Hypothesis and Theory / History
Teaching through movement:
A detective story
MS, Feldenkrais Practitioner; Professor Emeritus of Dance of the State University of New York; Director Eastwest Somatics for Yoga, Dance, and Movement Studies
movement, teaching, phenomenology, Feldenkrais Method
Copyright ©: The copyright for this paper remains with the author(s).
Please cite: (First published in the) Feldenkrais Research Journal, volume 5; 2016.
Service marks: The terms Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, ATM®, Functional Integration®, and FI® are service marked terms of the International Feldenkrais® Federation (IFF) and Feldenkrais professional guilds and associations in many countries. In keeping with academic conventions, they will not be service marked in the entire text as may be required in nonacademic use, but only for the first and most prominent use of the terms. In recognition that these phrases are formal terms referring to specific practices within the Method, and to the Method as a whole, capitalization of all the words in each term has been retained.
Published by the International Feldenkrais® Federation (IFF)
Teaching through movement:
A detective story
1. First approximation: Introduction
I began my studies of the Feldenkrais Method® in my early fifties, and it has blessed my life and teaching ever since. Some special teachers I remember are Larry Goldfarb for his humor, Frank Wildman for his thoughtful objectivity, and Elizabeth Berringer for her enthusiasm and clarity. I had one class with Ruthy Alon, appreciating her rich grasp of movement and ability to connect with students. I appreciated the ease of Mark Reese’s classes and the joy of Donna Ray. I was hoping to study with Martin Weiner and was about to go to a home-stay workshop with him when I learned of his death. I feel I missed something very special, and I especially appreciate that ‘The Feldenkrais Journal’ on “Improvisation” reprinted his article on ‘Functional Integration as Improvisational Art.’ It appeals to me as a dancer-improviser.
Here I want to explore what the Feldenkrais Method has taught me about teaching, if that isn’t too redundant. I employ phenomenology as a method in this attempt to unpack my evolution as a teacher over a period of about fifty-two years. I began teaching dance in university dance programs when I was twenty-three years old, and I’m now seventy-five. I continue to teach, but in a more expansive somatic context. I love teaching; it brings me gladness and peace. I’m probably at my best right now, even though I am not the adroit mover I once was, or perhaps it depends on the circumstances. I can no longer leap through space as I did when I danced on stage and taught high-level performers. But my present performances are more nuanced, and I have more expressive potential. As a teacher, I can pay attention better. The students’ understanding of the movement at hand is what matters to me in the moment. I’m not distracted, and I’m not afraid. I connect to students through what we are doing in a way that wouldn’t have been possible for me early on. I pay attention to them and lose myself in the processes we experience together. I channel my spontaneous self.
How did all of this happen? To answer this, I need to research my teaching history somewhat like a detective, which is to say, a phenomenologist. Thus, I’m open to discovery. I understand from the outset that The Feldenkrais Method has been important in my growth as a teacher. Feldenkrais entered late into my university teaching, and still later is informing my Eastwest Somatics Institute for Yoga, Dance, and Movement Studies. Phenomenology as a philosophy and method has been equally influential in my teaching and writing for many years. I hope in this short article to identify some common threads between phenomenology and the Feldenkrais work, including matters of perception and intention, which are important to both.
Throughout this article, I expand a view of teaching relative to phenomenology and somatic education. At the end, I summarize my discoveries on a Detective Storyboard.
What does it mean to research a topic or even one’s own experience through phenomenology? The first paragraph of this essay might qualify as a self-evidential phenomenological description, or a “first approximation” (as I learned this expression through the Feldenkrais work), but it is more narrative than phenomenological. For the latter I will need to go more deeply into the topic of teaching—more specifically, teaching through movement, and still more specifically, engaging people in learning through movement. This will require me to bracket “movement” as a phenomenon, to set it aside as undefined, not assuming I know what it is, but letting its essences emerge as I consider it in context of teaching and learning. Detectives do this also, when they are working on “hunches,” well at least they do in the movies. They question as they learn, and learn as they question.
