ALEX Nicanovich found himself in a dark place.
He didn’t contact his family and was drawing deeper and deeper inside himself. He had been employed as a care worker through an agency but when that work dried up, depression began to take hold.
“Sometimes it was difficult to get out of bed. I spent hours laying in bed or on the sofa and felt no enjoyment in reading a book or watching a film – it all seemed so tasteless,” explains Alex, from Eastleigh, who suffered two serious bouts of depression since 2010.
“The place I was in was so dark, it was almost paralysing. Sometimes I couldn’t leave the house.”
Alex tried taking anti-depressants but found the side-effects were too strong for him to continue doing so for more than a couple of weeks.
Luckily for him, although he had stopped making contact with his friends and family, they hadn’t stopped getting in touch with him.
And one day a close friend – Ajay – invited him to a dance class in London.
But it wasn’t an ordinary lesson. It was a 5 Rhythms session.
Based on methods developed by Gabrielle Roth in the 1970s, the sessions move through five different types of music or rhythm – flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness.
The idea is to use movement as meditation and find inner expression.
In each section the facilitator invites participants to focus on an area of their body, such as their shoulders, but without telling them how they should move them, or even that they have to move that body part.
Alex at Gay Murphy's class in Southampton
“There were about 80 people in the class and at first I felt very exposed and wondered what I was doing there. I felt very self-conscious and wondered if I had to make it look right and if there were any steps. But the whole idea behind the dance is to give people freedom to move and express themselves however they wish,” explains the 36-year-old who lives in Eastleigh.
Alex went along to classes in London a few times but the turning point came for him when he sought out a local teacher and found himself in Gay Murphy’s class in Southampton, which he was able to attend regularly.
“It was like someone had flicked a switch inside me and said ‘you’re free to move how you want. There’s no judgement, no right or wrong.’ I found it to be very therapeutic.
“I soon found that moving my body how it seemed to move naturally to the music started to release all these emotions that I wasn’t even aware were within me.
The last part of the session is called ‘stillness’ and I found that tears would be flowing down my face at this point.”
Alex feels that, as a man, the expression and release that the classes offer are particularly important to him.
“So few men are given that space to be themselves,” he says.
“Society as a whole seems to say that men can’t express themselves in terms of anything seen as feminine – not movement, dance, singing, or anything expressive – certainly not anything to do with emotions.
“There’s a sense that you can’t let yourself be vulnerable but actually there’s great strength in vulnerability, when through this dance you can express these emotions and let them out.”
Alex went through a very difficult relationship break up several years ago and says that the dance brought up painful memories but also helped him to process and let go of them.
The depression began to lift, he started to reach out to friends and family again and was also able to return to work.
“I found the depression was so self-absorbing that I couldn’t see beyond myself,” he says.
“I was holding a lot of tension in my body and through movement I began to dissolve that. I started dancing at home too. I felt that through dancing, something was being released and I felt lighter inside.”
Dance is now an important part of Alex’s life and it is something he is keen for other people to experience too.
For him, the benefits have been enormous.
“Now my negative thoughts come to the surface and I let go of them. I don’t interact with them as much. It was as though the dance had bridged the gap between the dark place I’d been in and people around me.”
For more information about Gay Murphy’s 5 Rhythm’s classes, visit joyfuldance.co.uk.