Section: Performers
Sharing Worlds: The Feldenkrais Method® and Music
In the late 1980’s, a stressed-out wife, mother, and full-time doctoral student at the Eastman School of Music crossed paths with a newly minted Feldenkrais® practitioner in Rochester, NY. What seemed a serendipitous, but temporary, encounter transformed both lives. This is our story.

Sam Nelson: I had been working as an economist for Argonne National Laboratory, utilizing my MA in Economics and Ph.D. in environmental studies. My feet were giving me trouble, so I signed up for a series of Awareness Through Movement® classes. By the end of the course, I felt great and decided to become a Feldenkrais Practitioner, which seemed far more fun, interesting, and rewarding than writing reports for the Department of Energy.

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Body Awareness, Musical Performance, & Artistic Rejuvenation
Physical gesture sculpts sound

The body is the actor’s or dancer’s instrument. A dancer’s art lies in the gestures; an actor’s body language is as important to his art as is his speech. The Feldenkrais Method® refines their art by refining the gesture. Musicians, by contrast, use physical gesture to bring sound out of their instrument: the “shape” of the sound constitutes the musical art. The sounds, rather than the gestures themselves, act on the emotions. However, the link between the Method’s refining influence and the artistic result remains: improved physical organization has positive, precise effects on musical interpretation.

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Tango: The Art of Listening, Feeling and Relationship
“Dance is the one expression involving the faculties on all levels:
spiritual, intellectual and physical.” – Plato

“When you take a step, rise, and fall like in breathing.

“Lengthen when you step out, and soften the knees and lower the body when the feet come together. You do the same thing when stepping to the side, and then bringing the other foot next to it.

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Awareness Through Movement for Public Speakers
A dry mouth, shallow breathing, a rapid heartbeat, a tight throat, upset stomach, shaky hands and knees. Are you facing a life-threatening situation? For many people, speaking in public brings up such terrors. Speaking in public is the most prevalent fear in America, ranking ahead of even the fear of death.

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The Beginning Is a Very Good Place to Start
I climbed the brownstone's steps and rang the buzzer for apartment 4. Feldenkrais teacher Maxine Davis welcomed me into her cozy apartment with a gentle smile and a smidgen of anxiety about our task for the day: to come up with a plan for a series of four articles on the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education. She settled into the sofa cushions, legs tucked beneath her frame. I found a spot at her worktable.

To read entire article, click on title link above.
Natural Voice Training with the Feldenkrais Method
Human vocal production is a phenomenon that requires the development of complex integration skills in ourselves, with elaborate features that have contributed to our evolution and distinct status of human beings. Our voice, which gave birth to language, expresses the different qualities of relationship between ourselves and our physical and cultural environment. It also serves as a tool to assert our status and rights within our social order. To fulfill those needs, we must develop a clear image of the physical movements necessary to produce the intended sounds, to organize these movements in space and coordinate their timing.

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Argentinean Tango Meets the Feldenkrais Method
I had my first Argentinean tango dance experience in a friend's living room, standing in stocking feet. He pushed the play button on his iPod and invited me into a salon-style embrace and embodied conversation that I could not intellectually comprehend. As we were dancing, I kept stopping and asking, "How is this possible? I'm following everything you are leading and I've never danced tango before in my life." It was as if my body knew exactly what to do when from each of his clearly led invitations. His friendly and warm response was, "Just shut up and keep dancing. Every time you stop is a harsh interruption." So I shut up, smiled, and glowed for the remainder of the song. I was hooked! A week later, I was taking three tango lessons a week and attending a weekly practice session, traveling forty-five minutes or a half hour to get to each one, since there's no Argentinean tango in Sequim where I live. I even bought a pair of low heels so I could look like a dancer and be positioned on my feet in a way that projected my persona and energy towards my dance partner. The fact that I was surviving and thriving in heels was a miracle unto itself. The last time I remember donning heels was some thirty years into the past; the heels being clogs, and I fell while wearing them more than once.

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From Crawling to Tango
Click on title link above to watch this video about the Feldenkrais Method for Tango dancers.
Learning to Listen
Ami Shulman is a performing artist, choreographer, rehearsal director, movement educator and Feldenkrais practitioner. She has worked internationally in the realms of dance, theatre, circus arts and film. She is a consultant for research on the pedagogy of embodied mathematics and has also co-authored on an anthology of dance and phenomenology.

