Material for the Spine - Ideas for Teaching Disabled Adults

Rosalind Holgate Smith our Dance Development Artist for Cheshire East recently attended the material for the Spine workshop at the Siobhan Davies Studios and wanted to share her experiences with you..

Last week I participated in workshop called Ongoing Dialogues at Siobhan Davies Studios, with Charlie Morrissey and Scott Smith, two experienced Dance Artists, teachers and performers of Contact improvisation. Charlie himself appeared as a guest artist at our last Inquiring Bodies event in Novemeber. Over a period of 4 days they taught aspects of Material for the Spine; a study of the body devised by Steve Paxton as a means to investigate through set exercises and puzzles.  While this material is practised on a more individual basis it is was informed by and inherently provides underlying tools for contact improvisation. Charlie and Scott shared their own inquiries informed by their experiences of working with Steve, while also integrating elements of Lisa Nelson's tuning Scores.

Through the workshop I spent plenty time lying on the ground attuning my awareness and unwinding my spine, whilst also rigorously exercising spiral rolls, crescent rolls and using the imagery of bending the bones in my arms to find more elegant, continuous curves.  I have come away with a new imagination and experience of my body as much more spherical, I have a stronger sense of my sits bones and my awareness through my back, sides and shadowed areas of my front feels somehow lighter.

On the train home I found myself planning my disability sessions for this week, questioning how I can explore, integrate and apply the fresh intelligence and inspiration from this work into my teaching.

Today I delivered my first session. We worked with swinging, softening and opening joints, playing with suspension and weight in turn, which led us to drawing each other’s curves as they move and strengthening and directing these forms in space. With each group I teach, I recognise again and again my belief that so much is possible, the potential is exciting, sometimes it even overwhelms me with too many ideas that I over-plan. The gift and the challenge of teaching for me comes in really finding out what is possible for each individual. The group today were very lively, to achieve presence with them I found that I really needed to send their energy out into space and bring it back in to focus again. This strong change of dynamic enabled me the chance to keep coming back to notice the small things, to retune awareness, each time simplifying the tasks and trying to cut out unnecessary information.

I will continue this inquiry; exploring ideas from Material for the Spine in my classes for disabled adults this term. Exciting....


Design By Balance