CSULB Modern IV/V – Week 2: Bartenieff Fundamentals

Hello there!

As you have read in the syllabus we will be exploring various somatic points of view from week to week. The idea is to investigate and apply various theories (and modalities) in order to expand our choices and see more clearly our habitual patterns. Hopefully, we may understand and affect profound change that produce the desired change we seek in who we are as movers. One of the goals of this course is to increase choices for dancers in their movement vocabulary. Some of the greatest results have come from a process of reaffirming one’s intention and to ‘unlearn’ and to be disentangled from previously held ideas that no longer serve each unique body.

This week and next we will explore Bartenieff Fundamentals and Patterns of Connectivity. I am posting some links here for you to look at to gain some background/perspective on who Irmgard Bartenieff was and what contributions she has given to our field. There are many more sites out there but these are the ones I would like for you to read and view. Additionally, I would recommend reading Peggy Hackney’s book, Making Connections (Ch. 4-5).




18 thoughts on “CSULB Modern IV/V – Week 2: Bartenieff Fundamentals

  1. I’m enjoying these Bartenieff warmups. They are helping me to connect my mind and body for the class’s movement to come. I’m noticing how much range of motion is in the shoulder blade and separately in the glenohumeral joint.

  2. It’s been nice to revisit the Bartenieff Fundamentals this last week. I often forget how many areas of my body hold extra tension, preventing me from feeling physically connected. I think my focus in this class this semester will be just that; to systematically find areas of unnecessary tension in my body and begin to release those areas, only activating them intentionally. Hopefully, that process will also allow me to find a sense of risk in my movement, trusting the connections in my body to support me as necessary. And, the 6 fundamentals are a nice to place to start zeroing in on those areas.

  3. The breakdown in the video is very helpful. The ease in the relationship between the pelvis and the femurs is something I can visualize and imagine the feeling of, but have not yet achieved. I think a lot of it is mental, feeling like I’m not “doing” enough, like there must be more! I look forward to trying just what is required.

  4. This week when we explored the Bartenieff Fundamentals, I was taken back to the coursework I learned in Colleen’s Movement Analysis Class. While the fundamentals all seemed to make sense to me intellectually, I still find the physical practice of them to be difficult. I believe one of the areas I have the most difficulty with is finding the connection through my entire body so that my upper half communicates with my lower half. For example, when doing the circle x’s that come up to a sitting position, I was only engaging my upper half to initiate the movement and guide me on and off the floor. Meanwhile, I felt as though I had little control or awareness as to what my legs were doing. I find the opposite occurs when doing exercises heavy in legwork, such as ballet barre, where my upper body either fails to extend energetically through my arms and spine, or works as a delayed reaction, rather than in tandem to the lower half. As we continue to practice the Bartenieff, I hope that I will be able to find the full connection from the distal ends of the upper to the distal ends of the lower to feel the linear connection going through my body.
    In addition to the connectivity between upper and lower, I find the core to distal connection difficult. Gerald’s comment on the “spidey” hands helped me a lot in being aware of the energy extending through my arms to the tips of my fingers. However, I still find that my limbs are either entirely straight or somewhat relaxed and bent. I need to further my understanding and practice of how to energetically straighten my limbs, rather than a pure muscular or boney action. I believe that when I am better able to extend out of my limbs and spine energetically, my relationship with space will change so that I am connected to the space, not merely occupying it. I am excited to continue this practice and increase my awareness of my body in its connection to itself and the space around me.

  5. Hello!
    I’m not quite sure how much we’re supposed to write about but I have noticed that when I’m focusing on the distal ends of my limbs I often loose connection to my torso or my head.

  6. Now that we have been working on these Bartenieff Fundamentals I am finding that I tend to hold unnecessary tension in my limbs, In class I noticed that this unnecessary tension is most common when I have lost the connection of my outer limbs during movement. I am currently working to connect conscious thought to what my limbs are doing in movements even if they are not being actively recruited. When I am able to find this connected ease in my body the movement feels more coordinated and less arbitrated. This is my biggest challenge for now but I can feel my body slowly give over to the dark side!

    Gabby Grady

  7. This may be a duplicate comment, blogs get crazy.
    The process of incorporating Bartenieff fundamentals and connectivity patterns into technique class has been a refreshing practice. The work is relaxing and engaging. In fact, the only frustration I have encountered thus far is feeling too relaxed and sometimes unmotivated to leave the floor. This is getting better as we settle into the semester, but in the beginning, the meditative work made me want to nap. I have noticed that after practicing Bartenieff’s somatic work, I am more aware of the places where I am not connecting and losing attentiveness. It’s nice to have another frame to experience my body and movement through.

  8. Hello! I apologize for the late post, as I did not see this page of posts until today.
    The Bartenieff Fundamentals have been a mind-opener for me that continue to be intriguing. I am fascinated by certain ways my body wants to naturally initiate movement. Consciously focusing attention to areas of my body to release excess tension and considering the body as a whole, can really be an interesting experience to see what the most beneficial ways of moving are for me. I am really enjoying the floor work given in class, as I try to apply the Bartenieff Fundamentals to the phrases.
    I view this class as an exploration and am very thankful for it! I look forward to where this semester of modern takes me.

