At that workshop, I imagine Maxine was pleasantly surprised by Moshe’s perspective on how to improve the so-called “range of motion.” Instead of isolating joints and parts of the body, Moshe’s approach invited collaboration within oneself that resulted in seemingly magical gains in the quantity of movement through space and the accompanying quality of movement.
Inspired by her experience, Maxine subsequently presented a paper entitled “The Work of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais: A Radical Questioning of Dance Technique and a New Applied Kinesiology” at the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation national conference in 1977 and published it two years later in Contact Quarterly. Maxine wrote, “Magic aside, Feldenkrais work is a living testimonial that the body always moves as a whole and that all parts are involved in any localization. If no one part moves in true isolation from any other part, then each part must either hinder or enhance the freedom of movement in all other parts” (1979, p. 24).
With her direct experience of one workshop added to her collective life experiences, Maxine was able to capture and integrate much of the depth of the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education. She wrote:
…[W]ith the Feldenkrais technique, one does not learn movements but learns how to move himself or herself. …[I]n any Feldenkrais class, one is not learning about the body, one is learning the body directly; one is in touch with the source itself, learning the ways of the body from the master teacher. What needs to be emphasized is that this learning is not done from the standpoint of the third person observer; one is not watching oneself, attending to the proceedings at a distance; what one is experiencing immediately and directly is oneself. One has the experience and it is only on the basis of having that experience that one is able to discriminate and notice change (p.28).
Nearly ten years later, Roger remains a fan of Maxine, and Maxine remains a fan of Moshe Feldenkrais. Now in her 80s, Maxine continues to teach, offer workshops, and write for scholarly and general audiences. Roger and his partner Ulla Schlaefke, also a Certified Feldenkrais Trainer, dreamed up an opportunity to spend a weekend with Maxine in her hometown of Yachats, Oregon. With the help of another Certified Feldenkrais Trainer, Jeff Haller, they organized a workshop with Maxine and a small group of mostly Feldenkrais teachers that took place last January.
Saturday morning began with three direct experiences of improvisational movement guided by Maxine. Sunday morning opened with the direct experience of an Awareness Through Movement lesson led by Jeff. Throughout the weekend, we listened, talked, and learned from one another as we considered what phenomenology and it’s qualitative examination of movement could offer to our understanding of the Feldenkrais Method. In turn, Maxine pondered how the perspectives of Feldenkrais teachers, scholars and researchers with diverse backgrounds could inform her thinking as a dancer and philosopher.
As we wrapped up our weekend together, Maxine reflected on how that 1976 workshop with Moshe influenced her style of teaching dance:
That was just a marvelous eye opener to me. I should also mention that actually when I did resume teaching, and I remember doing this especially when I resumed teaching in the university, I started out my classes with variations on Feldenkrais movement lessons. Students were somewhat surprised at this, but also they really prospered from it in a lot of ways, particularly in terms of the way in which the usual dance classes were carried out. …I ran into a student the following semester in the hallway who had been in my class the previous semester…. [He was] taking another dance class. …He said, “Your class was really different…. You made us think.” …I thought that was one of the nicest compliments I ever got from teaching.
With that anecdote, we circle back to the distinctive perspectives on the meaning of movement that Moshe and Maxine first shared and experienced together in 1976. What Moshe and Maxine offer the world is extraordinary. In 2014, desire for and curiosity about the extraordinary brought Maxine and sixteen others together to share space and experiences of sensing, feeling, thinking and moving. While we each had our unique direct experiences, we found common ground in our respect for the qualitative (e.g., qualia) as well as the quantitative (e.g., position, velocity) elements of human movement, and our dissatisfaction with long prominent reductionist views that assign special privilege to a favored body part (e.g., brain, muscle) or a component (e.g., flexibility, strength) of behavior. We found common ground in honoring the elegance, joy, and complexity that emerges from living as whole (e.g., gestalt), aware, moving humans.
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Pat Buchanan, PhD, ATC, PT, GCFT helps female athletes create powerful performance. Her unique, holistic approach is based on expertise developed through over thirty years in movement science, education, and healthcare. Pat loves guiding girls and women to master their movement, get rid of pain, and play at the top of their game.