Somatics: A Tool for Empowering Modern Dance Teachers By Sylvie Fortin, PHD A PowerPoint Presentation prepared by Sarah Hensen and Khon Tuy
Flow of the Lecture: • Aims • Introduction • Research Methodology • Somatics • Video • Case Studies: Glenna, Mary, Martha • Q & A’s • Activity
AIMS: • To give an overview of somatic ideology and practices. • To discuss the notion of utilizing somatic practices to empower both the teacher and the student. • To entertain the implications of somatic practices beyond the dance classroom and in the future.
Postpositivist: “…claim the existence of multiple realities constructed by each individual’s encounter with the world” (50). Positivist: “…aims to verify facts and causal relationships in order to develop theories that reflect reality and may be generalized as applying to large populations” (50-51). Research Methodology
“Somatics . . .generally includes several body-mind and mind-body practices, acknowledges the complex interdependence among the mind, the physical body, and social and behavioral expectations of both the mind and body. Such consideration can inform dance education and dance theory given, on the one hand, the dominance of the masculine, authoritative figures in mainstream formal dance education and theory, and on the other hand, the significant (and increasing) participation of those who are neither masculine nor authoritative—women, children, indigenous cultures, the elderly—in all aspects of dance and dance education” (2).
Somatic Practices: • Feldenkrais • Alexander • Ideokinesis • Bartenieff Fundamentals (an extension of L.M.A.) • Laban Movement Analysis • Body-Mind Centering
Laban Movement Analysis • Derived from the practices and theories of Rudolph Laban (1879-1958), a choreographer, dancer, and movement theorist who made many contributions to the dancing world. • Laban developed Labanotation, a system of dance notation which, at his time, elevated dance as an art form.
L.M.A. is a system and a language for observing, describing and notating all forms of movement. A movement analyst can use this language to describe and interpret human movement from the gesture of a hand in conversation to the complex action of a skilled athlete. L.M.A. can be used as a tool by dancers, athlete, physical and occupational therapist, and anyone wishing to enhance, refine, and clarify movement. • The theory and practice of today’s L.M.A. is based on four main components (BESS): Body Effort Shape Space
Body-Mind Centering Body-Mind Centering is an ongoing, experiential journey into the alive and changing territory of the body. The explorer is the mind—our thoughts, feelings, energy, soul, and spirit. Through this journey, we are led to an understanding of how the mind is expressed through the body in movement. --Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
“The study of BMC includes both the cognitive and experiential learning of the body systems—skeleton, ligaments, muscles, fascia, fat, skin, organs, endocrine glands, nerves, fluids; breathing and vocalization; the senses and the dynamics of perception; developmental movement; and psychophysical integration.” –B.B.C.
Video: Beyond the Light, by Denise White --excerpted from Overtures, FSU School of Dance Masters Concert Series
Case Studies: • After interviewing and observing Mary Williford, Martha Eddy, Glenna Bateson for four years at dance festivals and in dance classes, Sylvie Fortin discovered that the three dance instructors all strive to break away from the constraints of traditional dance pedagogy through the conscientious use of somatics in their classes. • Mary Williford uses L.M.A. (professional dancer) • Glenna draws sparingly from Feldenkrais, Alexander, and Ideo-kinesis. (degree in physical therapy) • Martha uses concepts from L.M.A. and Body-Mind Centering. (degree in exercise physiology)
Mary: “I’m teaching the students to move from the inside out. Most of these students are interested in style. They are not interested in learning how to get the style. I’m sort of teaching the students what it’s like to get somebody else’s work from the inside out” (57-58).
Martha: “The class is designed to experientially teach principles of anatomy, kinesiology, human development, and movement fundamentals in relation to emotional/artistic expression. The aim is to coordinate inner body focus with the outward projection needed in performance. Emphasis is on befriending unfamiliar, unknown, or taboo parts of the body and psyche, learning to include them in the creative process” (54).
Glenna: “Our culture has virtually a poverty of movement. We separate mind and body. The politics and the society is such that it does not help you. It just removes you more and more from your own sensation. . . Of course to me, the most optimal way of learning is to have a very accurate sense of the inner body while it’s moving. Visually you see the outside and visually you see the inside and the two match” (57).
Glenna: “My goal is to make a technique class so I’ve got to put in a certain degree of repetition but repetition of a certain type that keeps the sense very lively. It may be the same movement strung together to show that there is repetition of a theme or concept, or repetition of a sense of awareness but not of a movement necessarily” (56).
Review Question: • How is the use of somatic practices in the classroom empowering to both the teacher and the student?
Answer: • With somatic practice, there isn’t a rigid structure. Because of this, teachers are able to form their own regimes and are more flexible and open to ideas from students. Students are empowered, in turn, by being able to give input, where normally they wouldn’t. Furthermore, there is a shift from alienation to authenticity. By giving the authority to the individual rather than to the experts, empowerment is achieved through personal control over one’s body.
Discussion Question • Why is it important for teachers who engage in somatic pedagogy to distance themselves from their “apprenticeship of observaton?”
Answer: “Time spent as a student provides prospective teachers with images of teaching that prove difficult to overcome because they tend to become ingrained.” (52) It is necessary to let go of traditional teaching/learning methods in order to fully embrace somatic pedagogy.
Review Question • What is institutional disempowerment, and how does it impede the individual?
ANSWER: • Institutional disempowerment occurs when pressures from the students and from the institution force teachers to compromise and sometimes suppress their personal style of teaching. They have to comply with the institution in order to keep their jobs.
Discussion question • Does somatics play a role outside of the classroom and if so, how?
Answer: “The increasing complexity of our society requires us and the students who will shape the future to function in tasks that demand imaginative thinking and the ability to suggest alternatives and formulate hypotheses. Education in general. . . should focus on developing the ability to see the connection between actions and their consequences, between means and ends, to take cognitive risks, and to extend thinking beyond the known in order to deal effectively with what might be rather than with what is (61).”
And now for your very own... Somatic Activity!