Welcome THEA 33C – Dance Studio I


Welcome to THEA 33C – Dance Studio I (Fall 20134)

I can’t believe it was 100 degrees yesterday in Santa Cruz – and we’re already into October… I wonder how you felt about the heat coming so late in the year? Was it hot this time of year last year? How does your body adjust to these conditions?

I am excited to get to know you over the next several weeks. As you can see from the syllabus, class will cover many somatic principles (mind-body practices). This class is somewhat of an overview of somatics interfaced within a technical dance practice class. These introductory lessons into worlds of learning that each somatic idea can provide may seem overwhelming at times and difficult to process but I ask that you allow it so soak through rather than trying to learn and know everything – this is impossible in 10 weeks. Instead, I want you to look for ways to integrate the principles of each topic, however small, into all other aspects of your artistic/creative life. This class will center around a technical practice, an awareness of yourself through movement and an accumulation of ideas and imagery. You will be challenged in a different way, perhaps in terms of undoing, re-patterning and through profound inquiry.

I hope you will enjoy getting lost with me and finding out more about ourselves in the process…

See you on Tuesday. My office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:00-3:00 pm (by appointment). You may also schedule an appointment to meet in person outside of these hours. My office is in J-14. Email me with questions at gcasel@ucsc.edu.

All the best,



20 thoughts on “Welcome THEA 33C – Dance Studio I

  1. During the first week of in class exercises, I noticed a few issues with my movements in the dance pieces. I think that one of my main problems has to do with isolation of the muscular-skeletal system. Since I am not fully adapted to moving and controlling individual parts of my body, another component is often moving alongside the intended one. I also have a few issues in a suitable posture for proper balance, but I already knew that I would be coming into class stumbling in several ballet positions. One thing that I have noticed in our pieces so far is that all of the dance movements seem to complement each other in a set logic that follows the laws of physics. It is almost as though each step ricocheted into the next, creating an easy script to aid the body’s movement both physically and aesthetically. As we continued to practice our routines, each one became easier to follow without a visual aid. By the third time around, my muscle memory had all but taken over. Of course for me, floor dancing is easier to memorize than anything in a standing position. I would also like to comment on my arm movement in the second piece. I spend so much time focusing on my lower body when I study dance that I feel as though I have neglected the upper body. Since the arms are more flexible than the legs, I am not always sure of which position they should be in. Oftentimes I feel as though they are wrong; other times, it’s as if they were dead limbs just hanging at my sides. Additionally, I am slightly dyslexic when on the dance floor, so it takes a little extra time for my brain to process left and right, which causes me to lag behind a little.

  2. Bartenieff Smarteniff!!! Okay, may I just say in all the years I have danced I never learned about this. Maybe I should blame it on the small town ballet company or the one modern/jazz teacher that my little area of the world allowed me to access. Or maybe times are changing, it was about ten years ago that I danced from a small age into my late teens. Now here I am back where I left something so amazing behind, the art of dance, and I am even more amazed by these concepts that I never was taught about. The Bartenieff fundamentals seem like something is necessary to understand from day one of learning to dance. How can one dance without understanding what it is and how it is that the body can and will do something? I will have to spend some time reading more about the Barteneiff Fundamentals before I can talk about it with confidence. I am assuming it is a lifelong learning process and will need much more exploring past this class. What I can say from this week’s practice is that using the “two halves” of the body and working with isolation and lateralization, I can see where it makes the coordination come easier to the dancer through practice. My mind was working on learning the movements, but I know once the memorization is down, the body will follow. I can also tell by using Bartenieff Funds, the separated movements we are all doing are forced to become more fluid. What a concept! The whole point of dance is for graceful, fluid, effortless (we like to make those watching think so *wink*) movement and maybe it was just because I was watching Gerald that it seemed this way. Thank you for a great first week. I look forward to next week.

  3. I found the first couple of classes to really be enlightening. I really had not checked in with myself like that in such a long time. The first day of class I felt like I was back in a summer intensive taking floor barre, but I found the class to be much more centered on the connecting between our minds, feeling and moving our muscle, and bones, with an emphasis on isolation, and yet connecting so many other elements such as breath, all at the same time! I really enjoyed class, instead of the strict calculations of moving like in ballet, I felt free, like in a yoga class, to explore how I was breathing and how my body reacted to each new movement. I felt connected to my body. I felt as though mind was connecting to all the impulses my body was making, instead of just pushing and using my muscles unaware, like I usually do in dance classes. I felt much more at peace at the end of class, at the beginning it was way to hot, especially for the time of day that it was. I also had to replay in my mind something my mom said to me for the first time in my life, during the summer, she told me that everyone has an amazing body, but they all just come in different forms, but each is special because of the differences, and each have so much ability. And for some reason when she said it, something just clicked and I really understood, and it truly changed my whole perspective on not just my body but all bodies. So I looked and thought about the questions you asked of us, like asking us to pay attention to our bodies and to time, energy, focus, and gravity. So I realized that I was already aware of these things, as I moved, I felt as though I knew they were happening all around me but I don’t find them important when I’m dancing. For me, this was a struggle, I felt truest to myself when I was aware but choose to work simultaneously with these elements, but to not be overtly aware of them. If that makes any sense at all? I would like to focus next class on my articulation and how the control of my breath can add to the details of my movement. Giving myself a time or a moment to hold or breath through or stop a movement.