Click on the title link above to watch her beautiful dance video.
The Feldenkrais Method and the Dancing Hip
I was a professional dancer, choreographer, and teacher for over twenty years when I first began to experience stabbing pains in my right hip. X-rays indicated arthritis, a condition that affected my mother when she was about the same age.

My doctor said the arthritis would probably not worsen, but in any event, dancing wouldn't affect it one way or the other. I could dance without fear of damaging my hip joint-- if I could ignore the pain. For six months I kept working, but I was in pain, unhappy, and very worried about the future.

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Training the Actor's Instrument
What do Peter Brook, Whoopi Goldberg and Mike Nichols have in common? They use Awareness Through Movement for actor training.

Over thirty years ago, director Richard Schechner interviewed Moshe Feldenkrais for the Tulane Drama Review. He concluded that Feldenrais' idea was to achieve a kind of potentiality which

"...will allow the actor or dancer to assume whatever characteristics he wishes for the role." He added that it would be "very interesting to see a generation of actors... fully trained in this technique."

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The Feldenkrais Method in Music Training
The world's largest school for contemporary music, with close to 3,000 students, Berklee College of Music offers Awareness Through Movement lessons as part of its curriculum in the Performance Studies Department. Assistant Professor and Awareness Through Movement instructor Richard Ehrman, who created and teaches the popular course, asks students to write about what the lessons are doing for them and their music making.

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The Language of Permission
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).

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Dancing from the Inside Out
Opening night. The Joffrey Ballet is performing at the San Francisco Opera House, and I am to teach company class. However, my upper back has "gone out." I am hunched over, breathing is difficult and I can barely turn my head. I anticipate an old familiar pattern: three days of painful, restricted movement, and another three or four days for the spasm to gradually ease. I am sitting gloomily in the green room backstage when I glance up at the bulletin board, and notice a flyer. "Chronic Back Pain?" it reads. There's a phone number, so I call. Alice Brydges comes to watch me struggle through class, then we retire to my dressing room, where I lie down on the floor. Alice verbally guides me through various small, gentle movements for about an hour. When I stand, I am breathing more easily and can hold my head up again. The Feldenkrais Method in action!

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Support for Creative Expression: The Feldenkrais Method with Actors
When working with actors, I have combined elements of the Feldenkrais Method with text and movement work. Various concepts from Awareness Through Movement lessons contain useful and effective applications to the stage. Body awareness gained from the Feldenkrais Method strengthens the performer's sense of self and increases performance readiness. Awareness can be heightened through the concept of support, and this support can subsequently enhance creative expression.

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Using the Feldenkrais Method to Heighten Musical Awareness and Skill
Like many musicians, I came to the Feldenkrais Method in the course of dealing with a repetitive stress injury. The Method is invaluable for addressing such injuries, since it not only looks at the presenting symptoms but also investigates the underlying context of behaviors that produced them. Yet, while the Feldenkrais Method alleviated what was a potentially career-threatening injury for me, its power as a tool for understanding those holistic contexts of movement and thought has been the Method's greatest contribution to my musical life. In the years of incorporating the Method into my playing and teaching since first using it to heal my arm, I have come to believe that the benefits of Feldenkrais study for the non-injured musician, in the form of heightened musical awareness and skill, even outweigh its more well-known role as an approach to free oneself from pain.

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A First Lesson in the Feldenkrais Method
When I accepted the assignment to interview Maxine Davis and write a series of articles on the Feldenkrais Method, I knew next to nothing about [the] Feldenkrais [Method]. It occurred to me that one way to introduce the method to Classical Singer readers might be to take a lesson myself and describe it step by step, so I signed myself right up.

I arrived for my private lesson a few minutes early and opened the door to find several people lying prone on the floor. I tiptoed around them and took a seat in the adjacent room.
The Feldenkrais Method and Music
An Interview with Paul Rubin

Paul Rubin trained with Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais and graduated as a teacher of the Feldenkrais Method in 1977. Since then he has maintained a private practice in Sausalito, CA. For many years, he has been active in the education of musicians, dancers and actors in the areas of skill acquisition and efficient, safe "self use." He is currently consultant to the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. A Certified Trainer of Feldenkrais Teachers, Paul is the Educational Director (along with his wife, Julie Casson Rubin) of training programs in San Francisco, California; Perth, Australia; and Basel, Switzerland (beginning March 1997). He has been on the faculty of other such programs in the US, Australia, Italy, France, the UK and Israel.

