Embodied Practice: Fundamental Movement Principles

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2DP1024

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon 2018

Course Coordinator and Team: Mandeep Raikhy and Ranjana Dave

Email of course coordinator:,

Pre-requisites: This course is suitable for the students who have a general interest in dance/ movement. Students from other MA programmes can join after an audition.

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: Fundamental Movement Principles focuses particularly on the movement principles as the basis of dance training. These fundamental movement principles include alignment, weight transfer, gaze and presence, initiation and sequencing, naval radiation and spinal articulation. This course will focus on the developing a clarity in the application of these principles from a somatic perspective, privelaging the interiority of the body over any formal manifestations.

Course Outcomes:

  • At the end of the course, the students will be able to demonstrate:
  • An embodied understanding of dynamic alignment in the body, with a particular focus on the spine.
  • A nuanced scientific, understanding of the body in terms of its joints, muscles and bones and the relationship with them.
  • An understanding of the fundamental movement principles such as weight transfer, breath, focus, integration and coordination.
  • A sophistocated discernment in movement initiation and sequencing with a clear understanding of where each movement begins in the body.
  • An ability to articulate the reflexivity of their practice though an investigative approach to dance training, thoroughly documented in a journal format through the course of the semester.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Weeks 1-3

  • Alexander Technique
  • These sessions encourage:
  • 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.

Fundamental Movement Skills

Arms and Shoulders- Locating the initiation of arm movement in relation to shoulders and back in various planes, including lying down, standing up, against the wall. How do we locate the tension in our bodies? How do we articulate one joint whilst keeping another stable?

Motor and Pelvis- Finding freedom and ease in the hip joint by allowing the weight of the pelvis to drop into the floor; studying alignment of the body in the vertical axis and weight transfer between feet in standing and walking; What happens to the weight transfer when the spine and the arms begin to articulate during the process of weight transfer between the feet? Where do we locate the motor in this weight transfer?

Making articulation visible- How do you quieten the rest of the body to emphasise an initiation with the head, chin shoulders or knees, among other points? How do you make the emphasis visible, especially in rolling up? What are these choices to be made? How do we make space visible within and outside the body?

Articulation and isolation- While writing in space with a body part, how do you establish the relationship of body part to surface of writing as you would with a loaded quill or brush on paper. What angle are you choosing to make yourself visible? How do you explore the range of surrounding joints to maximise the articulation of the isolated body part? Walking and turning in groups, with the awareness of guarding a constant space between you.

Weeks 4-8

Somatic Practice

These sessions will centre on the “interiority” of the body. Squarely focusing upon the materialism of the body, i.e. the simultaneous engagement of the bones, joints, muscles, weight, breath, gaze, sound within the dimensions of space, time and gravity, it hopes to observe the affects, i.e. sensation, feeling or emotion that may result due to such engagement. The aim of these sessions is to see how viscerally mindful movement may produce a textural connection between movement, sensation, and image that is alive, palpable and visible to the viewing eye.

Extending Movement Principles

Neutral Spine- Experiencing the neutral spine by identifying what is in contact with the floor and what isn’t. The feet, the back of the pelvis, the ribcage and shoulders and the head in contact. Lifting each part off so that the weight can get redistributed with each point in contact. Stabilising the neutral by being able to move the limbs around it. How does one locate a neutral spine in a moments of weight transfer? How does this notion of the neutral space adapt itself in various planes?

Weight Transfer- Studying the mechanics of weight and force within the body; How does one transfer the neutral spine, stabilising it and taking it across the floor? How does weight get distributed between the arms and the feet in the horizontal plane? How do we study of weight transfer – the initiation, the movement following through and what makes it dance?

Movement Patterns- Look at five Bartenieff fundamentals – body half (one body half closing into the other), pushing from the upper body and pulling from the lower body, thus finding connectivity from upper and lower body through the centre. The pattern of core-distal, with the navel being a connection point for all these limbs.

Spinal Articulation- From the neutral spine, articulation of the spine in three different planes. The sagittal plane (the wheel plane) which involves the action of sitting up (studied against the wall to use the legs to control this). The horizontal plane and the action of twists and how that relates to the centre. The vertical plane (door plane) and the sideways movement possibilities.

Week 9-14

Investigating Bones and Joints

The study of bones- Through visual, tactile and experiential study of the skeleton of the body, these sessions will look at movement possibilities, initiation and alignment of bones and joints, both independently and in relation to the other joints and bones in the body. The sessions will focus on not only finding physical connections, but also imaginary connections between between bones, joints and the spaces inside and around them.

Study of muscles- Looking at the muscle map of the body. Which muscles function as core support for the body? What is a balanced musculature?

Integration- Moving from a dedicated study of various parts of the body, ie. Lower limbs, upper limbs, head and spine, the sessiosn will also look at how to integrate these into a consolidated, wholesome approach to the movement of the body.


Assessment Details with weights:

The objective of the assessment is to evaluate the level to which the student has acquired a developed, anatomical understanding from an experiential perspective and a curious, investigative approach to physical training.

  • Participation in classroom tasks, documentation and discussions (20%)
  • Mid-term assessment (30%)
  • End-term assessment (30%)
  • Reflective Journal (20%)

Reading List:

  • Hale, Robert Beverly, and Terence Coyle. Albinus on anatomy. Courier Corporation, 2013.
  • Jarmey, Chris, and John Sharkey. The concise book of muscles. North Atlantic Books, 2016.
  • Siler, B. (2000). The Pilates body. London: Michael Joseph.
  • Clippinger, Karen S. Dance anatomy and kinesiology. Human Kinetics, 2007.
  • Bean, Anita. The complete guide to sports nutrition. A&C Black, 2013.
  • Ranjabati Sircar. “Contemporary Indian Dance: Question of Training.” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 28, no. 39, 1993, pp. 2067–2068.,
  • Linklater, Kristin. “The Body Training of Moshe Feldenkrais.” The Drama Review: TDR, vol. 16, no. 1, 1972, pp. 23–27.,
  • Simmel, Liane, Dance Medicine in Practice: Anatomy, Injury Prevention, Training, Routledge, 2014.
  • Kapit, Wynn, and Elson, Lawrence M., The Anatomy Coloring Book, Harlow: Addison-Wesley
  • Koutedakis, Y. and Sharp N.C.C., The fit and healthy dancer, Chichester Wiley, 1999.