A phenomenon is simply “a thing”, anything that appears to consciousness. Through its origins in Husserl, phenomenology holds that consciousness is directed toward its contents, the things or objects of awareness (Spiegelberg 1971). Contemporary phenomenology describes and analyzes structures of conscious experience from the first-person point of view, including influential contexts of experience. Since Husserl’s first work on phenomenology, published in 1900, we continue to study the central structure of an experience as its intentionality, the way it is directed through its content (Husserl 1970). The content would be, in reductive terms of phenomenology, the thing itself. It can be great fun to pursue such essences like a detective story unfolding, where one doesn’t know the ending in advance. On the face of it, one might say that movement is the thing we are pursuing, but I think not.
2. Second approximation: The phenomenon
Teaching through movement is the phenomenon of the present study. For me, teaching through movement entails knowing how to visualize and make movement patterns come to life for students, contextualizing movement in curious configured sequences, in dance forms, through touch, and in yoga. Context births content in movement: shape, line, design, and factors of time emerge in terms of the movement mode employed. The “what” of it comes into play. Human movement is just an idea until someone actually, well, moves. Someone makes a change, a shift, a repositioning, or transfers weight from one foot to another to move through space. Movers might scoot along the floor also, or walk on their hands. When people move, they make a change of location, or a change relative to their own body space. But there is of course much more involved in movement than change, since movement cannot be separated from the mover. As a detective, I am already making discoveries regarding oneness, and as a phenomenologist, I’m defining a nondualist perspective on movement and mover.
People are involved in educational interactions, teachers and students who move; thus, I need to include ways in which people experience movement and how teachers and students relate. The thing itself, or the phenomenon we study, also indicates relationships and intentionality, the intentions of both the teacher and the learner. Without students, the teacher ceases to exist at least in her function of teaching.
Teaching and learning are related processes of education. I try to remember that educare, the Greek root of education, means to draw forth what the student already knows, as Plato taught. Teaching is a process of facilitation in this view and not of “stuffing” information or “training” through exercise. Learning is a process of transformation (positive change) and recognition of growth.
As part of our story, the detective (researcher) might identify core existentials (experiential qualities and meanings) of teaching through movement, bringing to the fore the hermeneutic phase of phenomenology, or meanings derived from the search. We seek meaning in the form of pedagogical insight, and hope to summarize this on the Storyboard. Phenomenology is not simply personal, even if it respects intuition; its trajectory is toward shared meanings and values. Neither is it simply a study of experience. Rather phenomenology studies consciousness of experience. Phenomenology shares this with the Feldenkrais Method, which emphasizes awareness of movement experience as primary in changing patterns of action.
In this study, I draw upon my consciousness of teaching through movement. Thus, it strikes me that I will need to say how movement can become a medium for learning. As a detective, I have a hunch that I should consider the content, processes, and methods of movement to make my study more concrete. I may be able to come to this through matters of consciousness, capturing a fresh view, which is the job of phenomenology.
We have already mentioned the centrality of intention in teaching and learning. Intentionality develops and deepens through active direction of perception, which as this study reveals at several junctures, is a matter of method or approach. A phenomenologist accepts that perception is an activity; perception is not passive, even if it has passive phases. We are not passive recipients of an outside world. We are in the world and part of the world, which is in us. Perception, world, self, and intention all implicate each other. Perception might be activated through intentions of care, fear, or apathy, for instance, which result in very different existential meanings. We shape experience through intention and interpretation. In this, we are all directors of our own lives.
I learned much about how such agency develops through body consciousness and in the person via the Feldenkrais Method. This method underscores perception in actual movement processes. More to the point, Moshe Feldenkrais finally named his method for teaching movement to groups – “Awareness Through Movement®.” He believed people could improve their lives through movement. This was not a completely new concept for me in my teaching of dance, but I didn’t know how to put such an idea into practice. Eventually, I learned, and am still learning as I expand my teaching repertory, stepping from one movement paradigm to another in a full day of teaching: from Butoh (an original dance form that grew first in Post WW II Japan) into Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement, exploring Depth-Movement Dance (as I presently develop this in relation to improvised art), and maybe ending with Somatic Yoga. As a detective, I’m not satisfied to rest on one way alone; in the end, I find relationships that surprise me. Students seem to enjoy the journey, as they find their own touchstones along the way.