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Improving Dance by Slowing Down
When I first encountered the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education, I was recovering from a serious foot injury and reconstructive surgery. I feared for my career. I was a professional dancer, performing both ballet and contemporary dance internationally. I'd begun my training in classical ballet when I was seven and now I found myself unsure of my physical needs and abilities.

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Dancing With Awareness: An Interview with Rich Goldsand, GCFP
NM: How would you describe the Feldenkrais Method to a dancer in a single sentence?

RG: The Feldenkrais Method helps dancers to coordinate their movements so that they are moving in a more efficient and less painful way.

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Art Influences the Feldenkrais Method
"I feel my curiosity peak when I watch you work," said a colleague. "I don?t know what I?m sensing. How is your Feldenkrais practice influenced by your art background?"

My art background sometimes comes into the foreground as I teach the Feldenkrais Method ? foreground/background creates (depth) perception in art. Figure-ground is a play between them which invites you to shift which is which, not unlike how my attention moves to different parts or aspects of a person as I work with her and how we ask Feldenkrais students to shift their attention throughout a lesson.

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Intelligent Injury-Free Dance Intensive Workshop Review
I was in a rut as a dance teacher. It had been a year or two since I'd been to New York to soak up the latest moves and even those trips were getting to be too predictable. I always took class with the same favorite teachers at the same favorite studio...I even ate at the same favorite restaurants while I was there! I wanted to learn something new that I could offer my students. I was craving growth of some sort.

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The Feldenkrais Method and Dance
The slow, gentle, and graceful movements that comprise the Feldenkrais Method have much to offer the dance world. Moshe Feldenkrais' ties to dance date back to the 1940s in Israel when modern dancer and movement notator Noah Eshkol took an interest in his work. Eshkol recorded Feldenkrais? innovative Awareness Through Movement lessons using Eshkol Wachman notation. Israeli dance therapists Leah Bartal and Nira Ne?man, authors of "The Metaphoric Body and Movement, Awareness and Creativity," credit Feldenkrais for opening their minds to the understanding of body/mind interrelatedness. They write, "We were fascinated by the way he treated every lesson as one unit, working on one theme, exploring its many facets with inventive variations. We came out of these lessons with a new consciousness and a new concept of thinking and sensing body and mind."

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I recently heard the great stage and film actor Ben Vereen speak with the students at the university where I teach acting and voice for actors. One of the things Mr. Vereen said to our students was that in live theatre, the audience doesn't come only to hear the story, they come to see the actor's soul. Mr. Vereen's comment resonated with me, and reminded me of what my wise and demanding acting teacher used to say: the actor's job is to explore and reveal.

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A Flip of the Hip
When it comes to performance, what can you expect from a Feldenkrais lesson? Each performer is likely to have unique results despite the fact that everyone takes the same class. That is not too surprising, since everyone brings a different set of physical patterns (habits), movement history including possible injuries, and their own style of performance. Here are a few discoveries made by the performers in my "Feldenkrais for Dance" class at City College of San Francisco. Most of them are dancers (modern, ballet, ethnic, acrobatic, or hip hop), but not exclusively. We found some surprising effects, not only on individual performances but also similarities in how certain lessons affected several performances, even those of differing styles.

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The Feldenkrais Method for Actors
Alan Questel teaches world-wide in Feldenkrais Professional Training Programs. An actor before becoming interested in Feldenkrais work, Alan worked and toured with Jerzy Grotowski and Paul Sills. He taught Feldenkrais for Actors for several years at the New Actors Workshop in New York, run by Mike Nichols, George Morrison and Paul Sills.

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You Look Like a Dancer:
My first memory of my body was putting on tights before ballet class when I was four years old. My grandmother pointed at my belly and said: Look at those spare tires. After that point, dance was for other people. Years later I went to that same ballet studio and watched my friend dance. I sat on the edge, watching. This was my relationship to bodies and movement: I observed, from the outside.
Freeing Your Body Towards Greater Motion and Emotion
A saxophone player once came to me suffering through arm, shoulder and back pain. He was familiar with the Feldenkrais Method because he had taken the group classes, called Awareness Through Movement, during his college music training. His practices were becoming more and more troublesome and he found he needed to inhibit certain movements in order to make it through a performance. Technically, he had mastered his instrument. His level of virtuosity was quite apparent. Yet, he was physically uncomfortable. This same virtuosity, as well as his livelihood, was being threatened by his current condition.
Movement for Painters & Painting for Movers
One of my long-time fascinations is the variety of expression possible when paint on brush is brought to paper by different hands. Years ago when I took a Chinese Brush Painting class, we studied pine branches and plum blossoms; I found the differences between each student's application of paint to be startling and refreshing. In the class I teach, "Movement for Painters and Painting for Movers" (MPPM), I use the starkness of black paint on paper to indicate and track the influence of movement in image making.
Everyone is a Dancer
Learning is concerned with the unknown becoming known which is realized after its discovery. -Moshe Feldenkrais, The Elusive Obvious

