Video Fitness

The Wave: Introductory Ecstatic Dance

Gabrielle Roth

I had to take this vid back to library, so this ain't in-depth.

I don't have any of Gabrielle Roth's CDs. If you are already familiar with her music and ideas, your experience would be different. This video is based on the "5 Rhythms": flowing, stacatto, chaos, are the ones I remember. It's totally unchoreographed; you just move with the music--which is great, tribal percussion with some vocals and wind instruments. It's filmed in black-and-white, very artsy lighting and angles. The setting is a dance class of thin neo-hippies. Gabrielle points out that none of them are professional dancers, which may be true, but they've been front and center at a few Phish concerts. You're not supposed to copy them, but to dance with them.

I enjoyed the warmup and the flowing sequence. There was this one couple who looked like they were going to take it to the floor, which was a little weird to watch. Then they got into stacatto, which didn't feel so natural to me. At this point I started looking at the screen more, and getting kind of depressed by all those beautiful lithe 20-somethings spinning around. I hung on through that section, but turned it off when "chaos" started.

There is an audio of this workout called Endless Wave V.1. Apparently the first side is the soundtrack of the video, and the second side is different music with the same sequence of rhythms. I think the audio format would work better for this style of workout.

June Vigor

I originally posted this as a comparison between The Wave and NIA. I only previewed the first two Wave tapes but actually did the third

The Wave with Gabrielle Roth (2000). Her brand of "ecstatic dance" [hey, did you know that at some point NIA became NIAWAVE? I wonder if they were at some point affiliated.] involves dancing to five different "rhythms" (and she uses that term loosely): Flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. The first tape also includes a head to toe warm-up before you go into "flowing". While she says that the participants in the tape (she calls it a "practice", not a "workout") are not professional dancers, you coulda fooled me. In the first tape they are all very lithe and thin and look like your basic modern dancer. In the subsequent tapes there are some older and some heavier folks, but they all know how to move. During some of the "rhythms" they do resemble people having seizures, but the point of ecstatic dance is to let the music and movement carry you away, so there you go. The background folks are there to provide inspiration, but you're not supposed to try to follow them, which is good because they're all doing radically different things. (I kept laughing and thinking of the part in It's Christmas Charlie Brown where all of the kids from the Christmas pageant are dancing on stage.)

The Inner Wave (2000) has the same format, sans warmup, but it has one long slowish song throughout, and in general, the dancers don't work up the same kind of fenzy. It's supposed to be more meditative. The instructions she gives for interpreting the rhythms are more specific. For instance, in "flowing" she sggests focusing on the inhale. For "staccato", the exhale. For "chaos" focus on release, and for lyrical, focus on patterns. I thought it was kind of boring, but then I was just watching. You could probably get into it and just trance out if you were in the proper frame of mind.

Finally, I got up and did The Power Wave (2000), a higher energy version, again, sans warm-up. I applied a lot of bellydance moves to the various sections, although that's sort of antithetical to the point of the tape (which is to just let go). Unfortunately for me, when I did let go, I felt moved to do a lot of twisty, turny, spirally things and finished the workout with my equilibrium a bit out of whack.

All in all, these were pretty slick productions, with intercuts of individual dancers, sepia-tone alternating with muted color, and pretty good music. (Gabrille Roth and The Mirrors, her band, do the soundtracks, which you can buy separately.) Despite having the "rhythms" to guide you and the dancers to inspire you, you're pretty much on your own, and I can see how for some people that would not be fun, especially if your spouse or kids are prone to walking in on your workouts. There's also plenty of woo-woo language, although frankly, I tuned most of that out. There's also a lot of whispering in the background and suggestions for what to do. For a few minutes I thought I might actually be able to understand what my schizophrenic uncle experiences when he hears his voices. Another downcheck--each of The Wave tapes is only 30 minutes long. I would have liked 45 or 60 minutes.

Instructor comments: Roth is very witchy and spooky looking. Her instruction is done in voiceover.

Renee D

11/30/02 (originally posted to the VF Forum 1/21/02)

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