Teacher Highlight: Gay Murphy
Gay was 50 when she discovered conscious dance. She was at a workshop paid for by her workplace and “Every morning a wonderful woman called Dilys Morgan Scott played a 5 Rhythms™ wave for us. I danced whenever I could from then on, evenings, workshops and at home! It was a wonderful time as it was clear to me that I needed to dance. It was a missing link for me in relation to myself and my work as the psychological help point in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. I felt strongly that I could use movement work in my sessions and started training as a 5 Rhythms™ teacher in 2000. I graduated in 2002, aged 60, and have been teaching ever since.”
“I joined the first Open Floor teacher training in 2015 and now am extremely grateful for and respect both modalities. Open Floor supports emotional intelligence and helps to name, include and integrate feelings. I learned to become aware of the feelings I wasn’t even aware of feeling!”
Gay opened classes in the counties south of London and then taught elders in central London from 2007 onward. She is still teaching some of the same people. “We have grown older together.” she says.
Over the pandemic, Gay took her teaching online and was astounded by an even stronger sense of community that developed in her group, most of whom are in their 70s and 80s.
“Community has been a huge part of this pandemic for my group. There was a lot of fear around covid and we shared that vulnerability of older people. It carried us through the last 2 years. What started off as compromise ended up as a blessing.”
She explains that the online environment allows for more intimate conversations which didn’t happen in person. “I call it the zoom comfort zone: they are at home they can get a drink, sit comfortably, be warm and safe.
We are going through the same changes and experiencing the absolute knowledge that the end of life is closer. So yes, we talk about family and friends dying and our own health problems but that’s not what we spend all our time and energy on. We talk about all sorts of things.”
“When you’re old you can appear half dead, not creative or interesting but when you give people space and get to know them, they blossom – regardless of their age. There is real empathy and creativity and moments of wonder that come from all the individuals in the group.”
On how getting older has changed her own dance and her teaching, Gay says, “I’ve become far more aware of what happens to us as we age because it’s happening to me. I’m aligned physically, mentally and emotionally with my group.”
“We are – as elders – less fluid in our movements and for some any movement is a triumph. I make no assumptions that much will change in my classes, but it is a joyful moment when it does! It is comforting for older folk to know what to expect so I vary the playlist as much as I can, changing tempo and mood. Most of all I want us to have that continual awareness of our physical self whether we are in a class or elsewhere. Being body conscious can prevent falls or exhaustion; we don’t need either!
“I have learned to take my time and treat myself with kindness and respect. I see what can and wants to move, even if some days it’s just wiggling my toes or moving slower than usual. I’m more aware of textures and shapes around me. I use my senses and my hands more. Hands can do incredibly beautiful and expressive dances!”
This is a lifelong practice, Gay says, “I keep on teaching, I keep on moving, I keep on breathing…and reminding myself that everything is OK.”
I am so grateful to all the teachers who have encouraged me, and helped me on my way. To Sue Rickards, Yaa’cov and Susanna Darling Khan, to Andrea Juhan and Cathy Ryan and to all my friends and colleagues who have laughed and cried with me ! I couldn’t have got this far without them.