asking them to do things for me. That makes me feel really uncomfortable. But, Richie was very good at taking the lead and was not shy to ask people to for example repeat what they said.

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Photo: Screenshot of our film. The Canterbury-wave group.

When we first arrived at Godmersham Village hall where the 5Rhythms takes place, I was super nervous about that we might not get any filming done if the dancers would say no. This was the last shot, as the 5Rhythms is just once a month and we did not have any footage of the actual 5Rhythms class. But Emma, the teacher was very helpful. She didn’t even ask if it was ok that we filmed, but suggested that those who find it ok to be filmed can dance in the one half of the room, while those who not could stay in the other half. That seemed to be fine for everyone. However, at the end, a woman said that she found it very uncomfortable to have the camera in the room, and I found that very difficult to not take personal. I felt that it was my responsibility if someone was feeling unwell or annoyed or more self-conscious as it was me who wanted to film. But the good thing is that we got a lot of good footage.

My field diary/Interview with David

Today we had our first meeting with one of our interviewees, David. He lives in Folkestone, so we went to his house there. It was interesting and also a little weird to meet him in his home, as you get a more holistic impression of a person once seen in a more personal context. However, David seemed really comfortable and exited to be interviewed and filmed. He had a statue of a big buddha in his living room which we used for the background of the shots. First we asked him if he could sit on the ground, as it gives a relaxed feeling to the audience, but he said that he would look too much of a hippie then and that he did not want to come across like that.

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Photo: Screenshot from our video. Interview with David at his home.

We therefore put him in this lovely red leather chair. We arranged the background, put up the tripod in a good angle and then started filming. I was the one asking the questions and Richie was keeping an eye on the camera. It was quite tough to remember to not answer with yes or make any sound at all when David was talking. He was a very easy interviewee because he did not have any problems to keep on talking. He has a very interesting personality and his high energy and engagement when talking made us realise that he will definitely be one of our main characters in the film. Also, I learned something new today. Richie told be the importance of having B-roles in a film to set the scene. He went around the room and filmed different objects David had in his house. These things I did not even think about, so I realised that I will learn quite a bit of Richie´s filming skills during the coming weeks of our collaboration.

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Photo: Screenshot of our video. Example of B-role. Making the audience familiar with the environment.

My field diary/collaboration

So, there are complete changes of plan. Yesterday, a guy in my class (Richie) asked me if he could join my project. He said that he was struggling with his project and so he wanted to collaborate with someone else. I had mixed feelings when he first asked as 5Rhythms is so personal and valuable to me that I am normally careful about whom I explain it to and in how much detail. However, Richie seemed quite open and engaged in it,so I just said yes to collaborate with him. Also, he said that he is good with technical stuff and he has had some experience with making films before. As I have no previous experience, it was great for me to have a technical support on my side.

5rhythms pic

Photo: Google Image (5Rhythms)

Young woman on field under sunset light

Photo: Google Image (5Rhythms)

In terms of the future collaboration, I think I will be the organiser/planer and Richie the technical leader. I will organise the filming times, meet ups with interviewees, while Richie has said that he will take the lead in editing. For me that is a good compromise. However, we have agreed that both are going to do the actual filming and also that we will conduct everything together.

My field diary/first attempt of filming

So on Saturday I went to the 5Rhythms class in the hope to get some first footage. Unfortunately it did not turn out as expected. I thought that it would be quite easy to get permission to film as I know the dance group quite well, but when I arrived there were 3-4 newcomers to 5Rhythms which were not comfortable with me filming them while dancing. That was of course completely fine, the annoying part was just that those people left half way through, so I could have filmed after all. As it is a meditative dance practice which should not be interrupted, I did not get the chance to reiterate the question. I must say that I was a little frustrated afterwards and it made me realise that I have to take a different approach. People suggested that I should do the filming after the class and just ask a few people to stay a little longer and demonstrate. I think that would be the only way to do it really.


Photo: Me. Hamar, Norway