CSULB Modern III – Week 4: Irene Dowd’s ‘Spirals’

For the next two weeks we will explore the work of Irene Dowd. This week we will look at Spirals. 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.

Spirals was choreographed in 1991 by Dowd for Canada’s National Ballet School. She continues to allow the specifics of the work to evolve as dancers become more proficient and technical demands on them continually increase. Towards the end of these two weeks, we will discuss how this material could be modified, expanded and applied to specific techniques and styles.


Spiral staircase


24 thoughts on “CSULB Modern III – Week 4: Irene Dowd’s ‘Spirals’

  1. I am interested to explore the work of Irene Dowd. I really like that this class, and all of the movement explored in this class, has a specific, thoughtful purpose. I don’t really see this class as a “class” but more of an experience. Although I have known that dance involves the mind, body and spirit my whole life, I’m beginning to learn what that truly feels like for me, in a personal way.

  2. I’m excited to investigate the use of spirals. I’m mostly excited to explore how it can create more of a head tail connection in my body.

  3. I was amazed after warm up in class yesterday how fast I actually felt warmed up! By doing the floor combination with spirals really moved my body in ways I don’t usually do!

    • I also felt that I was not just warmed up, but that my muscles were closer to being ready to work even with such a short exercise. I feel like it takes so much time to get my body ready for ballet class in order for me to work to my fullest, and this exercise got me there faster, I guess because of the extreme range of motions that it uses. I can also see more clearly how spirals are embedded into movement even in ballet, as well as the use of the body in that three dimensional way. It is quite fascinating because I haven’t really thought about it that way much before.

  4. To answer your question about neutral position, I feel that there is no exact neutral position. A neutral position, to me, would be something that is perfectly balanced and there is not a single person on the planet that is perfectly symmetrical in there anatomical position. We can, however, get as close to a neutral position as we can by using our pelvic floor/center of gravity and plumbline to position ourselves in a straight vertical line.

    • I agree with Landon on his comment about using our plumbline to achieve our OWN neutral position. There is no “universal” neutral position, I believe it is different for everyone. However, we all understand the same meaning of a “neutral” position.

  5. Modern was something very different for me today. It was so interesting how little movement can hugely activate our muscles. Even after the class when I went to ballet, I felt sooooo on my standing leg throughout the entire class. Luh luh luh loveddd it!

    • I was the same way Alyse! I felt more stable and in control after class on Friday, which something that does not always happen. I wish we focused on these little movements more often.

      • My hips have never been this open and I’ve never been so on balance! I definitely agree with you guys I think these exercises are super helpful as well! (:

  6. My favorite thing about spirals is that it discourages compromise. It’s a brain and body teaser that demands much from me but does not punish me if I make mistakes. It’s very gentle and allows me to wake up and find myself.

  7. After this first week of working on spirals, I’ve found it to be difficult on my body. Whether it’s my hyper extended knees or proportionally smaller torso, I find it hard to make space in my center and equally separate top and bottom halves, and also to maintain a straight standing leg without getting fatigued or pushing to hyper extension in all the rond de jambes. I feel that it is also a matter of coordination for me, for example, in the exercise we did against the mirror with the ‘sole to the ceiling’ grand rond de jambe of the leg. I’ve enjoyed working in this oppositional way so far, but I think it’s taking time for my body to adjust.

  8. Ahhh. Spirals. I enjoy how circular and twisty these movements are. I feel that spiraling allows you to stretch and reach your limbs further and allows larger, more spacious dancing. I also find that it can help you to explore different aesthetics of movement rather than just being up or down all the time. But sometimes, I really don’t know what to do with my head.
    The floor barre exercise we were introduced to this week warmed up all of the little in-between muscles that usually don’t get any attention and my body felt more “ready to go” than ever before.

  9. Spirals was kind of a hard concept for me to grasp in my hip socket. It was difficult to isolate the spirals in both my standing and gesture leg. I particularly had a hard time not hiking my hip when trying to rotate my femur in its socket.

  10. I’ve been thinking all week about what it means to find a neutral spine/pelvis and I have decided that it is not a fixed position, but rather a dynamic state to which there is a lot of variation. I relate it to the processes which maintain homeostasis in the body; when great divergence from the normal range is detected, a response must be made to restore conditions to the proper state. And, of course, there is a point in which functioning can be optimized. Enzymes can participate in reactions at a greater speed if they are present in the proper temperature and pH, called the temperature and pH optimum. I believe the same is true about posture. Not relating to pH and temperature of course haha.

  11. I am enjoying exploring spiral movements throughout class! Like Kelly talked about the other day, these combinations have been subtle, but very effective in warming up. In these spiral warm ups i have found a sense of core stability, and a sense of length through the tips of my fingers to the backs of my hamstrings.

  12. On Friday when we first tried the orbits, I was so surprised at how quickly my body warmed up, and the fact that there were “tight” spots when doing the rotation at my hips. Doing this exercise and investigation is just another reminder that even when you feel like you’ve explored range of movement, there is still always more to find.

  13. I like the spirals because like we said in class it’s a great way to warm-up/wake-up all the muscles in a different way.

  14. Gerald asked, “What is neutral?” Aligning the sternum over the pelvis is what helps me to find neutral while in an upright position.

  15. Spirals was interesting and difficult to complete with the coordination and oppositions during the twists but after finishing it my body felt great and it made me want to explore the movement more. I had a hard time feeling that same rotation from the ground to the plank position but I think that will come with a little more practice.

  16. I realized this past week in class that I tend to be really careful when executing a combination. I’m a perfectionist so I am hesitant to take chances sometimes. I never really noticed how much it was really holding me back in my dancing, and I am hoping to take more chances in the future.

  17. I enjoy spirals because for me it serves as more than one purpose. It has many many purposes but the two I found most helpful were the fact that it stretches and warms my muscles simultaneously. I feel like I am tight and hold lots of tension in my upper extremities (mostly shoulder, trap, and pec area) so I was able to feel an intense stretch with some of the movements involved in the floor combination. After executing this combination one time I already felt warm and ready to move:D

  18. I can see how this spirals exercise would be a good warm up before doing barre work in ballet. It really got my back warmed up in a different way then just jumping right into stretching forward and back does at the barre.

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