dawn morgan

Q & A Interview in the Spark

Dawn Morgan is the director of Shapeshift Dance, and she teaches and arranges workshops in 5 Rhythms, both nationally and internationally. She is also trained in Tantra. She can be found organising various retreats and is also available to DJ or choreograph special events. She lives in Stroud with her 10-year-old son Arien.

What’s the best thing about living in the South West?

Living in Stroud is fantastic. There are so many creative, earthy people who are spiritual seekers but are also into positive change and action in the community. It’s a great place to bring up children, there are alternatives to mainstream education if you want that and child-friendly places. There are cafes with fun things happening in them, like poetry, story telling and dancing. There is a wonderful farmers market and local farms like the Slad farm near where I live who are providing fresh, local organic food for the area.

Is there anything you like to see more of in this area?

More eco-housing. I know it is happening but it’d be great to see much more of it in the southwest. I’m currently building an ‘eco-straw-bale roundhouse’ in Lancashire as a retreat space. Planning permission and land prices round here are a big hurdle for would be eco-builders, though people are still doing it. There are vast amounts of ‘un-eco-buildings’ going up, I’d like to see this changing. I also want to see more recycling – there is nowhere that I am aware of in Gloucestershire that will take all different kinds of plastic. Please let me know anyone out there if I’m wrong. What I’d also really like to see is some good public transport between Stroud and Bristol, and Stroud and other bigger cities; at the moment it’s terrible!

What is Shapeshift dance?

Ever since there were people, there has been dancing. Dance has always been a way of connecting (to yourself, to others, to the spirit of life itself), a way of raising energy, celebrating, healing, praying and playing. Shaprshift is based on the 5 Rhythms devised by Gabrielle Roth. These five rhythms (Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness) take the dancer through five different ways of moving and the idea is that each movement is a gateway to aspects of yourself. Playing with and embodying these aspects is ‘shapeshifting’. It’s fun, physical and is a spiritual pathway that honours that we are of the earth, that through our bodies we feel and move and dance. I always used to find sitting meditation difficult. I find dancing a meditation in itself, within which I have discovered tremendous stillness. The 5 Rhythms dance is a way of awakening yourself on all levels – body, heart, mind, spirit and soul.

How did you discover your love of dance?

I’ve always danced – I used to dance at home with my brothers and sisters, and we used to put on shows and my gran and the neighbours used to watch them! My Granny was a groovy jiver and so was my mum. I went to University in Bristol to do a BSc in Psychology and I got into healing, therapy and personal growth and at times dance was definitely my refuge, a way to take a break from my 'story'. I started to see that the dances I was doing, such as rock jive and seroc, which were all partner-oriented, were mirroring things in my life. I was discovering a lot about myself and how I related to others. When I came across the 5 Rhythms this sense of the mirring of life patterns and of being able to play with new ones was profound. I decided to explore further and after 4 years of immersion and study of the 5 rhythms in 1994 I trained to teach with Gabrielle Roth. I have been teaching ever since.

What makes you mad?

The fact that there are so many cars on the road…. and I’m one of them!

What’s your favourite book?

‘Jitterbug Perfume’ by Tom Robbins. I love it because it’s funny and quirky and magical. It kind of goes all over the place but in a good way – it’s a great book. Oh and ‘The Tantric Quest’, Daniel O’dier – well worth a read.

What’s your greatest fear?

On a global level, that we won’t wake up in time to what we’re doing to the planet. On a personal level, I have the usual worries about harm coming to my son. Also, I want to be fully present in my life, whether it’s telling my son his bedtime story, doing the washing up or dancing the night away with friends. Getting to where I am has been a journey, sometimes a hard one. I’ve been through a divorce, I am a single parent and run my own business. Bringing ‘personal growth’ into practical action is important to me and like many of us I am learning about that, but I feel very grateful to be where I am right now.



What’s been your most memorable holiday?

Going to Crete. I’ve taught dance courses there every year for the last eight years and I love it over there – the land is wild and magical. I’ve actually chosen to stop doing it for the time being because I’m thinking about the aeroplane flight and my carbon footprint. It’s so difficult to get the balance right between not getting so worried that you don’t enjoy your life, and at the same time also really changing things and making a difference. I think it’s a very personal decision.

How do you relax?

I do yoga, I go for walks, receive massage and I lie on my sofa and look out of the window into my garden. Hang out with friends. Sit in the woods with the trees.

What inspires you?

Seeing people move! I love seeing people dance – when you see people move and they are really in the moment of what they’re doing it’s as though you get to glimpse their soul. The natural world inspires me in some ways its similar to seeing people move.

What can someone expect if they come to a Shapeshift class?

A good dance, fun and a bit of a challenge probably! What’s great about the 5 rhythms is that there is a lot of freedom and it’s very accessible. There are no steps to learn. There is a form and a structure to 5 rhythms, but there’s a lot of freedom within that. You use your body in a way that respects your level of fitness and flexibility and opens up new movement pathways.

On another level, we are being faced with ourselves when we dance and with accepting whatever is arising in us as we move. I’ve worked with people in prisons and people in recovery from addiction, people who are disabled, people with depression, and lots of normal neurotics like us! I’m also interested in working with people in the work-place and business world. Dance is a good way to deal with stress, feeling down, feeling good, celebrating, going through difficult times generally dance makes you feel good. The feeling of well-being continues long after the dance has stopped.

What has life taught you?

To accept, to trust, to practice stillness as well movement. Also, that whatever else is going on, there’s magic and beauty and love in the world.