The Language of Permission
Sunday, July 1, 2001
by: Sondra Fraleigh

Section: Performers

How do I not use the Feldenkrais Method® in my work with dance? Some basic principles from the Feldenkrais Method work now infuse my teaching of dance to college dance majors; my choreography for students and professionals; and my development of intrinsic dance in guided movement practices for the general public. Recently one of my graduate students was asked by a student why she used so many passive verbs. She was not really speaking about passive verbs, we found out, but a teaching style unfamiliar to her. As my student and I discussed this later and tried to track the question to its source, it led me back to my Feldenkrais® studies and what I want to call “the language of permission.” This language is not passive, rather it is allowing and non-directive, and can be mistaken for passivity, since teaching styles in dance often stem from imitation (do as I do, or replicate this form).

Teaching through description and observation rather than imperative and command is present in other movement forms that I have experienced, but not quite so explicitly or exquisitely developed as in Awareness Through Movement® classes. There I learned how to be nondirective, nonjudgmental, and exploratory. Certainly these were approaches that I had already experienced in dance improvisation, but here was a mode of non-directive learning that brought movement to the surface and allowed it to shine through a self-reflective mirror. No where in my experience had I worked through a model for learning that was so centered on the self perceptions of the student.

The Feldenkrais Method gave me the beginnings of a language of permission that I could develop in my work, one that eventually transformed my teaching and choreography, even my vision of “who” my students might be. As I dance, I still enjoy painting the air with my sixty-some body, but even more, I find great satisfaction in helping others to contact their intrinsic dance, whether they are professional dancers or people who have wanted to dance but for many reasons never dared. It seems that they need permission and a language that will liberally support their embodiment of movement.

I recently asked my “kinesiology for dance” class to help me construct a list of words and phrases of permission. This is just the beginning of what we came up with. The first word is a “biggie” that I heard throughout my Feldenkrais studies, so I begin with ALLOW, then move to FIND and aural complements such as LISTEN (yes, we can listen to our bodies). The list goes further into DISCOVER and LET, to BEGIN and to FOLLOW. I especially like WAIT and TAKE A MOMENT. These are golden. I don’t want to forget ATTEND. Of course there are the quests such as WHAT IF, WHERE CAN and WHAT CAN; and I don’t want to forget the timing that flows individually in WHEN YOU ARE READY, how the breath rides freely on this permission. There are many others that I leave to the reader to FIGURE OUT, to bring forth, to finish and to FORM.
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