Feldenkrais for Dancers

Catrina Choate-Heretoiu

03 December, 2020

, Feldenkrais, Ballet, Dance

If you choose a career in dance then you choose a trajectory of life-long kinesthetic learning and it will be up to you to confidently assume the role of protecting your most treasured tool in this artform - YOU!

Your body and your emotional well-being are in your hands so it is important that you activate your intelligent inquiries, motivate your curiosity, and stimulate your personal learning process so you can uncover your strongest, most agile self.

The Feldenkrais Method can directly help a dancer with chronic pain and assist in the recovery process after severe injury, surgery, or from daily wear and tear. The method is a neuro-muscular learning process that uses sensory feedback and micro-movements to rehabilitate the body by providing multiple movement options which inspires integrative connections to blossom. 

Stability - Mobility - Flexibility are important factors for a dancer. The Feldenkrais process looks different from your typical stretching and strengthening exercises. The method works to release muscular tension and inform active posture with intentionally constructed movement lessons called, Awareness Through Movement. There are over 1,000 different lessons created by Moshe Feldenkrais and the majority of them offer release for tired back muscles, hamstrings, and hip sockets. Feldenkrais lessons can greatly improve stability, mobility, and flexibility but it can also really help a dancer to relieve chronic pain ailments.    

Here is what Soma Studies offers:

A) Live Online Classes: Tuesday & Sunday (recordings are offered if Live Time doesn’t work).

B) Online Programs available for purchase and home study. 

  1. Dancer Undone
  2. Fluency for Lif
  3. Integrity...

C) Private Live Online Sessions: By appointment

Dig Deeper

For the dancer who likes to dig deep, reach into embodiment, and enjoy thinking beyond kinesthetic fixes. Here is what the Feldenkrais Method works with beyond the body while still with the body. 

     1. Self Direction - You are the best author of your body, movement, and life. 

Feldenkrais is a direct experience of kinesthetic learning and there is one thing that needs to happen. You must be available for it! Available in the sense of being present enough to pay attention to you for at least an hour! Needed is the ability to observe yourself, question your actions, and try different ways of moving. During the movement lessons you don’t need to intellectually understand everything but you do need to be able to WANT to pay attention and WANT to learn for the sake of self learning.

Your Feldenkrais experience depends upon you!! Sometimes, this is one of the problems that people have with the work. A Feldenkrais practitioner will not tell you what is right or wrong, instead you will be asked to explore, to feel, to sense yourself and observe yourself so that you can decipher what feels right or wrong to you. A Feldenkrais practitioner will not teach you one correct way to stand or to get up from sitting, instead you’ll explore multiple pathways of movement so that you can naturally choose the best option for a particular moment when necessary. A Feldenkrais practitioner will not force a philosophy upon you because this is about the bones, the nervous system, the brain, and your whole system - this is about you learning in real time about you!! 

Quite often dancers seek out Feldenkrais practitioners if they have chronic pain or are recovering from surgery or an injury. This is great because PAIN is usually a really good reason to be ready for learning, especially for a dancer who depends upon the health and wellness of her or his body. This is how I came to the method when I was about 20 years old and yes - all of my aches and pains were relieved. However, I became hooked by the process of the in-depth learning so even though my surgery ailments were healed, I stayed on every week because the unfolding process of being human had truly taken off and I loved every moment of it!

     2. KNOW WHAT YOU DO so you can DO WHAT YOU WANT

If you always fall out of a pirouette, how do you fix it? What is your process? Usually, dancers grow to be very physically intuitive. If something technical happens like falling out of a pirouette you can try it again and make internal corrections by way of feeling through the problem. For instance - Your body may take over for you, try it again, but this time with the hip down or the ribs differently placed. Or, you could tell yourself - shoulders down, abdominals connected, go! Whether it’s a mental or physical stimulus - you try different corrections to get different results. But first, before trying different technical options - you must know what you’re doing with your pirouette. Are you always falling to the left, or back? Only when you know what you do - you can attempt to reroute yourself. 

This ability to know what you do so you can do what you want is one of the key elements to the Feldenkrais Method. And of course, we really like to dig into this concept to reveal layer by layer how everything is connected. Feldenkrais doesn’t work with technique but rather human movement based upon organic physical functions that are necessary for human living - flexion/extension, rotation, side-bending, or eye/head coordinations.  