A large part of the journey for me as a teacher has been learning how to include everyone and anyone who wants to experience movement for personal growth. Before I engaged the Feldenkrais work, I had only taught select and talented dancers. What an evolution it has been for me to work with anyone who wants to come to my classes, workshops, and retreats. I continue to get better at teaching a wide-ranging population. My vision of what it means to teach has become more elastic. Now I frame potentials through movement rather than insisting on a certain product or result. What a relief! As part of my present work, I’m teaching two very large classes of seniors in Somatic Yoga. It doesn’t look like Feldenkrais work, and yet my vision of somatically inspired yoga wouldn’t be possible without my study of Feldenkrais perspectives and other somatic modalities. Of the several I have studied, including The Alexander Technique, Craniosacral Therapy, Rosen Breathwork, and Integral Yoga, Feldenkrais has taught me the most about teaching. The framework of study in Feldenkrais is about discovery. One doesn’t memorize patterns; one explores them, like a good detective or phenomenologist would.
3. Third approximation: Some things in movement
One of the starting points of phenomenology through Husserl is that consciousness has contents, and that contents structure consciousness, as we noted in the First Approximation. In other words, to be conscious is to be conscious of “something.” The content, “the thing”, might be an idea, a form, a smell, a touch, a self-moving, a dance, or movement observation. If we are teaching something through movement, we assume that there is something to learn in the process of moving. We also suppose that movement has content that can be conveyed through processes and methodologies. The latter, we hope, will draw consciousness toward greater understanding or improvement.
It is sometimes difficult to discern content in movement, unless one has a context for it. Movement exhibits content in shape, time, design, and overall form, to name some of its discernable parameters, or elements. Expressivity is also important as movement content, inseparable from the person in motion. Expression is a “thing” as soon as we notice some expressive quality and name it. Expressive content is individual and elusive, and thus a matter of subjective interpretation. In the eye of an aesthetician, movement has abstract shapes, expressive and communicative content, and all movement has style: rigid, flowing, sharp, closely held, thrown, clear or jumbled, etc. Style is part of content, which might develop in a dance form like ballet, or in more personally emergent forms, like my dance improvisations or yours. Repetition is part of content (also style, process, and method), as is apparent in ATM patterns. We learn movement partly through repetition, but most effectively through approximations of these, and not through insistence. Babies learn through trial and error, through explorative repetition, and quite naturally through the emergence of their innate potentials. Adults can emulate infant ways of learning toward recovery of innocent effectiveness and joy.
Movement can be conceived and taught in patterns. Pattern is readily apparent in spatial and temporal aspects of movement and a visible part of content. There could be several ways to define a movement pattern. I’ll just say for the sake of brevity that movement patterns are configurations of movement that can be repeated, maybe not exactly, but in the sense that they can be felt, seen, known, and replicated. Somatic movement patterns often indicate (or intend) developmental aspects that go back to infancy, like pushing or pulling, or radiating from the center. Stylistic parameters of patterns might be described in many ways, as simple or complex for instance, symmetrical or asymmetrical—or as a matter of style in terms of process: done gently and slowly, curling inward, reaching, falling, etc. The reader (as detective) might notice that structural categories of content and process begin to overlap at certain points, as movement itself does.
We have not yet bracketed “method,” which is a term encompassing content and process. It appears immediately that methodology is a very large topic, so for our purposes here, we can state quite simply that a method is a way, a way of moving, working, and thinking. One might also call it an overall approach. Method will likely be an important element on the Storyboard. A method is also one of the “things” of movement, as entering into and modifying the entire movement milieu of the student and consciousness of the teacher. “There is method in my madness,” I sometimes think as I teach. The madness is in the fun, surprise, and tears of it all. Movement takes on personality qua method. It lives by way of it in matters of teaching and learning.
4. Related methods: Feldenkrais and phenomenology
In light of method, I have experienced that ways of moving and learning characterize Feldenkrais, and these can lead to change in the person. Ways of looking, describing, and discerning meaning characterize phenomenology, and these can also lead toward change and developmental transformation. The operative verb here is “can” as in “able to.” Together, teachers and students are able to realize the possibilities of learning through movement. Key concepts shared by Feldenkrais and phenomenology facilitate the possibilities, as below we view these methods side by side. We start with the study of experience, or consciousness of experience, since this guides the rest.
