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Gabrielle Roth

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  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music GuideWikipedia

All Music Guide:

Gabrielle Roth, known as the "urban shaman," is music director of the Mirrors. Her primal trance-dance music grew from her involvement with ballet, drama, movement therapy, ritual, and shamanic principles. The cultural melting pot of New York City and the emerging consciousness scene at California's Esalen Institute also helped shape Roth's style. As Roth encouraged her dance students to move and emote, she noticed a natural rhythmic progression, which she calls The Wave or the 5 Rhythms. She saw that many of life's events, such as childbirth and lovemaking, moved from flowing to staccato to chaos to lyrical and then to stillness. Dancing to these natural rhythms could move beyond the ego's personality and help catalyze and release the emotions of fear, anger, grief, joy, and peace -- ending with the state of ecstasy.

Roth's slogan, "Sweat Your Prayers," epitomizes her approach to both her movement workshops and recordings, released on her Raven Recording label. "We can dance our prayers and sweat our pain," says Roth. "Prayer is like letting go of everything that impedes the inner silence, of the tone, the OM, the essence of self and soul. Each of the five rhythms represents a state of being, and being is the language of existence. Movement, then, is our medicine and our path to ecstasy. So The Wave is how I pray. "

Roth's recordings began from her work with the rock & roll band of her New York ritual theatre company, the Mirrors. "The first two albums I wrote were tribal rock and roll," she explains, "but then we decided to make simpler, primal recordings, like the music I used for my movement workshops. That's how Totem was born in 1985. This album was a groundbreaker; at that time the New Age stores could not relate to rhythms and drums as a spiritual path. Totem changed that." Roth seldom plays on her albums, but as music director, she assembles musicians appropriate for each concept and "conducts" the music by moving. Longtime Mirrors regulars include drummers Sanga of the Valley, a student of master Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunje, and Roth's husband and producer Robert Ansell. Over the years, other contributors have included composer/guitarist Lenny Kaye (of the Patti Smith Band); Allison Cornell, strings (of Joe Jackson and Pat Benatar); Jai Uttal (Indian fusion musician); space music composer Raphael; and percussionists Gordy Ryan, Arthur Hull, and Cyro Baptista (of Paul Simon and Laurie Anderson).

Several of Roth's albums present musical workouts of entire 5 Rhythms: Initiation, Bones, Trance, and The Endless Wave: Vol. I, (the soundtrack from her video dance workout, The Wave). Other albums emphasize single rhythms: Stillpoint (stillness), Waves (chaos), and Ritual (flowing). Luna, a finalist for the 1994 INDIE Best New Age Album, explores women's mysteries, while Tongues incorporates primal vocal chanting. 1997's Zone Unknown uses techno tracks for the first time. "You'll still know Zone Unknown is the Mirrors," says the group's drummer and producer Robert Ansell, "but we will push to new territory." For more information about Roth's rhythm work, read her book Maps to Ecstasy: Teachings of an Urban Shaman (Nataraj Publishing).


Gabrielle Roth (February 4, 1941 – October 22, 2012) was an American dancer and musician in the world music and trance dance genres, with a special interest in shamanism. She created the 5Rhythms approach to movement in the late 1970s; there are now hundreds of 5Rhythms teachers worldwide who use her approach in their work.

Roth worked at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. She also founded an experimental theatre company in New York, and wrote three books, created over twenty albums of trance dance music with her band The Mirrors, and directed or has been the subject of ten videos.

^ "Gabrielle Roth Quotes: Inspirational Words To Remember The Meditative Dance Teacher". The Huffington Post. October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2012. 

Early life[edit]

Born in San Francisco, Roth was originally inspired to dance, aged seven, by seeing a ballerina through the window of a dance school, deciding that was her vocation. She found a book that showed the ballet positions and started to practice in her bedroom, eventually coming to have ballet lessons. She attended Roman Catholic schools and listened to the music of the local fundamentalist church.

Roth described being inspired by the dance of Spanish gypsy La Chunga and by seeing the Nigerian National Ballet. She trained in traditional dance methods, suffering from anorexia during her teenage years. Roth paid for college education by teaching movement in rehabilitation centres. Following college she lived and worked in Europe for three years, during the mid 1960s. During this time she visited the concentration camps memorials in Germany that she had studied during college.

She injured her knee in a skiing accident in Germany and later again in an African dance class. At 26, she was told that she needed surgery and wouldn't dance again and resigned herself to the prognosis. She entered a depression and later retreated to Big Sur in California, joining a group at the Esalen Institute. She became a masseuse there. She found that her body healed itself through dance, despite what the doctors had said. Gestalt psychiatrist Fritz Perls asked her to teach dance at the Esalen Institute and she set out to find a structure for dance as a transformative process. Out of her work at Esalen she designed the 'Wave' of the 5Rhythms approach, Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, Stillness.

