Rachel Jordana: Contemplative Dance Practice

I've known Rachel Jordana Horodezky since we met in a writer's group in San Francisco in March of 2008. At the time, I was riding vicissitudes of intense creativity followed by dark internal fears. It was a wild ride spiritually speaking, but I had a good friendship with Rachel then. We lost connection for awhile, but when we stumbled across each other at Ecstatic Dance in Oakland earlier this year, it felt like falling into the arms of a very old friend.

Since then, I've had the pleasure of following her around to a couple dances, including 5Rhythms in Mountain View where I fell in love with the community, the lovely teacher--Claire Alexander, and the style of dance. Now, her latest conscious dance style is called contemplative dance practice. And even more cool, she's now the facilitator.

Silence in Motion

So much of our lives are filled with noise. Voices, engines, ventilation ducts, and of, course, music bang reverberations into our ears and our bodies. With dance, we all consider it a given that there will be music. But what happens when there is no rhythmic sound to tell us how fast to dance? What happens when the only noise is the creak of stiff joints and the intake and exhaust of our lungs?

Contemplative dance explores this space of silence. Three segments break up the hour and a half practice. The first half hour is a silent sitting meditation. Everyone sits in a circle on a cushion on the dance floor, and we share the sacred space of intention, breath, and focus (Or, if you're having a bad day, you're experiencing cramped muscles, forced posture, and a never-ending parade of thoughts--you know, whatever is present for you is present for you =). After the first half hour, the dance begins. It's like a group of newborns waking into dance and movement for the next half hour. The final segment brings everyone into a large circle on the periphery of the dance floor. Dancers take turns entering the circle to dance and be witnessed while other dancers witness those in active motion.

The whole segment is a beautiful self-exploration, allowing people to really delve into their personal experiences. Below follows a short interview that I had with Rachel so that you can get a flavor of the amazing dance facilitator and thoughtful soul that she is.

Interview with Rachel Jordana

How long have you been doing conscious dance styles?
In the beginning of January 2009, I started dancing. I went to a 5Rhythms "Sweat Your Prayers" class lead by Davida Taurek after a yoga class. At that time, I was a wall-flower, not a dancer. I was like, "Please, whatever you do, don't make me dance." When I heard the music and closed my eyes, I felt a deep remembering in my body--like what it felt like to be in my body as a child. Then, there was this immediate transcendent moment where my body transformed from a cage into a vessel of my freedom. I started dancing every day after that.

What dance styles have you explored since that moment?
I've danced 5Rhythms, contact improv, Biodanza, body-mind dance, ecstatic dance, belly-dance, break-dance, soul motion, and contemplative dance practice. I am more inclined to think about "dance" as a movement practice, and I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn't include yoga in this practice.

How did you find out about contemplative dance practice?
I was at the Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation. They were offering contemplative dance practice every morning so I went to it. Karen Nelson was the facilitator.

What makes this different from other conscious dance?
The defining difference is that there's no music. There are also three main sections that create the container for the movement to occur. There's sitting meditation, movement, and then witnessed movement.

Who started contemplative dance practice?
Barbara Dilley developed the style at Naropa University. The intention is to get in touch with the authenticity of each moment and to foster a deeper presence.

What do you hope people will get out of contemplative dance practice?

I hope they get a feeling of centered-ness and community. It's an opportunity to move with whatever is present and to accept whatever is present in them. It's a space to move whatever needs to be moved without external stimulus.

How is dance as a continuing practice for you?
There's definitely an evolution in my experience, but in terms of coming into my body, there was that one moment. I've been there ever since.

What is your vision as a dance facilitator?
My goal in life is to take this movement practice and bring it to people who don't move. That can mean working with underserved communities such as mental health community clinics, jails, women with eating disorders organizations, or anywhere, really. Right now, I'm assisting a 5Rhythms reach-out class at California Pacific Medical Center, and I am helping to write grants to fund the 5Rhythms reach-out project in women's prisons. I also facilitate a dance reach-out project with at-risk youth at the clinic I used to work at. I really love it.

It's an amazing influence to bring movement to people who don't normally move. My goal is to use the credentials from my psychology doctorate and research experience to create a "best practice approach" to dance as a form of healing. I intend to be part of the movement that brings scientific credibility to dance and then use that to bring it into the community at large.

Dr. Rachel Jordana Horodezky is a dancer and dance facilitator living in Northern California. She holds a Psy. D. For more info, you can contact Rachel through her Web site: www.creativedancepsychology.com.


  1. this sounds awfully interesting...

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! I used to be a dancer. My training was primarily classical... typical: strict, demanding and full of expectations. I was hurt young and at 20 had the previous 16 years and all of my dreams sidelined. I didn't know what to do... so I stopped thinking, stopped dancing. Ten years later, for the first time I was able to watch a friend's performance and not be sad, not be angry, but felt the desire to dance again. I joined her -this time with expressive dancing, emotion, no music, sometimes just sounds, sometimes never getting off the ground... and I have found much healing in moving again. It is a beautiful way to express and manifest feeling, understand emotion for those of us who find it sometimes hard just to sit and meditate... for me, it is meditation, or prayer, in motion. I had not heard of Contemplative Dance but I will look into it. Thank you so much!

    1. You're welcome. It was a fun interview to do with my friend, Rachel.

      I'm glad it can inspire you to dance again. There are all kinds of ways to dance, and there are all kinds of ways it can become a spiritual practice.

      I really enjoy Ecstatic Dance and Contact Improv as well. Ecstatic Dance has gained in popularity, so you may be able to find it wherever you are. You could even start up an Ecstatic Dance event if you felt inspired.

      Thanks for the comment!


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