  4. Below is a stream of conscience reflection on the first week of class:

    Imagery is vital to both expressivity in dancing as well as simply remembering the choreography
    Want to learn to not rush through circle combination find the breath
    Nothing to stress
    Will come with familiarly
    And that comes with time
    Struggling to remember kneeling hand arm sequence
    Arms dominating life
    Indonesian dance
    I need an image
    To remember
    Perhaps circles is easier because it uses the whole body
    Total body
    My own movement tendency is that of
    As opposed to
    Straight lines
    Right angles
    Dance blind

  5. I feel as if during this past week, class has already impacted me in a way that I never expected it to. Sure, I’ve had a couple dance performances in the past that I’ve enjoyed, but I’ve come to realize that those performances were mere memorization and were of no deeper meaning. I had never thought that dancing could be mental as well as physical. I feel like I’ve been conditioned to simply execute robotic movements that I am taught without actually feeling or understanding the beauty of any of the movements for what they really are. I had never stopped to think about all that it takes when we perform movements. It’s interesting to think that everything that we do is because of the cooperation of our muscular, skeletal, and respiratory systems. One of the problems I have encountered is that I find it difficult to completely relax in class and to simply be present within myself. This makes me think that I am probably full of bad technical habits but I am willing to push myself towards improvement. I do find that class is provided with an environment in which I can feel calm as opposed to prior experiences in which I felt stressed and pressured to move exactly the same as another peer. I’m glad that in class it isn’t chastised to move the way that feels right to us. I’ve already started learning more about the way my body reacts to certain movements. The fact that a movement as subtle as pushing off the floor with my ankles could make my whole body shift amazes me and it makes me curios as to what else my body is capable of doing. I’ve already realized that I have trouble with keeping balance but I plan on making it better by practicing the way in which I distribute my body weight as well as by further exploring my own relation to gravity. One of my favorite class exorcises is when we get to explore the way different movements feel and how our internal organs feel when we twist our body. Being able to check in which myself as well as letting my body take over when we learn a new routine makes me feel relaxed and delighted and excited to come back to class.

  6. The Bartenieff principles that we explored showed me that our inner consciousness is completely embedded into our entire body structure, and that breath is key for allowing energy to pass smoothly from the tip of our toes to the tops of our heads. It’s strange to admit, but breathing is something I need to work on. People only use half of their lung capacity when going about normal activities. In class, we were told to draw from the breath in our movements, and even audibly exhale. In doing so, I felt that my breath allowed me to loosen my body and move comfortably through the motions. When we did heel rocks, there were moments when I felt I was holding my breath, which impacted my range of movement. Once I let go and felt my bones sink into the floor, the heel rocks became natural and the energy rippled through my body. Such simple movements can make you more aware of the interdependency of every part of the body. I feel I can bring these principles into other aspects of my life that don’t involve dance (like walking), since we are constantly in motion.

  7. This class has been such a wonderful experience so far! With all that has happened to me within the past year, it’s been wonderful to finally check in with my body and see what’s going on. I’ve noticed that over the past year I’ve gained a lot of tension in my shoulders and neck, often times I’m tensing without even noticing it! What I’ve found incredible helpful so far is that Gerald is always reminding us to breathe during class. Again, I’ve noticed that when I am in physical or emotional discomfort, I tend to forget to how vital breath is. It isn’t until someone reminds you to “make sure you’re breathing” do you realize how much it aids in the ease of movement and slowing down of the mind; it’s such a centering experience! (And t’s funny how easily I seem to forget that). I look forward to feeling more graceful in my body through this class, I can already feel it beginning to happen! Throughout my adolescent and adult life I haven’t felt comfortable in my body, mostly because I feel like I move in a more masculine way (maybe because I grew up with 5 boys) and my relationship to gravity has often felt quite heavy. After class, I’m often surprised by how light my body feels. I hope I can continue to cultivate this and begin to feel more graceful and relaxed with my body and how it looks. I greatly look forward to next week!

  8. After the first day of class my body felt great! I was able to “let go,” and release all the tightness i had been holding. I knew the class had done me well when i woke up the next day sore. This class in particular has helped me with finding my center, being aware of my surroundings, my presence, and my breathing.One of my goals for this class is to able to really articulate every body part when dancing. I look forward to the quarter.