Michelle is wearing a Jonas Brothers t-shirt, talking about the Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus concert movie that she saw recently. She is 13 years old, a dancer, and middle school student in a San Francisco Bay Area suburb. Michelle was born with spina bifida, developed scoliosis, and uses a wheelchair or crutches. When it's time to dance, she radiantly skips across the floor of the large dance studio, her head turning left to right. She does wheelies in her wheelchair to embody skipping.
First, Tune the Musician--
Interview with David Kaetz, GCFP.

SA: David, can you tell me a little about how you first had the idea for leading workshops?

DK: I've been a musician since I was a kid, and I've always had something of an issue with the idea that music is what's on the paper on the stand in front of you. It seems to me that music is intrinsic to who we are as people. And yet somehow many people, as they grow up, lose access to music - occasionally by way of the darker side of "music education."
The Dotted Note
Twenty-some years ago, at the very beginning of my career as a somatic educator, I was invited to give a lecture-demonstration on the Feldenkrais Method before a group of a hundred or so pianists attending a two-day master class at a professional music school in New York City. "The Master"--he who would present the master class--was an eminent pianist, pedagogue and scholar already in the ninth decade of life, himself the son of one of the most highly regarded pianists of the twentieth century.
How the Feldenkrais Method Changed my Organization
The Feldenkrais Method first began to move me in a workshop for my art. I was studying maskwork and my teacher, the incomparable John Wright, did a lesson with us at the start of every day. The lessons were inspiring and my performance work in the class felt like the best I'd ever done. I have no doubt that my progress in the art was due to the lessons we did and the attitude they inspired.
Inside the Skin of the Actor
The performing artist needs to develop a very high level of physical awareness in order to understand his capabilities as a performer. The finest performances are those where there appears to be no effort, where we do not ask questions, but believe in the world that has been created for us.
Movement First
"Find a comfortable position to rest in." A dance teacher quietly goes from leaning on knees and elbows to sitting back on her heels, her forehead resting on the ground. Her lower back moves freely, broadening with each inhale. I watch, barely able to contain my excitement, curious when she might realize her knees are fully bent for the first time in years! Four days earlier she arrived at a six day Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement workshop for dancers in Taos, NM. She had given up grande plies (deep knee bends in turnout) and squatting a number of years earlier due to pain in her knees. Throughout the workshop we focused on regaining movement in the torso and spine, discovering where a lack of movement and awareness had kept groups of vertebrae from moving relative to one another. On this day we explored lessons relating to arabesque, bringing a leg high behind us. Like many Awareness Through Movement lessons, spatial orientation, weight shift, balance and improving flexibility were all included. As the teacher sensed the full length of her legs and spine in movement, her knee joints had ample space to easily fold. She had not yet noticed her choice to bend them fully for "a comfortable position to rest in."
Playing Music "The Feldenkrais Way:" An Interview with Aliza Stewart, GCFP
A professional pianist, Aliza Stewart began to study the Feldenkrais Method 23 years ago. Since then she has been "instrumental" in helping hundreds of musicians improve their playing. Besides working with individuals on their music skills, Aliza has taught at the Peabody Conservatory, and currently is the Feldenkrais teacher in residence at the Mannes College of Music, The Yellow Barn Music School and Festival and, with David Zemach-Bersin, in the Marlboro Music School and Festival. Aliza also works extensively with non-musicians and is currently a candidate to become a Feldenkrais trainer. SenseAbility sat down with Aliza recently to speak about her work in the world of music.
Exploring Self Image: The Feldenkrais Method and Ballet
"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
-Max Planck (1858 - 1947)

