01 January 2016 - The Feldenkrais Method
Sara Benhard-Reed, Feldenkrais Practitioner

Feldenkrais and the Arts

As a dancer from an early age in my childhood and a professional dance practitioner for most of my adult life, I have been acutely aware of the pleasure that dance and movement can bring to both life and wellbeing. It may however also result in injuries and sometimes pain as well, if something goes wrong, especially if I am not fully aware of how I am using my body and of the subsequent implications of misuse through a lack of awareness. After many years of dancing, I experienced classes in Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement and was intrigued by the method and how it affected and helped me as a performer and teacher as well as in my everyday living. After discovering the Feldenkrais Method, I continued to attend Awareness Through Movement classes and to have one to one Functional Integration sessions with experienced trained teachers and eventually I decided to train to become a qualified practitioner myself, which I now am.
Feldenkrais is a popular method used widely by creative arts practitioners and in particular performing artists across the range of dance, theatre and music practices. In Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes students are guided through a series of movements unlike, for example, in a formal dance class where dancers often expect to be told what to do, how to do it and sometimes be expected to copy the teacher exactly. What is interesting about making movement in creative dance and some forms of theatre is that we find answers for ourselves rather than being told the answers. Not only is this more enjoyable but it is more interesting and educational as well. In a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class it is similar, the participants also make their own decisions about how they respond to what the teacher is asking them to do, the class is very clearly structured but it allows scope for interpretation, there is no right or wrong way of reacting and it is an individual learning process for each participant.
In the creative arts, and particularly in the processes of making dance and theatre, the Feldenkrais method can enhance the ability to think creatively by exploring ways of moving that are outside our usual range and movement habits. It can allow you to learn through moving your body and taking time to concentrate and move slowly and carefully and, therefore, this can mean that you move differently as well. Often the habits of movement that we develop during daily life put unnecessary pressure on the body. For example, we may move within a limited range, do more than we need to and use too much effort; this is in itself tiring and when the body is tired then, of course, it doesn’t work so well.
Not only does the Feldenkrais method give the opportunity to explore movements in a more unusual and creative way it also helps you to discover new ways of moving that may feel better for you and be more interesting as well. This is great for everyone but especially if you are a creative artist looking for inspiration. In addition, the functional integration, which happens automatically in the sessions, helps in imaginative thinking so that you not only move differently but begin to think differently as well. Learning through the Feldenkrais method can feel very playful and is great fun, it may involve very small movements but also bigger movements that can include, as an example, rolling on the floor, then coming from lying to sitting, to standing and moving across the floor, sinking downwards to the ground again and back to lying. Or a class may be very quiet and focus on absolute minimal movement within a specific range whilst staying in one place on the floor. All of this is done through moving gently, fluently and with little effort, maybe you can try it for yourself.