Interview with Thierry Francois by Ivana Bahun

How did you and dance meet, when and where did you cross each other’s paths? What did the dance bring into your life that wasn’t there already?

I met the 5 Rhythms dance in the early 2000s through other free dance practices. At the same time I encountered Gestalt Therapy as a patient and later as a psychotherapist. My basic profession is acting, theatre which I practiced for quite a long time in France. I quickly felt that all these practices fit together very well and are often complementary.

The dance of the 5 Rhythms allowed me to put the language of the body, of the physical, and that this language, this different vocabulary allows to understand, to feel, to untie, to put quite simply the body in movement, where it can resist, to be immobilized in the thought.

What is your experience with dance and theatre, how much dance did you find in theatre, and how much theatre can be found in dancing?It seems to me, as a dancer, that there are different “roles” that sometimes come up when we get deeper into dance practice; what is your personal experience with that?

Dance and theatre are different and similar channels of expression. What is said through a text on a theatre stage can be said differently on a dance stage. I love it when I can go to France to see shows that combine these two arts. It makes me feel alive, because it’s live performance for one and expressive for the other. The only important difference is that theatre uses a character, that the actor soaks up a text to make it his own, and dance uses you, who you are without artifice, without performing.

Why mime and clown work? What pulled you in that direction? Do you find those practices and knowledge useful in your teaching?

I’m not a big fan of mime. I love clowning because it moves me a clown beyond laughter. I love that notion of the white clown and the prankster. I love the clown, I’ve done a lot of clowning, it also allows you to explore other facets of yourself, it’s rich, it’s very creative, it’s very expressive, and it allows you to say so many things in a different form.

I think that having made a lot of comedies over many years, I’ve kept a sense of humour that brings a bit of lightness, a bit of derision, a bit of hindsight, a bit of humorous breathing when things get a bit dramatic. The important point is not to develop sarcasm and cynicism there, or to not stigmatize someone with humor.

How much Gestalt do you use in your work as a 5Rhythms teacher? What does it bring to your teaching?

Gestalt can be a philosophy of life, which makes one more aware, more attentive, more present, more connected to the present moment, to the experience of the present moment. I could say the same thing about the 5 rhythms, really.

Gestalt helps me, not as a tool but as a way of being. In my workshops, or even more in my on-going groups, when I work more individually with someone, I will use what I feel, I  lean back on my felt sense to “move” the other, to guide him in his need, I incite, I propose, I submit, I offer a space , this is my vision of Gestalt.

We see that there are still more women attending conscious dance practices workshops than men, even though the number of men is increasing, slowly but steadily. You work with men’s group on something called ManKind Project. Can you tell us more about it? And also about your experience and perspective on conscious dance practices, as a male dancer and a male 5Rhythms teacher.

I’ve been doing this work with men for a long time. It’s an exploration of our male part in what is sacred, but also whole, with all its qualities and defaults, these polarities, these beliefs from the past, these introjections that a man must be this or that. We create a safe space because a man who has blocked his emotions for a long time, when he finds the access to let out his anger it is closer to rage, and he has to feel safe for that. It’s powerful but also such a healing work. It is also a way to build community of men who work on themselves to be better father, partners, husbands, friends, colleagues, brothers etc.. I feel more responsible for myself today than I was before to start this men work. I feel more aware that my acts have consequences for me and the world around.

Every dancer at some point faces the shadow sides of the Rhythms. What are the challenges you were/are facing as a 5R dancer? Can you share your insight and perhaps some tips?

The challenges are on the side of the shadows, the confusion that can take me to something disconnected and being numb to not feel.

Breath, breath, breath

Is there something in your teaching that you consider to be your personal “stamp”, something that makes your teaching style unique?

I love to tell a story with my music, to create a landscape to leave the dancers free enough in their experience.

in Zagreb, 2020