  9. So far, this class has helped me practice the “undoing” of my previously learned modern techniques. Certain sects of modern dance have forced me to perfect certain positions and to primarily engage my muscular structure, rather than my skeletal structure. It will be a challenge to maintain a new awareness in my body, but I can already see and feel the benefits of the Bartenieff fundamentals.

  10. I’ve noticed a few things about myself working with the fundamentals. I notice simply a difference on laying on my right and left sides. It feels like residual energy/holding from a past shoulder injury. The comfort is different. Additionally I noticed that doing the fundamentals requires a much different mind set then when dancing and performing. I feel there is a subltly and power in the simplity of the actions. It requires a subtle mind and awareness to the body. In dance at times I feel much of attention is projected out. Where as these force one you look inside to be aware of smaller shifts in the body. To do less is to do more. Versus at times in dance the bigger is stressed over the smaller.

  11. Letting the weight of my legs control my descend is something that I was working on in the knee drop exercise. I try to control floor movements by activating muscles instead of releasing into the ground. This exercise also warmed up my body more than I anticipated. Sometimes when I am in a rush to get warm, I twist my torso while lying on the floor by using the pressure of my leg and hand on the floor. I found that releasing actually warmed up my body more efficiently. 🙂

  12. Starting out class in this way is a major shift from Keith Johnson’s class last semester. While i enjoyed jumping right into large, very physical movements in an inverted position, beginning on the floor truly allows me to take a sort of inventory of where my body is that day. Alone in the knee drops and circle x I can see if i am particularly tight in my hips, lumbar-sacral region, or in my upper torso, which is very helpful to how i work in the other exercises. It brings be back to working on the floor with Maria Gillespie and how much more connection to the floor i felt that semester.

  13. Accidentally posted this on the Irene Spirals post: This week in class I especially appreciated the warming up and waking up of the hamstring muscles on Friday. I know that I must use my hamstrings on a regular basis in order to move, but on Friday I could actually feel the stability of my legs supporting me throughout all the movement. Doing the exercise before and after was enormously different in my body-my pelvis had shifted and I made many unconscious adjustments during the first round, and second round I felt grounded, stabilized, and fully mobile. By the end of class, my legs were completely exhausted, simply because all the muscles were doing their part to catch, release, and propel my body. I plan on continuing this practice and perhaps finding more strength and stability in standing exercises, and to move away from the hops and adjustments I make.

  14. I find the Bartinieff Fundamentals in general very relaxing and a great way to engage my body as class starts. In an effort to relax into the floor, I made my personal focus during our class exploration of the exercises to really focus on initiation points, as well as thinking about the opposing pull coming from the cross-lateral body part, or opposite body half. It’s interesting to me that my left body half is a bit less ‘natural’ in terms of initiation movement than the right side of the body–maybe it’s because I am a right-handed/dominant person? My next investigation for class in general, but particularly with Bartinieff Fundamentals and related material, is to get rid of unnecessary tension…..really tuning into where I hold tension that I might not normally recognize (jaw, neck, lower back) and try to release that a bit more.

  15. I, too, find the Bartenieff Fundamentals a pleasant way to ease into class. I appreciate the time on the floor to calm the mind waves and take inventory of the body. I especially appreciate the information regarding the Knee Drop exercise. Other instructors emphasize the use of the opposing oblique abdominals to return to neutral. In doing so, I have always felt an unnecessary amount of force being generated to perfom such a simple movement. The force would always siphon up to create tension in my chest and neck. Gerald’s emphasis on the bony return back to neutral feels much better. I like the idea of the abdominals as a dimmer switch – the abs do not always need to be super bright, but rather, there when I need them.

  16. Normally I am not a fan of starting modern class on the floor, as I usually like to get my blood pumping at the start of class. However, the Bartenieff Fundamentals actually are a great way for my body to mentally and physically check in. It allowes me to inventory my muscles and slowly ease into technique. I also find that starting on the floor helps me to release any unneccesary tension that I hold, especially in my neck. With that, I personally enjoy the diagonal knee rocks because is allows and release in my lower back by twisting and relaxing into the floor. I also pay attention to this when standing, and i feel the Bartenieff Fundamentals help warm me and physically and mentally prepare me for class.

  17. It is nice to go back to the basics of bartenieff fundamentals to focus on my body and the organization within it…. and all of the movement possibilities. But beyond that, I really love that the exercises were connected and became more of an expressive dance on the floor, rather than just exercises. As I got more comfortable with the sequencing I began to close my eyes and did the whole thing without sight…. this helped me really feel the patterns of movement and was also pretty fun 🙂

  18. Sometimes starting class on the floor is a set back for me. I often fall into too much of a relaxing mindset and get lazy. The Bartenieff Fundamentals, however seemed to have the opposite affect on me. I found my body and mind way more tuned in than normal. The main thing I took from these fundamentals was my body connectivity. The exercises really allowed me to become aware of the places and positions in which I tend to throw away my connectivity. It was nice being able to rely on the ground to work out my kinks in body connection.

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