An Interview with Janet Loops
Ira Feinstein: When you first heard about “Feldenkrais,” was it the man or the method?
Janet Loops: Actually, it was both. My husband, Lester Loops, and I had gone to a party at Marty Weiner’s house (Marty was also in the San Francisco training. He passed away in 2011.) Josef DellaGrotte was there and he told us about Moshe and a workshop he was teaching in Berkeley that we might be interested in observing. So, my husband and I went to Berkeley and sat in the back and watched him teach an ATM® lesson to a group of people.
IF: You didn’t participate in the lesson?
JL: No, he wouldn't let us. There were a number of us there just observing.
IF: The first time I saw the method in action, as it were, I observed an ATM lesson. I remember watching people at the end of a floor lesson stand up and move around the room really slowly. They were obviously getting something out of the experience, but I had no clue what I was witnessing. What was that experience of observing like for you?
JL: We didn't have a clue, either. It just looked really fascinating. I was very interested in movement and exercise, and I thought, “Well, this is a very strange kind of method.” I felt very curious about it. So, I checked into it a little bit more and decided that I'd like to try it.
IF: Did you join the training at that point?
JL: Pretty much. They were having people apply. Both Chloe Scott and myself applied, but we didn't think we'd be accepted—we didn’t think we’d qualify. But we got in. At the time, we still didn't know that the method involved a hands-on component, that came a bit later.
IF: So, did you think when you signed up that you’d just be learning how to teach people ATM classes?
JL: Right. It wasn't until we were in the training and I'd had about six private lessons with Moshe that it dawned on me that we’d be learning this is a hands-on component as well.
IF: Wow! You had a lot of lessons with Moshe.
JL: Yes, I did.
IF: What was it like?
JL: I was having a lot of problems with my back because I’d had five whiplash accidents. Doctors had told me that I was going to be in a wheelchair by the time I was thirty; so that's when I started taking and then teaching yoga classes. It kind of helped but I had all this scar tissue on my back. So when I started the training, I had a lot of lessons from him. Moshe really helped me. I haven't had any problems since.
IF: What was his table manner like?
JL: Very much like all the videos that you can watch. He'd be chatting with other people that were watching. Sometimes he'd be smoking. It was very peculiar. He didn’t work for very long, only about thirty minutes.
IF: How did you feel after a lesson?
JL: Initially, my back would be on fire. Afterwards, I was totally relieved of all this tension that I’d had in my spine. What was amazing to me was that I told him my right knee was hurting and he looked at me and went straight to my back. I think that's why I went back several times--because it was so successful. After that experience, I got very interested in what the Method was all about.
IF: As you were going through the training, was there a moment when you felt like, “Oh, I get what he's doing here” or did your understanding come over time?
JL: I think it came over time. It wasn’t immediate. Eventually, I understood that it was a method of movement education, that we weren’t learning how to “fix somebody.”
IF: What was Moshe like during the training?
JL: We were kind of an experimental group for Moshe, as I don't think he had taught 65 people in a training before. So, it was all very new for him. He wasn't real patient a lot of the time.
IF: With your questions or your speed of learning?
JL: Both. I even stayed in the back of the classroom because I didn't want to be called upon or criticized. He was pretty cantankerous at times.
IF: When you finished your training program did you feel ready to teach?
JL: I did. I think it was because I was already teaching yoga classes and my students had started expressing interest. So, I felt pretty confident. When it came to FI® lessons, I went ahead and offered them and the more I did, the more confident I got.
IF: That seems to be a common refrain among the SF1 grads I’ve interviewed: when they began offering FI lessons, they didn’t feel “ready.” It is through giving lessons that they built up that confidence within themselves.
JL: That is a good lesson to get across to trainees!
IF: It seems like a good lesson for anything we do in life.
JL: Yes, you have to put yourself out there and just do it.
IF: What was your path after graduation?
JL: I continued to teach my yoga classes at a community center. They were different: there was a big emphasis on awareness through movement. They were very popular. I also began teaching ATM classes. No one had ever heard about “Awareness Through Movement,” but my classes had about 45 students twice a week--they were really successful. I was quite amazed. Awhile later, I rented a space at a health center and offered Functional Integration lessons. That grew a little bit slower. In 1989, I became an assistant trainer and that was really enjoyable because I got to travel all over—to Europe and Australia, mainly. I assisted Gaby Yaron. I learned a lot from her. She was my mentor. Then, I worked a lot with Julie Casson Rubin, Paul Rubin, Jeff Haller, and others. I really enjoyed assisting traingings--it was educational for me.
IF: Are you retired now?
JL: Yes, I retired about a year ago. I'm 76. I’ve taken up my passion for ballroom dancing.
IF: Do you miss it?
JL: Well, I've kind of kept my hands in it because I do teach Awareness Through Movement® classes for a dance company. I trade lessons with other practitioners. And the Method is still very fascinating to me.
IF: When you were involved in trainings, did you notice that the backgrounds of those drawn to the Method changed over the decades?
JL: We had a lot of people from the physical therapy world—which amazed me--and a lot of musicians and actors. There were a lot of different kinds of people, as compared to our original training. In our original training, I think we were all just curious people. Words gotten out that this Method is really helpful for other disciplines; I think the Method’s really influenced a lot of the other disciplines out there, especially yoga and physical therapy.
IF: Following your training, did you think that the Feldenkrais Method® would take the world by storm? And what do you think about that now that it's 2017?
JL: I don't think it's really met my expectation other than that it’s influenced all these other disciplines. I certainly would have liked to have seen it be as big as Pilates, but I don't know if it'll just continue to be as popular as it's been or if there will be more and more people interested.
IF: Do you think that there is something we’ve missed in how we’ve communicated about the Method that we could be taking advantage of?
JL: We thought it would have a revolutionary impact. But it was slow to be accepted by the medical community and very few insurance companies would cover it. So for most clients it was discretionary income. Also the mindset of the public is that we "fix" particular problems. Having said this, the Feldenkrais Method has certainly influenced other disciplines like physical therapy, yoga, and some exercise programs. Yoga is taught very differently than thirty years ago when I was teaching yoga.
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10/10/2017 3:34:01 PM
Feldenkrais has been very helpful. Every day I do a series of exercises I learned from Chloe Scott years ago. And individual sessions with Janet Loops have also been very helpful.
7/21/2017 4:04:13 PM
Ira, thanks so much for the interview, and Janet, for your thoughtfulness. Janet, weren't you involved in the Dymaxion (??) group, applying ATM to dance moves? This is quite incredible, considering you started the training with such limitation.
7/21/2017 2:37:07 PM
This is such a wonderful interview. Janet is so clear, direct and honest about her experience in the training. I very much wish I had given such a clear simple and honest interview (I was in same training as Janet). I think you should interview Chloe Scot who is retired and is great friends with Janet and was very active in lots of trainings (and was part of the original SF training 1977 too)>
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