Week 3: Irene Dowd’s ‘Spirals’

Welcome to week 3…

For the next two weeks we will explore the work of Irene Dowd. On Monday Christina Briggs Winslow will introduce you to ‘Spirals’. And on Wednesday, Dani Kuepper will teach for me (although this will not be a ‘Spirals’ class). I hope you enjoy these two great teachers. I will see you next week when we will review ‘Spirals’ and continue on to ‘Orbits’.

Listed here are some links to Irene’s background and information about her work. If you have not yet read her book Taking Root To Fly, I highly encourage you to do so. Also this will be a good week to bring a mat if you feel you will need some sort of padding since most of this sequence will be practiced on the floor.

http://www.dance-teacher.com/content/feature-journey-within

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1083/is_6_79/ai_n13803451

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14 thoughts on “Week 3: Irene Dowd’s ‘Spirals’

  1. I am really excited to learn Irene Dowd’s ‘spirals’ this week. Her passion for anatomy, learning, and constant change is inspiring. I loved when she talked about the way we traditionally do battements at the barre. By doing battements en croix, we use our hip flexors to the front and side twice, while only using our hip extensors to the back once. It’s fascinating to see how imbalanced traditional battement combinations are. It also makes me think about how imbalanced our quadriceps and hamstrings typically are.

    Gerald, with your background from Juilliard, have you had any opportunities to work with Irene Dowd in your career?

  2. This week I am challenging my body with asking it questions. Questions that can only be answered from within. This week has been all about spirals when trying to find extra length through my limbs, my body will go on lock down and tension rises…why? I keep reminding myself to settle, allow the ribs to come back and the shoulders to soften. A visual that works for me is to think of a big, bright red “X” on my back to remind myself of the relationship between the shoulders and the hips. There was also talk of engaging your pelvic floor in relation to the spheres, which I felt gave my body a whole new kind of internal awareness. Learning and practicing spirals has help sync breath to my movement as well, especially when you are visualizing the spheres rotating like a globe in-between your bones. Spiraling has also made me feel like the room/atmosphere is bigger..or maybe it’s just because I am actually looking around..? I just ordered Taking Root to Fly yesterday and can’t wait to start reading!

    • You have put what I planned to post perfectly. I find myself holding this same tension in my lower back especially when reaching through my limbs, noticably in an X position on the floor, when in fact it is inhibiting my length. I am at constant reminder to release the lower back and feel it sinking into the floor. Also, I am a very visual person and I plan to take your idea of this big, bright red “X” into our classes to play with the different lengths of this cross in a spiral. Thanks Elise! Being so visual, the pelvic sphere and the thoracic sphere turning, rolling, or rotating really switched the light bulb on for me. The build up from working on the floor with the sphere to a standing combo was a difficult transition in visualizing and dancing. I agree in the sense that I felt very much more aware in the room, showing the continuation of the spiral rather than getting lost in the mirror.

  3. During modern on Monday 2/6/12, when Christina had taught the class, we learned about spiraling the body. How our internal self is like a round ball, and how we can twist and rotate that ball inward and outward. The floor exercises really helped in connecting that spiraling ball idea to my upper body moves. I think that when on the ground my muscles tend to tighten up, so learning and applying the spiral and twisting, helped to release my body and open up more throughout my core. It was interesting when we went across the floor in lines. Christina had us jump and twist while running across the studio. It was hard because the downbeat of the music sometimes wouldn’t match what moves I was doing, and I felt that I was more concentrated on moving with the beat then just releasing and dancing. I think the combination at the end of class was my favorite part. I learned in order to really preform you must move around, being vertical and straight wont get you to jump higher or elongate your moves. You have to use your whole space around. I really enjoyed learning about Spiraling and Twisting and I hope I can continue to grow and learn more about the sphere in my body.

  4. On Monday when we explored spirals with Christina, we did a center exercise in which we spiralled to turn our whole bodies in a new direction. When I did the spiralling action, I realized that I couldn’t hold or lock my legs or else I would trip over myself. When I did the combination to music, I didn’t hold and I used the spiral of my back, shoulders, and arms to turn me. I lost my balance when I did this, I felt like I was throughing myself everywhere and I couldn’t get on the right foot, I faced the wrong direction, but I didn’t fall down or trip over myself or bump into somebody else. I actually didn’t even move far from where I was, I just felt that I had no stability. As my body extended into the spiral, I found that I couldn’t put any “dead weight” into the floor to hold me up the way I normally do. Dead weight, by my definition, is tension in the legs and feet that are pushing against the floor instead of into it. I imagine that the opposite of dead weight would feel like my feet sinking into soft soil.
    Today in Dani’s class, I had a difficult time being aware because some of the choreography we learned had an emphasis on shape and specific position. It is difficult for me to observe they way I am using my body and feel present when I become absorbed in looking in the mirror to check my shape. It becomes a battle of constant adjustment to look just right two dimensionally. I imagine that being present is something that can be applied when the focus of the movement is creating a shape in space and the movements seem slightly disconnected from one another. It is a different feeling of being present when one stands still or creates a distinct shape in space.

  5. I really enjoyed taking class with Christina and Dani. This week, the main lesson I learned was to keep my hips square as I spiral. As a human-being, it is second nature to let the hips go along with the spiral; however, this is not supposed to happen within dance technique. Dance technique is about alignment; me letting my hips go with my spiral is not proper alignment.

