THEA 33 – Week 3: 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.

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. Dowd is the author of Taking Root To Fly, a book about functional anatomy and dance.

http://www.dance-teacher.com/2013/03/technique-irene-dowd/

Spiral staircase

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14 thoughts on “THEA 33 – Week 3: Irene Dowd’s ‘Spirals’

  1. It worked for me! I really enjoyed this article! I understand what Irene Dowd meant when she said, ““If you learn it [anatomy] intellectually, you forget it. You have to do it physically, and then you can start to understand what you’ve learned.” I took a physiology class in high school, and terms like “sagittal,” “transversal,” and “distal” never resonated with me as much as they do now. Learning kinesthetically is much better when it comes to the body! It makes the most sense! (: -Mindy Paul

  2. The video link is working for me now. Thanks checking in with me!

    I have been trying to localize where I am having trouble in our exercises, and I think my problem is that I am finding it difficult to flow from one movement to the next. When I remember to do a ball change or when I shift my weight correctly I notice a great difference in my ability to carry out the sequence properly. Essentially, the transitions from one position to the other have been the most challenging for me, but, as I am becoming more aware of my body by doing these movements, I improve my capabilities as a dancer.

  3. I noticed that many of the ballet dancers in the class, myself included, have a tendency of leading movements with our chest. It’s not too difficult to avoid doing if I am paying attention to it, but I do notice that I need to constantly be thinking about it or I will start arching my mid back or open up my ribs when the movements we are doing do not call for it. Interestingly this new focus on what my back and ribs are doing sometimes follows me outside of class, and I notice that I will often be in a slight arch for no apparent reason, especially when I do anything that involves raising my arms above my head.

  4. Lately, I’ve noticed that I feel much more in tune with my body and the way it moves as individual parts in communication with each other rather than as a whole. In stretching and even daily movements, I have taken care to focus more on the rotation of my legs and arms in sockets of my pelvis and shoulders respectively. I experiment with the rotation and mobility of these specific places and allow the rest of my body to move in response. This has helped me really listen to my body (I’m coming to a new realization of what that means as well) and it’s needs.

  5. Learning these techniques of dance in a more anatomical way has really brought to light every muscle in my body. I feel like I can tune into more minute details and feel the inner muscles working. I feel that sometimes all the other activities I do on a daily basis like biking, walking, and carrying my backpack exert more energy from my outer muscles and don’t really emphasize the good habits of alignment and extension. Although now that I am learning Irene Dowd’s techniques and strategies, I feel that I can bring awareness to these aspects that are important to dance into everyday movement. For me, I feel like I have to remind myself by bringing breath to the movement. Holding too much tension can lead to over straining the muscles and actually hurt me in the end. My main goal is to work from the inside out. I want to be efficient and utilize the inner muscles to flow through everyday movement while relaxing the other muscles that I don’t need through breath.

  6. I like the idea of not only learning how to do certain types of movement, but also learning why movement works that way and what muscle groups I am using. This seems like a more comprehensive way to learn about dance, and also one that helps prevents injuries.

  7. I noticed that this week, I had been telling myself not to think about the movement. Instead I have to allow my body to just naturally flow into the next segment of movement. It feels more natural for me this way.

  8. I made it a note to point out in class that some of the movements we did in a combination reminded me of Capoeira, a fighting technique often made to replicate dance. But as Gerald pointed out, I shouldn’t think of it as being solely Capoeira or any other form of dancing. I interpreted it as a general series of movements used to positively enhance our bodies’ dichotomy of mind and body.

  9. Spiraling last week was so much fun! I thought our combination that shifted directions looked like a modern version of swan lake! I really enjoyed learning the floor warm-up and thought Alex had described it best, I felt much wider after completing them. I’m used to feeling higher up and extended from my toes to my head, but after our combination I felt like a pancake in the best way possible. Well, I don’t think it’s possible to feel negatively if you feel like a pancake. Anyways, I wasn’t surprised when Gerald noticed my hips opening up, I’m so flexible in my hips that sometimes I don’t even realize when this happens, which is something that’s haunted me in ballet for years. I’m working hard to stop from opening up so much both from my hips and my ribs, as well as minimizing the arch in my back. I feel that the movements we’ve been working on lately have helped me move lower to the ground and with more weight; not all dance is meant to be light and floaty.

  10. At first, I was very skeptical that Dowd’s Spiral techniques would be able to create the profound effect and reduction in injury that it claims. I didn’t think that a simple change in perspective and exploration of unfamiliar movement would make as large an impact as it has. The Spirals approach has made a huge impact because it has helped me bridge the gap between flexibility and strength. As Gerald mentioned in class, those that feel as though they are too flexible or “loosey-goosey” will feel more centered and aware of their proper limits. I feel as though my flexibility is definitely unequal in proportion to my strength to support it, and I can see Spirals as helping me reach those goals.

  11. I too enjoyed the spirals last week. When we were doing the last exercise on Thursday I notice some differences in our movements. Some of our movements were firm and more direct while others were carried out with more flow and were indirect. It’s interesting how different the same movements can appear.

  12. Spirals may have been my favorite part of the class. The simple concept of either tightening or loosening up different parts of the body really felt great to perform. The contrast in styles was something my body needed, and quite simply I had a lot of fun.

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