The study of experience
Related studies in perception, volition, and bodily awareness are of particular interest to both phenomenology and the Feldenkrais Method, as ways of investigating any embodied action. Philosophies of existentialism inform phenomenology, holding that experiences don’t occur in a vacuum. They root in contexts of place, time, and culture, and they have felt, affective registers as well as individual and interpersonal features. Similarly, in Feldenkrais studies, each person’s movement is considered to be experientially individual, not part of a type or pathology. Husserl’s phenomenological view of consciousness did not include psychological conceptions, whereas Martin Heidegger and other existentialists offered ways to conceptualize experience (Nathanson 1973, Safranski 1998). Existentialism extends phenomenology to the study of experience as embedded in consciousness of world, body, and psyche – in memory, imagination, emotion, and desire. Feldenkrais implies these connections, but takes them in an oblique direction. Mark Reese explains that Feldenkrais created a method of teaching through bodily awareness to ‘bypass learned inabilities. ‘Like a great detective, he invented ‘surprise-ending lessons that bypass expectations’ (1999: 22).
My phenomenology accepts that potentially fruitful experiential descriptions of teaching and learning through movement are almost limitless. As a phenomenon, human movement is existentially textured, and its many contexts are ripe for learning and reflection. People move their felt world into being and experience emotional qualities directly through movement, as both Feldenkrais and phenomenology teach. Phenomenological works of Merleau-Ponty and others put forward the concept of the “lived-body.” Currently we also speak of the “living-body.” In both senses, we “are” our body. We are a “feeling” body and at the same time a “moving” body. For phenomenologists, affective life is indivisible from embodied movement. Moshe Feldenkrais expresses a similar view in Body and Mature Behavior (1949: 173).
Less is more, habit, and hidden assumptions
The Feldenkrais method teaches that “less can be more”, offering the opportunity for deeper awareness. Phenomenology teaches one how to hesitate in considering taken-for-granted appearances. Martin Heidegger liked to write about “hidden” ground. Phenomenologists believe that human life and movement are pervaded with habitual perceptions (1998). This is also the perspective of Feldenkrais. Taking apart movement forms to see “how they tick” is useful to learning. “Let us see how this works, and what we can do with it,” I like to ask. “What is available that isn’t yet apparent to you”?
Phenomenology has become popular as a research method that employs first person experience and description, but descriptive narrative and story telling, interesting and useful in many ways, are not necessarily phenomenological. Phenomenology is a descriptive analytical method that wipes the slate clean, so to speak, not depending on conventions of “the natural attitude,” the taken-for-granted, or on established theory. I like phenomenology because I can start fresh, somewhat the way I choreograph, zeroing myself to invent anew, as also in the Feldenkrais approach to individuality. Phenomenology is active: it should teach you something new or change your life in some way.
The Feldenkrais Method is also an activity that proffers change in positive directions. It has taught me that movement can be conceived in many creative and interesting ways, and that however we appreciate top level performers, we can also encourage movement as the legacy of all who want to claim it. I disrupted my habits of teaching dance and movement when I took on the perspective of teaching “everyone.” I had to zero myself, and start all over again. I summarize the phenomenology of tabula rasa thinking on the Storyboard – specifically in relation to habit and the Feldenkrais Method.
In themselves, habits may be neither bad nor good, but they remain unquestioned, which is part of why they are habits. Good detectives question their habits of thought, as they seek new solutions, untried paths and novel information. They pay attention to small details. When we move and pay attention to our movements, we encounter soma and psyche as our active and ongoing body of life. We study ourselves in living dynamic processes of becoming, which are sometimes confusing and never quite finished in time. As Merleau-Ponty suggests, ‘I know myself only insofar as I am inherent in time and in the world, that is, I know myself only in my ambiguity’ (1962: 345). As in an ATM class, one can let go of expectations of being “right” in order to be whole in the movement of the moment.
Connectivity and change through Functional Integration and phenomenology
Our detective work has unraveled that teaching is ultimately about learning. Now we consider this in terms of connectivity. As phenomenology has taught through its many proponents from Husserl to the existentialists, we cannot separate ourselves from the world. We are implicated from the start, as part of the otherness we perceive to be separate. We are not alone; separateness is an illusion, as I have also learned in studying Eastern traditions, including yoga and Buddhism. We might feel alone, however, as a matter of experience. Surely many people feel isolated, depressed, and empty sometimes.
Feldenkrais Functional Integration® seems to me predicated on appreciation of the underlying wholeness of human life and the understanding that through gentle movement reminders, people can access more of their oneness with the world and with others as they feel more integrated: stable, peaceful, cohesive, included, and able to move easily and elegantly. A “reminder” in this case might be a movement cue, a prompt or response-producing stimulation occurring in the embodied partnership of student and teacher. I learned how to use my hands to listen in the Feldenkrais Method, and this created the conditions for relating to the other nonverbally.
