I’m glad to see this discussion. I’ve been away from the computer since Tuesday night and the comments have given me (and all of us at Moving Essence) a chance to reflect on this, and many other things about the dance we offer.

For the two women involved and anyone else who witnessed this or heard about it – I want you to know I found this a very tricky situation and I tried to handle the moment in the most respectful way I could – saying ‘sorry for this’ and asking the two women to come talk to me afterward so I could apologise again and explain. That hasn’t happened. I’d still welcome that conversation with the two of you (if you are reading this).

Boob shaming is NOT helpful language in this debate.

And I’m glad that ‘conscious community event’ is written in inverted commas. We don’t refer to our work as that.

Some further context…

Yes indeed – our relationship with the parish is a major part of this consideration. The behaviour of any individual and conduct of the group in relation to issues of violence, nudity, alcohol or drugs can jeopardise our hall lease. We need to respect that.

Also in addition to the two women last Tuesday TWO other women have taken their bra off before. In each case Meredith has normally gone to them and made the same request.

However that equates to 4 occurrences in 15 years. Four moments – out of thousands of classes. It appears from this history that the majority of women haven’t been asking for the freedom to take their top off.

So that explains why we haven’t got a stated policy on it.

We go with basic guidelines (as minimal as possible) for safety and maximum enjoyment and we have dealt with the ‘exceptions’ as they arise. As we do with MANY other requests or incidents…e.g.

“Sorry you can’t come in because you smell of alcohol”
“No you can’t take drugs here”
“Can you two leave the space and go ‘make out’ in the community room please”, and
“No you can’t do fire twirling in the class”

Yes, the last one is true… Oh we have such ‘interesting’ requests!

Permission is important here. If I go to have a spa at someone else’s house – even though I may prefer to be in the spa nude, I have to wait and see what the convention is or if the person explains to me whether it is clothes on or not. If I don’t get that – I’m wearing my bathers by default.

But I understand – this is not a spa – you’re dancing – you’re sweating – and hot! You want to rip off your top. But last Tuesday, when this happened, the windows were closed. Come and ask if the windows can be opened first.

Marathon runners, netballers, footballers – so many people participating in heat generating activities manage to do so and keep their tops on.

I suspect it isn’t just about heat and the issue is the need to be nude and be sexually free – this is not the place for it. There are plenty of other places you can do that.

I am less concerned about the ‘class getting sexy’. Sexuality (or I would prefer sensuality) is normal and healthy and when expressed within clear boundaries allows people to feel safe doing the practice – and exploring their edge in movement. I know that from my own experience in thousands of classes and workshops.

Of greater concern to us (and this is also why I approached the two women) are recent reports of predatory behaviour, unwanted touch and inappropriate sexual contact. In addition to this, we have been told of some people taking drugs before class.

As these reports came to me, during the time my mother was unwell and passed away, I personally haven’t had the internal strength to tackle these issues head on as I have done in the past. Responding to this issue is a first step, we feel like there are more steps to come.

This is a Tuesday night 5Rhythms class in a parish hall – it’s not a summer festival. There are guidelines for the practice. They need to be respected.

There is a HUGE teaching here around what freedom and liberation means. In the words of one of our regular dancers:

One’s personal freedom does not come at the cost of the repression of others’ sensitivities. Compassion requires humbleness, a willingness to understand your own part in a situation to truly see the other.

Moving Essence is holding space for you to dance YOUR dance – and also the dance of all the other people in the room.

By holding clear boundaries in our classes and workshops, we create the safety for people to go to their edge in movement. As a group.

We live in a society with rules and boundaries. Not all rules are correct. I voted yes to marriage equality. However I have to respect those who disagree with me and at the same time have some understanding of their perspective. As if I walked in their shoes.

We need empathy and respect as much as freedom.

If we put the “tops on tops off “to a vote as suggested – it will be biased towards those who use Facebook and it will not be a representative sample. I gave up work in a research centre to become a 5Rhythms teacher. I’d rather trust my intuition than a Randomised Controlled Trial.

So to be completely fair to all from this point onward – we’ll now ask all men and women to observe a policy of dancing with some part of their chest covered.

If men want to wear bras go for it. I think in Seinfeld – Kramer called it the “Bro.”

Maybe there is MORE freedom in ALL nipples covered as nipples out!

5Rhythms – Bare your soul, not your chest.

We will update all our guidelines to reflect this change. You’ll also hear more on related topics especially our response to concerns around sexual misconduct, which reflect the call for change in society at large.

While some of you men (and women) may disagree with the ‘tops on’ response, I hope you will see it as an act of fairness and equality. It is also providing a safer environment for us to be our best on a dance floor – as individuals and as members of a community.

When we have that respect, then we’ll be closer to freedom and could even consider getting closer to being ‘conscious’.

And the Moving Essence Team