“You twist and turn, like a …twisty, turn-y thing!”
Lord Melchitt, Blackadder episode: “Beer”
To talk about moving in spirals may sound a little like jargon, and it is, somewhat. I chose it because it is a nice, clear way to look at human biomechanics, one that people in the movement awareness business know well and use often, so it is a great way to get the attention of other Feldenkrais teachers, also dancers, martial artists, athletes, acrobats… The interaction between skeleton and muscle in action naturally produces spirals in motion. When you access that spiral dynamic for yourself you are harnessing the resilience and kinetic energy of the spring and releasing a ‘slinkier’ self. If you would like to see what I mean, try this out…
Sit on a stable seat, like a dining chair, and lean forward until you can put one hand on the floor in front of you. Resting on your palm will make this next move easiest to manage smoothly – twist your arm to turn your fingers inwards and swivel your feet around in the same direction. In other words if you are leaning on your right hand then your hand and both feet turn anti-clockwise, if it is your left hand you are leaning on then the three limbs swivel clockwise. Quite quickly you can lift your bottom off the chair and let it spiral down to the floor, so that you arrive in a cross-legged sitting position in front of your chair. To spiral back up to your seat swing your other hand around to meet the first, lower your head, and reverse the direction of your behind until it lands back up on the chair. As you practise this you will notice that your head and pelvis are spiralling around each other and acting as counterweights – you will also find that your spiral is getting neater, smoother and tighter with each performance.
Our world is full of natural spirals, from the double helix of our DNA to the gorgeous spiralling clusters of stars that make a galaxy. There are elegant human spirals everywhere we look – the trajectory of a tennis serve, a martial artist punching and kicking with precision and efficiency, two dancers weaving around each other with perfect grace. The beauty of these athletes is well within our own grasp – all the preparation has been done for us by evolution, all we need to do is remember the ease and freedom we had when we learnt to conquer gravity for the first time!
This film of Shaolin monks showing off their moves is particularly revealing as many of their beautiful somersaults are shown in slow motion…
And here we see some perfect spirals in the Tango – the most twisty turny of dances!
Moving In Spirals – Free Yourself From Gravity!
81 Tressillian Rd, Brockley
Hilly Fields, SE4 1xz
Sunday December 16th 2–6 £60 (£50)
As quantum physicists are fond of saying, gravity is a surprisingly weak force, and yet the ageing process seems to unavoidably and steadily drag us ever downwards as if it were irresistible. When we move in a “well-organised” way we barely notice the muscular power we are using – each action morphs smoothly into the next, requiring only our clear intention, not our exertion. This is because when we move in a well-organised way the bones are supporting as much of our weight as they can, leaving our muscles free to respond to our intention spontaneously and fully. Sadly, much of what we do on a daily basis becomes habitual, uninspired and unaware, so that we huff and puff and sigh and groan our way through the necessary activities of the day, hauling ourselves out of bed, collapsing into chairs and struggling back out of them, grunting as we pick something up from the floor (having braced ourselves in order to be able to bend down in the first place), and grunting again as we reach upward to change a bulb or access a shelf. The elegant design of the human skeleton allows for each of these actions to blend easily into the next until we are making all our transitions in a way that has the effort-free fluidity of dancing. This workshop will explore these skeletal spirals in ways that you can apply to all your daily activities!
A final film of humans spiralling – this is my favourite because so many of these lovely dancers moves are part of the Awareness Through Movement vocabulary – I have seen many people achieve the same fluidity in only a few hours of exploration and play…