    • I also loved having both Christina and Dani teach us this week! Keeping the hips square is definately a great way to anchor yourself and it also enhances the spiral itself because you create a definate point from which you are spiraling. For me, I need to focus on counterpull to maintain energy throughout my body. It also causes a more dramatic spiral, so I know how frustrating it can be when you’re trying to do something and have to really work to make it happen!

  6. This week I was really concentrating on letting go of the extra tension in my muscles so I can spiral with ease. I want my movement to look effortless rather than stiff. I realized a lot this week that as I breathe through the movement, it becomes easier to accomplish. Also, by me breathing, it helps release some of the tension that i seem to hold in my face. Breathing while dancing is one good habit I am trying to uphold.

  7. Taking class with Christina was very beneficial for me. I had heard of spiraling before but I had never actually known how it actually works within the body. When Christina told us about the two sphere balls that rest one, on our pelvis, and two, in between the ribs of your chest, this really helped me to understand where the spirals we make are initiated from. When we practiced different ways of rolling them or moving them around within ourselves, I really got a sense of how moving them is crucial to performing spiral movement with our bodies.

  8. This past week and that start of this one we have been introduced to the spiraling concept. The first day we learned about this with Christina I was a bit confused on the idea of having two spiraling spheres in my body. I didn’t really understand what she was talking about until we started doing the ‘baby cobra’ exercise. when we were sitting there in baby cobra and had to start engaging our two spirals I noticed how much I don’t use my core when I move. When I started to engage my core by spiraling my spirals it re leaved so much tension and helped me to find a straighter posture. Throughout the rest of the class I noticed how much easier it was for me to think of my body this way rather than piece by piece. I liked it so much that I applied the spiraling in ballet class. Ballet is very challenging for me. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed with technique at the barre and in the center, because I am trying to think about so many different things in my body. However, when I applied the spiraling technique to ballet class I found that everything became much easier for me to understand. I think this happened because I was concentrating less on every little piece of what my hips and core were doing.

    Now a week later, I am finding even more that I am enjoying about using Irene Dowd’s spiraling idea. I feel this idea translating to other parts of my body and other movements. I feel spiraling my arms and legs in relationship of the spirals in my core. I don’t know if these even exist in her true idea, but I am growing of off her original idea because it is a concept that seems to be making sense for me. When things start to get off and I feel myself let go in ANY class that I’m taking I revert back to spirals and feel stronger in my movement.

  9. Super Spheres!
    The idea of spheres clicked with me instantly and the use of them has amplifid the expansiveness of my motion tremendously! The spheres really allow me to access the deep muscles of my center without feeling like I’m sucking my abdominals in to a static position… instead, movement is able to continuously exert. This is very apparent to me while rolling down through the vertebrae of the spine. Sometimes in an attempt to relax, the belly protrudes; but when conscious of the chest and pelvic spheres, and directing them to spin in towards each other, the stomach is engaged, yet there is an ease in the spine that allows me to “pour” my head into the floor and really articulate each bone. Similarly, in a posterior cambre, the spheres direct away from eachother and I can feel lengthening continue while I am arching the lumbar spine. Christina brough in the book “Taking Root to Fly” by Irene Dowd and although I can’t recall at the moment how the relation between the spheres was explained, I do remember the epiphany it sparked. Sometimes in learning things are emphasized in a way that causes a misunderstanding in what the teacher was hopeful for the student to achieve. The way the spheres were explained left no room for faulty interpretation. Therefore, it was either internalized, or it wasn’t. It is not something I feel can be synthetically manufactured. To me, it’s a way of using something near the proximity to direct distal movements with more freedom, growth, flow and life. Spheres were truly an awakening for me! i get excited when I remind myself to be aware of them. To love them. =)

  10. I really enjoyed learning about Spirals because it gives a dancer a point of reference when trying to rotate a part of the body. Sometimes we get so caught up in movement and when the technique part comes back to bite us we can’t think of a way to “tell” our bodies what we need it to do. Spirals is our tip to tell our bodies to turn our thoracic sphere to rotate so we aren’t turning or dropping our hips, etc.

  11. To be honest, it took me a really long time to grasp the concept of spirals. The whole spiraling deal and different spheres idea was a little overwhelming but I finally feel like I’m confident enough to comment on the “spiral page”. I think it really clicked for me in ballet class when Christina explained fifth position as a spiral. My main problem was I never knew which side was the short side or which side was suppose to be open… and for some reason the fifth position analogy really clicked. I applied it right away in ballet at barre and found that it really helped my balances. It’s a really interesting way to think about our movement and I think the more I find ways to apply it to my movement the more I’m going to come to love spirals!

  12. I had a really hard time understand the concept of spirals at first, as I found it difficult to move my body in this new and strange way. I felt like I was getting twisted up like a pretzel and that there was no way I could hold my balance in such a weird stance. However, as we worked on spirals more and more in class I started to understand the feeling and that I use it in my dancing more than I realized. And, more it was mentioned that we were using spirals in the dance combination we were learning, the more I was able to visualize what my body was doing with these spirals. Now I find that spirals actually help me keep my balance instead of throwing me off balance. And, I am really glad that I was exposed to spirals since I believe it will help me a lot with my dancing in the future.

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