^ ''Yoga Journal'' November/December 1990. Books.google.co.uk. 1991-03-23. Retrieved 2014-06-15. ^ Gabrielle Roth Biography at the Musicians' Guide^ "Dance ecstasy: the art and science of dancing into Nirvana". Spirituality & Health Magazine January 1, 2012. La Cerra, Peggy


Roth's book, Sweat Your Prayers, begins with an autobiographical prologue, "God, Sex, & My Body", in which she writes of the contradictions in her personality that led her to dance. She comments, "I loved to work out my body but I hated the mirrors". She notes that she was taught by Catholic nuns "with eyes trained to scan for sin" and that her first dance teacher was "an old woman with frizzy dyed red hair, a funny accent, and a long thin stick" who would beat her whenever she made a mistake, initiating in Roth a severe inferiority complex. In college, she became pregnant. She found her lover insensitive to the news and had an abortion three days later.

Roth writes that she felt the importance of privacy to her kind of dance while teaching at Esalen in a room "lined with picture windows". Passers by would stare in during sessions. Roth comments, "this was tragic, as the majority of my students were paralytically self-conscious when it came to moving their bodies." She noticed that her students had difficulty breathing. Her book Sweat Your Prayers ends with her vision of spreading dance across the world, the power of movement "leading us back into the garden [of Eden], back to the earth, whole and healed, spirit and flesh reunited".

^ Roth, Gabrielle. 1997. pg. xix.^ Roth, Gabrielle. 1997. pg. xvi.^ Roth, Gabrielle. 1997. pg. xviii.^ Roth, Gabrielle. 1997. pg. xxi.^ Roth, Gabrielle. 1997. pg. 217.


The Culture Project set up home in the Manhattan Ensemble Theatre

Roth was a faculty member at The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (Stockbridge, Massachusetts) and has taught at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies (Rhinebeck, New York). She trained for three years with Oscar Ichazo, founder of the Arica School and set up her own experimental theatre company in New York.

The Moving Center teaches her work through her school in New York; it has certified over 400 5Rhythms teachers worldwide. She teaches experimental theatre in New York based on her 5Rhythms. Roth was music director of the theatre company The Mirrors and has been a member of the Actors Studio. Roth directed theatre productions of Savage Love, by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin, at The Culture Project (Mercer Street, New York City).

Roth wrote three books: Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Practice, Maps to Ecstasy: Teachings of an Urban Shaman, and Connections: The 5 Threads of Intuitive Wisdom. She founded The Moving Center School in 1977 in New York.

^ Cite error: The named reference Yoga was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Margaret Wagner^ 5Rhythms: Moving Center New York. Retrieved February 4, 2014

With the Mirrors[edit]

Waves CD cover by Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors, 1994

Roth performed and recorded as Gabrielle Roth and the Mirrors and produced over 20 albums.

YogaChicago describes Jhoom as "pure energy and bliss. Intense rhythms". Hot Indie News describes Still Chillin' as "without question yoga music" that "lends to an ambient, trance-like, meditative state". Awareness Magazine writes that the music pulses "creating a rhythmic aura that transports the listener", in a way that is perfect for yoga. Michael Riversong writes of "Silver Desert Cafe" on Tongues that "I always dance when it comes up".

Roth and the Mirrors provided music for Michelle Mahrer's film, Dances of Ecstasy, in which Roth has an acting credit, appearing as herself. The New York Times review noted that "Whirling Dervishes from Turkey, Orisha Priestesses from Nigeria and Brazil, shaman healers from the Kalahari and dancers in a Gabrielle Roth workshop in New York, pulse to the same beat".

^ Yoga Chicago: Music Review May 2000. Retrieved 16 March 2012^ Hot Indie News: Still Chillin', September 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2012^ Awareness Magazine Jan/Feb 2000: Music Reviews. Retrieved March 16, 2012^ Music Reviews by Michael Riversong: Tongues Retrieved March 16, 2012^ "Movies". Review: Dances of Ecstacy. New York Times. 2010. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 


Main article: 5Rhythms

The 5Rhythms movement system, founded by Roth in the late 1970s, focuses on five body rhythms: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness and is "a way to become conscious through dance". The movement has spread worldwide with 245 registered teachers.

The 5Rhythms have been the subject of at least one Ph.D thesis, and some academic publications. The Huffington Post described Roth as "an incredibly influential teacher of meditative dance".

Charlotte Macleod, writing in the London Evening Standard, describes dancing Roth's 5Rhythms as a kind of antidote to life in a large city, and how she was attracted to a dance class by a video of Thom Yorke. The class leaves her "mentally and physically refreshed, and oddly connected to the other dancers." The dance was "a kind of moving meditation" for her.

