Lawrencians ‘sweat their prayers’ for the new year

To kick off their resolutions, about 30 Lawrencians moved and grooved their bodies and souls Thursday at Be Moved Studio, 2 E. 7th St., for studio founder Laura Martin-Eagle’s 11th annual New Year’s Day “Sweat Your Prayers” dance class.

For three hours, men and women thrashed themselves against the downtown lofted studio’s walls and floors, while others gracefully twirled and leapt. Each member in the group appeared to be dancing as if no one were watching.

The class is non-traditional, to say the least, as dancers are encouraged to move however they feel. But there is a reason for the chaos: To give dancers tranquility by allowing them to release their inhibitions, Martin-Eagle said.

“This is like a sauna,” Martin-Eagle said. “They come into this place and they are (metaphorically) naked. They are completely raw.”

At the event, participants were invited to write down one word encompassing what they wanted to leave behind in 2014 and place the piece of paper in a small cauldron. After the dancers mindfully pranced about, dreaming of their wants for the new year, Martin-Eagle lit the papers on fire, burning last year’s worries into dust.

“We are going to let go of the past and we let go of it with this fire ritual,” Martin-Eagle told her class.

Lawrence resident Kristin Colahan-Sederstrom was a newcomer to the class Thursday. As she frolicked around the studio, she said she found the event to be physically as well as mentally healing.

“I came because I thought it would be a pretty healthy, fun way to ring in the new year,” Colahan-Sederstrom said. “The energy and community in this space is incredible.”

Colahan-Sederstrom, whose New Year’s resolution is to be “healthier and kinder to (herself) and others,” said the experience set her on the right track for 2015.

“I’ve come to a more organized dance group before, but I’m really impressed by this,” Colahan-Sederstrom said. “It’s very freeing. It allows me to be open to things as they come.”

Nearly two-year member Caitlin McDiarmid said she began coming to Sweat Your Prayers when she finished treatment for breast cancer. McDiarmid said the freeing nature of the course helped her heal in many ways.

“I came in, and it completely changed my life,” McDiarmid said. “I wanted to find something healthy in a spiritual and physical capacity.”

McDiarmid said the liberating class reminds her of how she belongs — a feeling she hopes to take with her into 2015.

“I have a tendency to feel like I don’t fit in,” McDiarmid said. “I consider this one of my tribes. These people, I may never know their names, but I feel completely connected to them.”

A shorter version of Thursday’s Sweat Your Prayers event is taught each Sunday at Be Moved from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for $10. All are welcome.