Embodied Practice: Approaches to Form and Movement

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2DP1044

Semester and Year Offered: Winter 2019

Course Coordinator and Team: Ranjana Dave

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

The overarching objective of the Embodied Practice courses throughout this programme is for students to understand embodiment as a process and not an outcome. Embodied Practice: Fundamental Movement Principles approaches this by aiming to equip students with a deep experiential understanding of anatomical principles as a starting point for dance training. The course focuses on movement foundations such as dynamic alignment, body awareness, integration, depth of physical engagement and clarity of initiation as fundamental to the development of a sensitive and reflexive dance practitioner.

With a somatic approach to movement training, the course will provide a focused palette of practices that allows the participants to build articulation, sensitivity and resilience through a curious and investigative approach. The course encourages students to challenge their existing movement patterns, interrogate intention, heighten awareness of their own bodies as well as the space around them and expand the range and quality of their movement capacity.

Embodied Practice 1: Approaches to Form and Movement aims to deepen a somatic understanding and to prepare students to encounter the artistic values and methodologies of practitioners in the field. This embodied understanding of varying vocabularies enables students to deeply enter into the study of repertory extracts and the work of featured choreographers who are redefining the parameters of dance vocabularies in the subcontinent. Moreover, the attention paid to the nuances of movement initiation and execution prepares students to develop a sensitive and discerning approach to how movement material is embodied. This course engages with the notion of form as a set of chosen principles and open up the possibility of exploring classical dance reportoire as a resource pool for developing new vocabularies.

Course Outcomes:

  • To develop a somatically informed understanding of the principles underpinning a range of movement methodologies and vocabularies.
  • To demonstrate nuanced understanding of form, along with the notions of aesthetics and function embedded in it, through execution of movement material from a range of approaches
  • An ability to engage with classical dance vocabularies with a critical and reflexive approach, which enables the student to engage with the principles of these forms in order to arrive at new dance vocabularies.
  • Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

1) Movement Foundations

In this workshop the students will explore underlying movement foundations such as focus, gaze, gait, weight transfer, resistance, body architecture, isolation, and symmetry; working towards a greater precision and refinement in their execution of movement.

2) Alexander Technique

This workshop encourages a:

  • A practical and functional knowledge of the muscular and skeletal support for our physical structure.
  • Observation of habitual muscular tension patterns and the manner in which they impact on the mechanics of support and movement.
  • Building skill sets crucial to the deconstruction of movement.
  • Developing the ability to apply this skill set to new and unfamiliar movements.

The teaching approach will focus on observation and activity, with verbal instruction and lecture distributed over the session. The emphasis will be on practical learning using movement and activity along with the use of a variety of learning resources, but participants will also be required to keep notes and document their observations.

3) Explorations in Awareness and Fluidity

Breaking down of technique into movement that is generated out of awareness of the body: particularly the position and weight of major joints in the body and dance becoming movement initiated by the movement of these ‘flying joints’ with intention and direction, as opposed to being a technique that is super imposed as a cultural monolith upon the dancer’s body. This awareness of the internal body could then be extended to generate new movement material.

4) The Qualities of Movement

This workshop enables the students to perform a particular movement with an equally specific quality and focuses around certain ‘essential’ knowledges of movement execution. These are posed as a series of questions- Where could movement begin in the body? What is the connection between ground energy, balance and verticality? Why is all movement essentially a transfer of weight?

This module will allow dancers to explore these questions within their own bodies and through dialogue with others. The workshop thus combines and blurs the lines between learning technique’ and questioning it; developing a physical curiosity that comes out of a strong understanding of not only the grammar of the body but the processes of inquiry.

5) Movement Principles

Resisting an affinity with any particular movement aesthetic, these classes look at dance through the lens of movement principles, patterns and body connections. Starting with conditioning the body through pilates and Bartenieff fundamentals, the class will subsequently enable the students to carry these connections into simple weight shifts such as walking, running, turning, rolling and crawling. With a focus on finding and maintaining the neutral spine through core activation and balanced musculature, the class will also include strength work that help fire the big as well as the small muscles that make neutrality in the spine possible during all kinds of weight shifts.

6) Connections between Body and Space

The main aim is to encourage a reflexive relationship between the body and the space within and without. The class examines key anatomical understanding, encourage the dancer to find a personal presence and develop ways to inhabit their own bodies. The class also works with movement as the base of dance practices encouraging participants to develop an understanding of dance through physicality and rigour.

Assessment Details with weights:

The objective of the assessment is to evaluate the students’ embodied understanding of the differentiations in approaches of the various practitioners introduced to them throughout the semester.

  • Participation in classroom tasks, discussions, and submission of written and/or portfolio documents (30%)
  • Mid-term assessment (30%)
  • Participation in end-term classroom tasks, discussions (30%)
  • Submission of written and/or portfolio documents including a personal journal (20%)

Reading List:

  • Calais-Germain, B. (1993). Anatomy of movement, Seattle: Eastland Press.
  • Chmelar, R. D. & Fitt, S.S. (2002). Diet for Dancers (2nd ed.). Hightstown, N.J: Princeton Book Company.
  • Fitt, S. S. (1996). Dance kinesiology (2nd ed.). New York: Schirmer Books.
  • Vincent, L. M. (1980). The dancer’s book of health. London: Dance Books
  • Singleton, Mark. "The Roots of Yoga: Ancient+ Modern." Yoga Journal 4 (2011).