Christine Ottery, writing in The Guardian, states that "ecstatic dancing has an image problem" and "encompasses everything from large global movements such as 5 Rhythms and Biodanza to local drum'n'dance meet-ups". She suggests that readers may "find 5 Rhythms a good place to start", and does so herself: "Nervously, I stretch and warm my muscles. As the rhythms take off, I shake off my shyness." She dances in different ways, alone or with partners. "My body is expressing itself - it's utter abandonment and a complete high."

In 2007, Roth founded the non-profit 5Rhythms Reach Out which offered classes in 5Rhythms to various groups, including those suffering from Alzheimer's disease, other dementias, and cancer.

^ Jed Lipinski (August 4, 2010). "Dance, Dance, Dance. And That's It.". New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2012. ^ "5Rhythms Global: List of Member Teachers". Retrieved March 7, 2012. ^ For example, Nadine Fiume, Adam Barley, Gay Murphy, and Margaret Wagner teach the 5 Rhythms.^ Juhan, Andrea (August 2003). "Open Floor: Dance, Therapy, and Transformation through the 5Rhythms" (PDF). Union Institute and University. Retrieved March 16, 2012. ^ Cook, S., Ledger, K., Scott, N. (2003) Women's experience of 5 Rhythms dance and the effects on their emotional wellbeing (Book) Pubs U.K. Advocacy Network, Sheffield.^ Practical Midwife. 2007 March 10(3): 20, 22-3. The ecstasy of spirit: five rhythms for healing. Henley-Einion A. University of the West of England.^ Cite error: The named reference HuffPost2012 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Macleod, Charlotte (April 6, 2011). "Thom Yorke and the new 5Rhythms dance craze". London Evening Standard. Retrieved March 17, 2012. ^ Ottery, Christine (July 21, 2009). "Ecstatic dance: rhythm to beat the blues". The Guardian. Retrieved March 18, 2012. ^ "5Rhythms Reach Out". Retrieved October 24, 2012. 

Personal life[edit]

Roth's son is Jonathan Horan, honored by Gabrielle to lead the 5Rhythms forward into future generations around the world

Roth was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2009 and died on October 22, 2012, aged 71.

^ http://www.5rhythms.com/teachers/Jonathan+Horan^ "An Unexpected Blessing-Interview with Gabrielle Roth and Jonathan Horan". Plesritmova.net. October 2001. ^ Tami Simon (April 10, 2012). "Dancing with Cancer, interview with Gabrielle Roth". Retrieved October 24, 2012. ^ Jonathan A. Horan (October 23, 2012). "Gabrielle Roth 1941-2012". Retrieved October 24, 2012. 


Works1.1 Books1.2 Music1.3 Television and video


Roth, Gabrielle and Loudon, John (1989). Maps to Ecstasy: Teachings of an Urban Shaman. New World Library. ISBN 978-0-931432-52-1. Roth, Gabrielle (1997). Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Practice. Tarcher Putnam. ISBN 978-0-87477-959-2. Roth, Gabrielle (2004). Connections: The Five Threads of Intuitive Wisdom. Tarcher. ISBN 978-1-58542-327-9. 
Raven RecordingsJhoomStill Chillin'Bardo (with Boris Grebenshikov)TribeRefuge (with Boris Grebenshikov)Zone UnknownStillpointTonguesLunaTranceWavesRitualBonesInitiationTotemThe Raven Classics – 4-CD boxed setEndless WaveEndless Wave 2Music for Slow Flow YogaMusic for Slow Flow Yoga 2Other producersPath: An Ambient Collection (1995) Windham Hill RecordsConversations With God: A Windham Hill Collection (1997) Windham Hill Records
Television and video[edit]
I Dance the Body Electric (1993)Secret Egypt (1995) Mystic Fire Video (Directed by Sheldon Rochlin)The Spiritual Path to Success (1997) Quest special on PBS (now part of the Quest Life Trilogy, only available in the Quest Wisdom Collection).Sukhavati: A Mythic Journey (1997 [music]) [DVD 2005] for Joseph Campbell Foundation and PBS (Produced, Directed, and Edited by Maxine Harris and Sheldon Rochlin).The Wave (2001) Sounds True VHS (DVD 2004)The Power Wave (2001) Sounds True VHS (DVD 2005)The Inner Wave (2001) Sounds True VHS (DVD 2005)Ecstatic Dance Trilogy (2004) Sounds TrueDances of Ecstasy (2003) [featuring: Michelle Mahrer, Nicole Ma and Gabrielle Roth] BBC / Opus ArteOpen Floor: Dance, Therapy & Transformation (2002) Raven RecordingThe Great Lesson: A New Film About Mind and Body: Featuring Gabrielle Roth^ Quest The Journey^ thegreatlesson.com
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