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Many years ago, when I was working in a performing arts institution, I came across a well-known dancer who had come to some of my Feldenkrais weekend workshops rehearsing in one of the studios. He had some strapping around one of his feet.

I asked him: “What’s up with you? Did you hurt yourself?”

And he replied: “Well, it was after the last Feldenkrais workshop. I was feeling great so I came straight up to the studio to move a bit. It was amazing. I felt so free and open, so balanced and aligned. It was so nice to dance but I overdid it. I pulled some muscles between my ribs and I’m still feeling it a bit.”

So I said: “Oh, that’s a pity. But what’s with the strapping on your foot?”

He replied: “Ah, that was after the Feldenkrais workshop the month before. I was feeling so good afterwards that I came up to the studio to dance and … “

And I thought: “I think there’s a pattern here.”

A familiar Pattern

And it’s a pattern that’s very familiar to me. You might have read in another post that I met the Feldenkrais Method while studying circus trapeze. During that time I had a similar but more dramatic experience. 

I was feeling great after an Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class that opened up my shoulders and arms. I went up on the trapeze and everything felt great, better than great in fact, amazing, until I went too far and wrenched something in my shoulders. I couldn’t get back on the trapeze for another six weeks.

With these experiences in mind, I wanted to save my students from the trouble of repeating them. I came up with some strategies to offer the Feldenkrais Method to people who are attracted to the method simply because it helps them move better. People whose life is focused on movement: like dancers, actors and sports people who might be tempted to do what I and the dancer did. 

What to do with that openness?

In those moments after a Feldenkrais ATM class, we get an opportunity to taste for a while how it is to live in the world free from our past conditioning. What we often notice first is that we feel ourselves better organised and more open physically.

We are open to new ways to move, to make a change from our habitual movement patterns to move in more refined and energy efficient pathways. But we can also be tempted into doing too much and best case scenario, quickly revert back to our habits, or worst case scenario, injure ourselves.

One strategy is simply to tell people to take it easy after class. To do this I paint at the following picture in words.

Standing up after a Feldenkrais ATM class is a bit like getting your car or bicycle back from the mechanic after they have changed the brakes. It looks the same, it has all the familiar signs of wear and tear that let you know that it surely is your car or bicycle. But the moment you engage the brakes for the first time it can be a shock, since it certainly won’t feel like it used to feel. And in a car or bicycle on the open road that can be dangerous.

Not a warm up

The other strategy took a little longer to develop as It was a bit counter-intuitive at first, at least to the dancers with whom I worked a lot, but was the seed of developing an application of the method within a dance class that I now call Proto-technique.

Most often Feldenkrais classes tend to be gentle, slow and quiet, so it might seem logical to use a Feldenkrais ATM as a so-called warm up. But my strategy is to get students up and moving with a particular focus, drop the Feldenkrais ATM into the middle of the class, and then guide them gently back towards moving with the focus from the first part of the class. The instruction for this transition from ATM back to dancing is to, as much as possible, stay in the feeling gestalt that they have after the ATM as they return to dancing, to stay in their comfort and power.

This way they learn to work from the sensation of ATM to fine tune what they do without injuring themselves. I developed this way of using ATM for contemporary dancers and have taught it for many years around the world. I also wrote at length about how I developed this process in my MA thesis in case you’d like to read more.

I imagine I’m not the first to take this approach but I wanted to share it since it could help both students and fellow practitioners who work with active people interested in applying the method in their fields. Raising some people’s attention to what the method can do for them beyond the purely physical, is worth another post!

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