I also learned that fixed behavior can be unsettled toward choice, and that this is at once physical and emotional in its implications. I summarize this view of Functional Integration in several related points on the Storyboard. Consciousness with kinaesthetic self-knowing is available to us in resolving emotional habits through bodily means of movement. As Moshe Feldenkrais wrote: ‘When an emotional complex has been resolved, a specifically individual body habit is resolved simultaneously’ (1949: 173).
Movement, awareness, and responsibility
As an evolving detective, I see a thread of bodily becoming in the story leading forward. We humans do experience separations and pain, as also oneness, ease, and happiness. The world of feeling is a shifting one. Such shifts arise phenomenologically – as ways in which the world appears to us and is experienced. As a matter of experience, we can feel splits of attention, and we can even feel alien to ourselves. We can experience dualisms to be sure, but these are not metaphysical separations of body and mind. Rather, lived dualisms are phenomenological (or experiential), as I consider extensively in an early work and revisit in a later one (Fraleigh 1987: 13/15, Fraleigh 2004, Ch. 1).
Subjectivity is nameless until it coalesces an object of awareness. For instance, we can be aware of the movement of others, as also our own movement. In this sense, movement can be an object of awareness. In becoming more conscious of ourselves and self-reflective through movement, we can grow in awareness and agency. The Feldenkrais work develops such conscious awareness – through movement.
Existential phenomenology stands in contrast to metaphysical essentialism, holding that the person plays an active role in shaping the objects of perception. At the root of feminism and existential phenomenology, Simone de Beauvoir put it famously in her benchmark work, The Second Sex: ‘one is not born, but becomes a woman’ (1972: Ch. 12). Sartre put the existential position succinctly: ‘existence precedes essence.’ ‘What we can become is not given in essence; thus are humans in a constant state of becoming as they create new knowledge and meaning. The views of existentialism refute notions of determinism, asserting the necessity of self-responsibility and choice in the unfolding of experience’ (1947).
Our detective work has already revealed that the teacher needs to understand the position of the student. Moving and learning in positive supportive contexts builds confidence. This single realization has done more to improve my teaching and relationships with students than any other thing. It broaches the topic of nonjudgment, which is a core existential value of both phenomenology and the Feldenkrais Method. As teachers, we can create conditions for the learner to feel supported and not judged. This means everything. When I first began teaching dance in my twenties, the university environments for learning how to dance had mostly to do with how movement “looked.” Was it impressive? Were students improving in their ability to “project” movement expressions to an audience? These and many other matters of theatrical objectivity were important, and so I learned how to teach movement in this atmosphere of calculation. It never seemed right to me however. I was aware of what students were experiencing and not just how they were performing.
Along comes the Feldenkrais Method in my fifties. (I’m a slow starter.) It gave me a framework for what I understood intrinsically. It taught me how to teach without judgment, a lesson I have never forgotten and employ daily. Nonjudgment is embedded in the method, even if Feldenkrais teachers have varying abilities to employ it. The Storyboard speaks further to the importance of nonjudgment in teaching. Nonjudgment in phenomenology broaches the topic of prejudice. Letting go of one’s favored notions of how things are in order to get out of one’s own way.
In my evolution as a student of the Feldenkrais work, I learned how to describe movement and accept many possible versions, as the Storyboard takes up. In practicing non-judgment relative to description, I became fascinated with the variety, and lost my reliance on imitation as a mode of teaching movement and my insistence on how movement should look and be. I learned how to accept versions that altered my understanding of my own seemingly correct one. I loved being in the process of movement, the morphing of it, even as I understood that patterned forms could guide me. Students began to see me as an unusual dance teacher. I have remained so, accepting movement on the verge as much as in its finished container.
In the beginning of my teaching transformation, some dance students wondered out loud if I wasn’t just “lax.” Then they began to see the value of self-forgiveness in their lives and careers. Things don’t always just fall into line the way we think they will. Students tell me often how much they appreciate having a model for letting go in bodily terms of movement and in teaching. Some have revolutionized their own teaching, which they tell me about, since I have taught many dancers who have gone on to university teaching careers. Teaching through description without judging emerging forms doesn’t mean one has no standards; rather, process trumps perfection. Being whole in the dance, trumps being nervous about failing. Description is a verbal methodological aspect of both phenomenology and Feldenkrais. Description aids discovery in both. I provide some specifics about describing movement on the Storyboard.
