I was in an exercise class today – a pre-choreographed class known as Pound – and it struck me that a well-run exercise class is a lot like a well-run ritual.
I’m a big Pound fan, so I’ve been attending up to three times a week since it launched at my gym back in March. Though I am generally very uncoordinated, I’m now pretty familiar with the moves and the different routines. Today, I was in my preferred spot at the front left and to my right was a Pound instructor who was just attending the class. The person behind me was also a frequent participant, so no matter which way I turned, everyone I saw was in time with the music. The Pound workout uses lightly weighted drumsticks, so there’s a rhythm aspect to it, so even if you can’t see the others, you can hear if their hits and strikes are in time or not. Today, we were on. Everyone was at least a little experienced and the teacher was confident and energetic. There was a great energy in the room, like in a good Circle.
In both an exercise class and a ritual, the leader can do a lot to set the tone of the event, but they must also read their participants’ moods and adapt accordingly. It’s important to give enough explanation, especially if there are less experienced people present, but not too much or the flow will get bogged down.
After contemplating the energy generated in a great synchronized workout, especially one with drumming built into it, and seeing dance performances similar to this one and this one as part of a show we saw in Maui, I’ve started contemplating how to bring this into a ritual. I’m thinking rhythm sticks and very simple choreography. Something more than a drumming circle, but less than an exercise class. I think the physicality would be very interesting, especially if people can be connected by hitting their sticks against each other’s. I’ll post if I come up with something.