With these structural functions in mind, The Feldenkrais Method uses sensitivity to enact change. To create change, one must become sensitive and self aware of her or his actions, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. In Awareness Through Movement, we slow down so we can discern what it is we do, we observe our actions so we may feel and connect, and we listen deeply so we may sense where we are in our process of learning. During each lesson, no matter what body part we’re working with, we practice shifting our attention so we may grow not only our body awareness but also enhance our mental ability to place focus on the intended action and by doing so - we integrate both the mind and the body. 

Whether Feldenkrais or not, all somatic and dance practitioners know that there is truth and intelligence in the act of moving. The understanding of self is deeply entwined in the understanding of your physical body. Your movement gives you a visceral experience of guiding this life. Know what you do so you can do what you want. Drop in, Dig in, explore you!

     3. Be ok with the UNKNOWN

With a Feldenkrais lesson - you never know what you’re going to get. There are over a thousand different lessons and it’s not a method that follows a progression of technique. During each ATM lesson, the direction of the lesson unfolds in real time as you close your eyes and wait for the next directive. What happens as you wait for the next sequence? Well - this is the amazing in-between moment where presence emerges as you’re feeling your weight, observing your action, listening to you but also for the practitioners next direction. Your attention is internal as well as external. Your focus is broad. You’re in the present moment, sinking into it - feeling, sensing, thinking, moving. It’s such a brilliant space to exist in. So yes, in Feldenkrais, one must be ok with the unknown. There is no roadmap just as there is no official roadmap for your life. You must sit back inside of your moment and enjoy the ride as you direct yourself and listen simultaneously. Yes, what a special and wild ride it is!!!  

During the unknown, moment to moment, ATM progression there are things that happen. The action of trust grows as you give yourself to the process. Acknowledgment of a process also grows. The ability to reduce the noise of the world and the noise in your body expands. Attention shifts lightly. Focus on small movements becomes sensitized. Feldenkrais goes small so you can spread your wings wide and lightly take off within yourself. 

     4. Somatic = Safety    -OR-    Somatic = Vitality 

Vitality!!! Somatics is for vitality! Don’t get stuck in the trap that somatics is for safety. Do not get stuck in the idea that you must always move slowly and cautiously in order to be somatic! No, that is not life! That is not dance! That is not for the thriving, feeling artist!

Somatic = Smart. Sure, at first you may enter a somatic approach because you’re injured and are seeking solutions to aid in your recovery process and the somatic approach is smart for this but don’t get stuck in the idea that you must always step softly and safely forever! Remember, in somatics we go small to go big. We go slow to move fast. We go sensitive to handle the rough! We listen to reveal. We go gentle so that one day we may move mountains. A somatic journey is for uncovering yourself so that you may push boundaries, not get stuck within the safety of them. A somatic process reveals your placement within yourself and then your placement within your environment and the world. Self Awareness will continue to grow with and in somatic vitality.  

     5. Dance and The Depth of Somatics

As a dancer, I loved finding balance and defying gravity. I loved placement. Always searching for and feeling physical placement that changes from moment to moment was and still is thrilling. Somatic exploration moves beyond the dance floor seems to ooze into my daily life as well - always shifting, moving, and searching for placement. My somatic journey flows with my real life journey as it arches, drops, rolls, and climbs while reaching for what is already within, within my soma, my experience, and my knowing. The somatic progression acknowledges that which is alive and always changing and if you’re presently steeped within your own process, you’re already there twisting, struggling, and listening within. 

I know somatics to be a search for understanding of self through the body. Yes, somatic methods like Feldenkrais will help you to physically recover and improve your dance technique but if you choose to dig deeper, there is so much beauty waiting to be revealed within you through your movement, your body, your soma! 

If you side with your soma, you side with moving quietly to live loudly. We go in to gain insight so we may authentically create. We live somatically so we can communicate our most honest selves and realities. We listen so we can hear ourselves think and feel and be with life so that we are ready when it’s time to be heard loud and clear. Because, somatics and the study of yourself will bring clarity. Diving into your soma will help to feel clarity, to live clarity, to share clarity, and to communicate clarity. Somatics is clarity. You are clarity within your somatic exploration - always floating, feeling, and being clearly you inside of your one and only trusted soma.  

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