Being open to surprise and discovery is a core value of both Feldenkrais and phenomenology. It is also important in choreography (at least in my book). I bring this up because choreographers are also teachers, as they teach the dancers how to perform their choreography. Somatic methods open new possibilities for originality in choreography. I modeled a dance work called Meditations on my involvement in Zen and my Feldenkrais studies. I walked slowly and carried a stone in this dance. The active dancers could use my stillness. This work is described briefly at the end of the Storyboard.
My evolution as a teacher of yoga has also been inspired by Feldenkrais openness to discovery. I have created a form of yoga called “Land to Water Yoga,” (2009) that is respectful of hatha yoga, but which takes it in an entirely new direction, more somatic and more Western, envisioning the chakra energy centers of the body in terms of infant movement development. I gained the courage to go my own way through phenomenology, which I call “tabula rasa thinking,” and the Feldenkrais Method of making choices, resting, envisioning options, not forcing, and waiting for new kinesthetic pathways to emerge.
I know my choices have consequences, and have become more aware of these over the years. I make mistakes in my teaching, but have learned how to rescue myself, and not get too serious. My ideas of what it means to teach have evolved. I also see myself more broadly as part of the evolution of teaching in movement education and in professional dance and theater. I seek the wider implications of dance and movement practices in community building and for personal and human development. Eco-somatics is important to me. I take my students into the environment to move and dance, or often to bond, with the soft red sandstone here in Southwest Utah. I conceive this beautiful place as a world navel. My teaching has taken a somatic turn, because I have. I hope the turn I take helps spur a mentality of participation and nonjudgment in teaching and learning.
- We noticed at the outset that teaching is not unidirectional, that the teacher is a learner who always keeps the learner in mind. Teaching and Learning occur in relation.
- Humans can improve through consciously undertaken movement. Movement improves with patience, practice, and especially through direction of awareness in supportive learning environments.
- Somatically undertaken movement processes are not simply for the benefit of talented movers, but for everyone.
- Movement can be conceived and taught in patterns. Dance forms, yoga, and possibly many sports can be conceived and taught through patterns, moving from the simple to the complex. Patterns, in order to be useful, need to be malleable and adaptable to individuality in people and particular situations.
- Movement can be deconstructed according to patterned parts. I do this often, taking apart complex yoga asanas and making them accessible in their “parts.” The whole may emerge at a certain point, and if not, people benefit from being able to perform the parts that they can perform well, or well enough.
- Teaching through movement involves knowing the content, processes, and approaches or methods of the movement mode at hand. Being able to comprehend movement patterning also helps.
- Patterns point to both content and style. They are mediated by method.
- Why learn how to move better? Why does it matter? These would be basic phenomenological questions. My answer is three-fold. Skills acquisition can be important to people in their careers, as it has been to me. More importantly, we involve ourselves in the teaching and learning of movement toward the development of our human potentials. Lastly, moving better helps us feel better, a matter of health and wellbeing. Humans have the opportunity to change, and don’t need to be fixed in character.
- Emotional life and movement are related aspects of character. When we shift movement to a higher organization through awareness, character also shifts. Character as expressed in movement is malleable; however fixed through habit, it is not fixed of necessity. Humans do not need to be prisoners of the past.
- Making choices is a matter of ongoing awareness and progressive embodiment of new possibilities in movement, signaling changes in character, posture, and expression.
- Teaching movement through description turns the responsibility of learning over to the student. The teacher, however, needs to be ready to accept many versions of her movement descriptions. When I show movement to students, I am usually engaged with them in a descriptive process already. Teaching through description is modeled in the Feldenkrais Method. Experiential description is modeled in in phenomenology.
- When it comes to kinesthetically ingrained movement habits, zeroing ourselves is quite a challenge. The Feldenkrais Method does this in the way it directs intention in simple movement patterns that lead to an awareness of the naturalized attitudes we have embodied as habits. Similarly, Husserl also spoke of habits (of thought) as “the natural attitude,” as we saw early in our investigation.
