Riding the waves of life: an interview with Bettina Rothe

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“I don’t call the 5Rhythms practice a dance practice because we often associate dance with certain steps to learn, or certain orientation or certain grace,” says Bettina Rothe, who leads the practice in classes and retreats across the globe.  

“For me it’s really a meditation practice; an ability to become present in the body and to learn to drop below the level of thought into what I would call ‘somatic intelligence’. And with that ‘bringing attention back to the body’ we begin to connect with the life force and the formless, in some ways. That which actually creates the form of dance.”

The term 5Rhythms might sounds familiar — perhaps you have friends who love it, or maybe you’ve even given it a try. For Bettina Rothe, this work is her life’s work and a way of understanding the rhythms and waves of life itself.


Created by Gabrielle Roth at her New York studio in the 1970’s, 5Rhythms is a “dynamic movement practice” that has spread across the world in its teaching, expression, and following. Bettina has been ‘dancing the waves’ since 1994, when she first met 5 Rhythms at Esalen Institute. She knew it would allow her to integrate her many varied passions, and becoming a teacher (and student) of this work has affirmed this knowing. “My original training was in psychology and specifically developmental psychology, working with organizations more with things like emotional intelligence or stress management. And I realized doing that type of work, that what was really missing among people was using the body as a resource,” Bettina shares.

Dancing through the 5Rhythms is how she found access to that missing link and how she now supports people in re-sourcing the body.

Briefly stated by the 5 Rhythms organization: “The 5Rhythms – Flowing Staccato Chaos Lyrical Stillness® – are states of Being. They are a map to everywhere we want to go, on all planes of consciousness – inner and outer, forward and back, physical, emotional and intellectual. They are markers on the way back to a real self, a vulnerable, wild passionate, instinctive self.”

Bettina adds, “Some people say that Gabrielle downloaded the maps or she was witnessing movement on her dance floors and she was able to track what we call those ‘ecstatic waves’. And it is the wave that we have in love making, that we have in birthing, that we have in any creative project. That we start in the morning when we rise from our sleep into a different state of consciousness and she was able to give voice and a direct physical experience to those 5 different states in the wave, and they have very distinct frequencies or rhythms that can be experienced in the body.” By becoming more familiar with the rhythms, their transitions, and allowing oneself full permission to dive into them fully, self-compassion and understanding follow. Which, one might say, releasing the resistance to each wave — or intentionally welcoming a less comfortable rhythm in — allows us to flow through the waves of life.

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“Every cycle that you go through in your life is connected to one of the 5 Rhythms. I have teenage daughters and they’re definitely on that cusp of staccato going into chaos. They start rebelling against the structure, they start rebelling against the ‘to do’s’ and often things feel very chaotic in their lives. When you’re with a newborn, they’re deeply rooted in that rhythm of flowing. You can’t say to a newborn, ‘Sorry you’re not going to eat right now, lunch is 2 hours away’, it’s like they follow their own flow, they follow their own rhythm.  And I find that often, in the wounds that we carry, are directly related to those rhythms. That in certain aspects of our lives we were not able to just simply flow, or to really get a time to rebel or find stillness.”

So how might a somewhat-tentative newbie begin riding the waves of life’s rhythms?

“For people who have never done the 5Rhythms or who are very new to this path, [I say:] sometimes we put a threshold in the way of ‘oh that’s not me, I’m a shy person, I’m an introvert, I don’t like revealing’, and all these places are valid starting places to come to a workshop or to come to a class,” Bettina shares. “I would say that they’re all part of getting to know yourself. They’re all part of how we’re used to holding ourselves, how we’re used to paying attention to what our bodies are communicating and what our hearts are communicating and what’s going on through our head.”

So don’t worry, she says, about being a great dancer. Or even a modest one. “The movement, I find, is secondary in many ways. Even if we’re just quieting and we’re beginning to listen to ourselves or beginning to find that life force and pulse as it moves through us in a very quiet way, that is a really good place to start.”



Bettina-Rothe-About- retreat-guruBettina Rothe is a facilitator of conscious movement practices and community building whose passion is to ignite one’s connection with self, to others and to the continuum of all life. Bettina is a licensed 5Rhythms® teacher who offers weekly group classes, individual sessions, workshops and retreats in North America and Europe. Visit her Retreat Guru page or visit her website here.

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