5 Rhythms® Colombia – Association Maria

5 Rhythms Colombia – Association Maria – photographed & produced by jason goodman

I accompanied my wife, Tammy Burstein, to Bogota, Colombia in November, 2009, where she had been invited to teach a series of 5 Rhythms workshops and events. The first day we went up in the hills above Bogota, to a poor neighborhood called Juan Vente Tres. As the group surrendered to the 5Rhythms, the beat took them far away from their own problems, connecting to them to their freedom, to their youth, to their culture, and ultimately to the larger percussive tribe of dancers across the globe sharing the same harmonic groove with them. That connection continued long after the dance ended. At Christmas, The 5Rhythms New York tribe gave their Bogota elders more than $600 to buy desperately needed warm clothes, gloves and blankets to keep the members of Association Maria warm throughout their winter.

One memory of that afternoon that still keeps my heart warm — the image of an ancient, tiny lady in a fiery red coat and a blue hat. I first noticed her standing on the periphery, her arms folded tight, as if modeling the archetype of skepticism. When I saw her next, the arms were still folded, but they were moving with the beat, and it looked like she was having trouble containing them. By the time my camera found her again, those arms were high in the air, moving with a staccato clarity that was both beautiful and fierce. She was so brilliant, in every sense of the word, I had to force myself to turn away and give my attention back to the other dancers. As we were leaving, I went up to her to thank her, and through the translator, she asked why I had photographed her. I told her that she was going to be the star of the little film I was making that afternoon. To my surprise, she started crying. She said no one had ever said anything like that to her before. She didn’t think she was a star. I said that I was fortunate to have the proof right there in my camera, and that I would prove that the world would see her for the luminous entity that she is. It didn’t take her long to get used to the idea — just as I was leaving she came up to me and told me she was ready to leave for Hollywood!

Here are Tammy’s reflections on the day:

On November 12, 2009, I was invited, with the help of Carolina Rudas as translator and all around assistant, to lead an afternoon session in Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms® movement meditation practice for the Association Maria, a group of Colombian elders, who meet every Thursday afternoon at the community center in their Juan Vente Tres neighborhood in Bogota, Colombia.

When I was originally invited to teach in Bogota, Carolina had suggested that I might want to do some community service work with displaced persons. I jumped at the chance. Taking the 5Rhythms beyond the expected environment of dance studios and the anticipated groups of primarily younger and more affluent “dancers” is one of Gabrielle’s passions and a deep learning and service for all 5Rhythms teachers.

Carolina arranged for the session with Association Maria. In her words, “One note about elders in Colombia: As you might know by now, Colombia is a very poor country. Although you wont see poverty around much, because there are kind of ghettos were poor people live, others manage to stay away from them and not see them. So we have poor people, people that have fled violence, abandoned children…etc. But according to my believe, and I have worked with many of those communities, the elders are the most forgotten people in Colombia. In general, when somebody is over 60, is considered useless, and is left alone in the family houses, where nobody cares for them. So this is could be a very nice experience, I am sure they would love it and I am sure you would love them!!!”

I never doubted that she was right and so we showed up that Thursday afternoon and danced beyond age, beyond language, and beyond culture, held by the 5Rhythms in the universal language of the heart. Jason, my co-conspiritor (not a typo), traveled with me to Bogota and served as both official videographer and unofficial all around charmer. The above video tells the whole story and I am eternally grateful to him for making this record of our time with the Association Maria possible.

After the session we were discussing the event with two of the organizers/benefactors of the group and found out that they were in the process of finding the funds to provide each member of the group with a Christmas gift of warm hat, gloves and scarf. Jason suggested that the donation from a 5Rhythms charitable event that I hold every Thanksgiving be awarded to the Association Maria and I agreed heartily. If you would like to join in contributing to warming up Christmas for this beautiful tribe of dancing elders please email Tammy.