- Learning through movement in nonjudgmental contexts creates conditions for improving lives. This one principle can transform classrooms. How does one grade performance then? Well if you have to, as in schools and academic institutions, there are ways that take the “sting” out of it. Creating win/win situations is a challenge. We can avoid judging a person’s movement as in how well it seems to be performed, and look for other markers. Do students show up, for instance, and do they fulfill assignments? How do students themselves feel about their progress? Have them write a short story or essay on this. Then you will be looking at their ability to self-reflect, and you can assist them from there. If they can’t write, send them to a tutor. Schools have these. Human movement cannot be separated from the person. This points to the importance of not judging movement and the person thereby.
- Describing movement is a teaching technique I learned in Feldenkrais studies. For instance, instead of showing someone how to lift their arm overhead, and thus providing a model, I could say: “lift your arm up in front of you, somewhere you can see it if you are looking forward. Is it out to the side a bit, or directly in front of you? Experiment to see how high you need to lift until you no longer see your arm. Keep your gaze forward.” I could go on with the description, making adjustments in what I say until the student is doing more or less what I have in mind, right down to the orientation of the fingers. Or I could leave the plan more open, and accept differing versions of lifting the arm. Another option would be to shift between a more defined lift and a more experimental lift. Some instances could call for more definition, and others less. It depends on my overall strategy, the full pattern I’m teaching, and how adaptable I can be. Some people I teach, the older ones especially, have difficulty lifting their arms high overhead. I would never insist that they do. There is always a pathway of movement that they can have success with, and improve upon, surprisingly. This adaptable way of teaching translates to dance also. No two people have the very same capacities. So we adapt to dance optimally, and we don’t get fastened on goals of mastery. Rather do we shine the moments with beautiful movement. It doesn’t have to be “right.”
- Functional Integration, when it is successful, encourages connectivity within the person and in perceptual wholeness. It can serve as a model for teaching through listening and finding paths of least resistance. It models offering support, and waiting for changes to occur without the need to know results immediately. The teacher doesn’t have to be right. She makes people laugh and listens to them. Uncertainty and curiosity are useful in finding new kinesthetic pathways in learning.
- Movement is lived; we know it through experience. When we move with awareness, our awareness increases, and when we share movement with others in a group, individual awareness of self in community increases.
- Moving with awareness increases connectivity and agency—it increases personal freedom to make decisions, to be an actor and not a victim. This has implications for teachers and students.
- Allow me a personal point on the Storyboard in terms of self-evidence and in respect to the agency we just mentioned: Teaching gives me unique access and responsibilities in exercise of agency. If I don’t want to be a victim, I understand this in my students also. Teachers should never embarrass students: We ought to lift them up. Not everyone would agree with me, but I don’t believe negative reinforcement works. Enforcement doesn’t work. Listening works. Laughter works. Control is an illusion.
- On the Feldenkrais principle of reversal: My ensemble dance, Meditations, was performed in 1990 by eight American dancers in Tokyo through an invitation from Japan’s Women’s University. It was qualitatively detailed and mindfully directed, connected with smooth transfers of weight—and riding, I hoped, on one whispered breath. I provided the still point of the dance, carrying a heavy rock: moving slowly, gently, softly, with the potential to reverse and return, as often in the Feldenkrais work. As I stepped forward, I thought of going backward. This helped me to find center in the twenty minutes of snail-slow walking.
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Sondra Fraleigh, Feldenkrais Practitioner and Professor Emeritus of Dance at the State University of New York at Brockport, is the author of BUTOH: Metamorphic Dance and Global Alchemy (2010), published by the University of Illinois Press. Her other books include Dancing Identity: Metaphysics in Motion (2004); Dancing into Darkness: Butoh, Zen, and Japan (1999); Researching Dance: Evolving Modes of Inquiry (1998); and Dance and the Lived Body (1987). She has published a book on the founders of Japanese butoh, Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo (2006), and a book on somatic yoga and infant movement development, Land to Water Yoga (2009). Fraleigh was chair of the Department of Dance at State University of New York at Brockport for nine years, and later head of graduate dance studies there. She was also selected as a Faculty Exchange Scholar for the State University of New York. Her innovative choreography has been presented internationally. Fraleigh is the founding director of Eastwest Somatics Institute for Yoga, Dance and Movement Studies. For more information on Fraleigh and her work see her website: www.eastwestsomatics.com