Spirit dance

Townshend artist offers link between music and a sacred connection

TOWNSHEND — Townshend artist and enthusiastic movement practitioner Patricia Burleson will be one of the presenters at a three-day “5Rhythms Workshop,” which merges free-form movement and music with spiritual experience and sacred connection, on Oct. 26 to 28 at Grace Cottage Hospital.

The workshop will be led by Maine teacher Sara Wilde at the hospital's Wellness Center. According to her website (, Wilde has been teaching 5Rhythms classes and workshops in Maine for 22 years. She has also taught at the Rowe Conference Center in Massachusetts, facilitated classes for staff and participants at the Omega Institute in New York, and offered classes during holistic cruises in the Caribbean.

Burleson, 61, has created a successful business painting designs on silk clothing, earning a reputation for sculptures, which, according to her website, use “simple basketry techniques...combined her silk scraps with local natural materials and detritus from family life.”

On the site, she describes these sculptures as “delicate assemblages of cast- off metal, recycled wood, and found objects woven together with wire and cord.”

She has exhibited nationally in single-person and group shows.

Yet, she has also been plagued, intermittently, by certain serious medical issues, as well as by difficulties such as allergies to trees and grass, and she's been dealing with back problems, she explained.

She's a veteran of naturopathic medicine, other nontraditional medicine, and has gone to chiropractors and massage therapists. She also meditates.

But after learning about 5Rhythms in Maui, where she and her husband travel to from time to time, she said she fell in love with the practice.

“I couldn't find anyone right around here, so I started dancing by myself,” she said. “I started noticing these wonderful transformations. I became more of myself.”

She said her chiropractor told her that her spine “was unwinding. And it rang true.”

She describes the process of 5Rhythms and points specifically to its benefits for her and the hoped-for benefits of introducing locally these personal movement dances to others.

Five states of being

5Rhythms designates five separate states of being, which are echoed by the music that plays: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. Together, they are called a wave. They can last 45 minutes or twice that, depending on preference and music and class.

“By moving to music that exemplifies those states,” she said, “movement becomes a sacred and spiritual practice. Finding this so late in life has been wonderful,” she said.

And watching Burleson and her friend Crystal Mansfield, vice president of rehabilitation services, human resources and wellness at Grace Cottage Hospital, who is supporting Burleson's efforts to bring the weekend workshop to Townshend, moving through the five rhythms, doing what comes naturally, it's hard not to get caught up.

Mansfield, a certified yoga instructor who teaches yoga at the Wellness Center, says the 5Rhythms for her are “moving meditation.” Noting that she teaches yoga, she says the five rhythms are “another opportunity to connect, (to gain) an inner sense of well-being.”

She added, “My hope in bringing the program to the West River Valley is that it will capture enough attention to do a regular workshop.”

Several local people and groups offer classes and sessions that reflect some of what the 5Rhythms includes.

Among the most active is Rupa Cousins, who lives in East Dummerston, and whose website (, entitled “The Connected Self,” outlines the many paths she follows to achieve a mind/body connection.

She emphasizes her long-time practice of the Alexander Technique and the Rubenfeld Synergy Method (these are fully explained on self-named websites) and also the many dance workshops she offers, including “When Dance Becomes Prayer” and “Peace Dances” in southern Vermont and at conferences and retreat centers around the world.

She also presents something called “Paneurhythmy,” a sacred dance from Bulgaria which is offered in workshops, with the elderly, and twice weekly in southern Vermont from spring to fall.

She's been practicing for more than 30 years and also is a partner with Dr. Michael Gigante of the New England Psychoneuroimmunology Institute in Brattleboro, that, according to Wikipedia, studies “the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body.”

A group called Tribal Mystic Presents lists programs they offer once a week at the Putney Community Center, more or less titled “Dance Your Prayers.”

Anyone wishing to join the 5Rhythms Workshop at Grace Cottage may call Burleson at 802-365-4201 for information about times and costs. Or, those interested in registering may call Grace Cottage Hospital at 802-365-3649.

Those interested in programs offered by Rupa Cousins can call 802-387-5276.

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