In the spring of 2012, my colleague Becci Parsons (Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher and trained dancer) and I decided to embark on an experimental collaboration. We planned and ultimately taught two, 110-minute advanced ballet classes to fourteen of our seniors at Cornish College of the Arts. We wondered, would integrating the internalized approach of the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education with the rigors of classical ballet technique training positively affect student's sense of self, and ability to abandon self-consciousness in the training studio?
A Phenomenal Dance Together: Moving & Meaning
In 1976, Moshe Feldenkrais, DSc, presented a workshop at the Novato Institute in California. A young, independent scholar, dancer and philosopher named Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, PhD attended. At the time, Maxine was dissatisfied with the dominant perspective of kinesiology and movement science--it had a limited interpretation of how humans move through their world. She believed that there was something missing--respect for and curiosity about the felt experience of moving, the qualitative aspects of moving and being in the world.
Music to my Ears
I really enjoy working with performing artists. Back when I lived and worked in a good size city, I did so quite often. Since moving my practice and myself to an island, however, this happens more rarely.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to be simultaneously working with two string players. One plays viola and some violin. The other plays cello. One had repetitive strain injury in her right arm; a car hit the other while she was walking and injured her left arm.
The Beginning Is a Very Good Place to Start: A Conversation about the Feldenkrais Method with Master Teacher Maxine Davis
I climbed the brownstone's steps and rang the buzzer for apartment 4. Feldenkrais teacher Maxine Davis welcomed me into her cozy apartment with a gentle smile and a smidgen of anxiety about our task for the day: to come up with a plan for a series of four articles on the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education. She settled into the sofa cushions, legs tucked beneath her frame. I found a spot at her worktable.
The Lesson
Henry, a 75-year-old, prize-winning composer and pianist had his first experience with the Feldenkrais Method when he was brought reluctantly into my studio for a lesson.

He had a lot of reservations about taking time away from his composing to have a Functional Integration lesson (a one-on-one session). In addition, he had pressing deadlines. Consequently, upon his arrival, he immediately began working at my desk editing his latest score while I first gave a Functional Integration lesson to his wife.
Refining the Instrument That Plays the Instrument
Billie read about the Feldenkrais Method in Candace Pert's book Molecules of Emotion. She had been having difficulty sitting for any length of time, and her hands and shoulders would hurt after playing the harp for short periods. Billie looked forward to playing the harp, and wanted to find a way to continue.
In Their Own Words: Students at the Berklee College of Music Talk About the Feldenkrais Method
Over the past 9 years almost 1000 music students have taken Awareness Through Movement classes at Berklee College of Music. Students take the course because they want to avoid injuries, deal with physical or performance anxiety problems they have, and improve their sensitivity and precision in performing the many demanding movements that produce music.
Artist/Teacher Finds Relaxation, Grounding in the Feldenkrais Method
The Feldenkrais Method was a natural progression for musician Janet Rarick. As an artist and teacher of woodwinds and professional development at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, she was already well acquainted with various practices in mind/body health. She first heard about the Feldenkrais Method through one of my students, Christina Jennings, a music student at Rice. Jennings had managed to play pain-free after several Functional Integration and weekly Awareness Through Movement lessons. Jennings' story piqued Rarick's curiosity, and it wasn't long before she tried a class for herself.
The Feldenkrais Method Can Expand Musical Freedom, Experimentation and Imagination
The Feldenkrais Method has been used to improve body awareness and enhance the functioning of a wide variety of populations. I use the Feldenkrais Method in my work with musicians because the principles of the Method correspond to my teaching philosophy. I believe that my principal role as a teacher is to help my students become aware of who they are and to help them grow. It is not to define their faults nor cure them. When teaching a musical composition, instead of setting concrete, simple goals and teaching prescribed tools to attain them, I engage the student in a process of experimentation with different ideas that provides him/her with the freedom to choose among a whole array of options for expressing a musical intention.
The Magic Piccolo
Linda, a piccolo player came to see me because her fingers were stiffening up when she came to a difficult passage in a piece she was working on. As a trained musician and Feldenkrais Practitioner, I see instrumentalists and vocalists who come to me to work on their breathing and posture, or have excess tension and pain. I wasn't really sure I could help Linda with her finger speed, and mentioned this to her, but she wanted to continue.
A Delicate Balance
The act of balancing is constant in life. Dancers further the challenge with beautiful, sometimes precarious poses. The camera can capture a single moment of balance, alive with movement. Moshe Feldenkrais referred to a way of carrying ourselves with a readiness for action. A different attitude from posture, this “acture” is essential to dance. In classical training learning correct body placement is a priority, sometimes placed ahead of learning how to move through space with grace and power. An ideal posture that many dancers and non-dancers strive for is the ability to stand upright with the back appearing to be straight - chest up, shoulders back and down, stomach in, with the head held high.