  9. I am really enjoying getting to know the different parts of my body that I didn’t know how to access before. The movement of our feet – stepping inner to outer foot and vice versa has been very interesting. I tap dance and frequently find myself with my ankles achy but these past couple of days I have noticed a decrease in this feeling after I tap and I think it has to do with moving my ankle and feet differently than I have before. I have not done much floor work before, but I have really been enjoying what we have been doing in class. Whenever floor work is in combinations at auditions I usually feel really nervous about it but I feel like this class is going to equip me to handle those situations better.

  10. I love Bartenieff Smarteniff so far! It has allowed me to think about MOVING, rather than DANCING. I am able to take a moment and reflect on not only how amazing the human body is, but how many positions it can be put in everyday that we don’t take advantage of. How many muscles we have and how fluidly we can activate them. There are so many bones and muscles that feel so good to awaken. I also like how good it is for focusing on how we use our body, rather than just jumping into the choreography, it is kinda of relaxing. A relief from 1, 2, 3, step, jump, kick.
    The idea that we can just take a moment and center ourselves for the rest of the day, just by focusing on the way our muscles feel and tending to those feelings. Even though it has only been a week, I woke Wednesday and felt almost incomplete because I didn’t get to warm up and just say hello to my body that morning. It is a nice relief and an amazing way to get the day started, that has aided in alot of release of stress and tension that would have been carried through the rest of the day. Especially in college, you can walk through the entire day with so much tension held in your shoulders, neck, back, abs, ect and never know because it is not something you think about when you are in a rush to get to class or take the exam, this is a nice way to release it. I also like the idea of working from the ground up on proper technique again, but this time personalizing it to each persons body, because it is so true, that I am not going to move like another person, and they are not going to move like me, because we are all different. Different body types, different ideas of what dance and movement is, and different ideas of consciousness. Every part of us is different from each other, except for the basics, our structure and core. I am very excited to get started on working towards discovering these new ways of movement, the right way, and even though it has only been one week, I know it is gonna be an amazing class.

  11. These first couple of classes has made me rethink movement completely. No longer am I pushing my body to do things; I am listening to what it wants to do. I have always tried to correct my technique by observing in the mirror and I really hope this class can help me to make the adjustments necessary on my body by feeling it internally. I want to be able to close my eyes and isolate every muscle and bone in my body on command. Ive never taken a class that has made me realize so much about my body in such a short time. I am excited to become more connected with my natural tendencies during movement. It is really nice to break things down and have enough time to assess what each position feels like on my figure. This is the first dance class in which I feel like I’m not always catching up. I have time to think about how I feel and not just what I’m supposed to be doing or if I’m doing it right. For the last year, I have been focusing on how to incorporate breath into my dancing and this will further help me to understand the concept. I am very hopeful that this class can help me grow in many ways.

  12. I have already had the pleasure to experience dance through a more somatic way of moving, and I hope to gain a further understanding after this quarter. I have looked at class thus far as a “re-learning” of the concepts I have already become familiar with. While in class I have been focused on engaging my body and feeling what somatic response naturally comes forward. Even while taking previous classes with Gerald I have found it difficult to stop myself from forcing my body to almost contort from classical influence. One example could be the ideas of opposing weight and transfer of weight. As I sat on a subject I have already been enlightened upon, I decided to really try and feel the concept within my body. The ideas of head-tail, body half, etc., should be a concept that I notice in my everyday movement as well in dance class. I feel like the identifying of these concepts should come to me naturally so that I may utilize them in my own works of dance as I compose them. From these first few days of class I have focused my attention on really understanding these terms and concepts so that they can truly be of use when applying them to my person and choreography.

  13. Generally, I make an effort not to connect with my body. My dysmorphia makes it very challenging to listen to how my body is feeling, because paying attention to my body is painful and upsetting. As a result of this, I am not noticing for the first time that I’ve developed several bad habits. I notice pain in my back from the way my shoulders slouch, stiffness in one of my hips because I don’t distribute my weight evenly, and soreness all over my body from how tense I am. This class is helping me address the bad habits that have been slowly forming for years, and I am already seeing it make me a better dancer and a more graceful person.

  14. I came into this class knowing that I have had some experience with being choreographed in a dance, but not so much connecting with my body and movements. After these first two classes, however, I have already felt more of a connection and awareness than I have ever felt before.
    I have a few classes this semester that are focused on finding my voice, and I’m so excited to be working in this class to find my connections to my body because I know the two need to work together. Also I know I have developed bad habits with how I carry myself and connect my movements to one another, and I’m am fully interested in not only addressing those habits, but breaking them down and, hopefully, turning them in the right direction. Overall I hope to work hard enough in this class to give myself a stronger foundation on which to build the technique that is necessary not only for good dancing, but healthy dancing.

  15. -Lacking knowledge in the body, both scientific and physical
    -Cannot locate all of my parts yet
    -Loss of balance
    -Loss of center
    -Still haven’t fallen over though
    -Inability to trust my own body
    -Must know the dance
    -Unable to work mind and body at once
    -Need to get out of my head
    -Don’t want to leave it behind
    -Can’t trust the body to do the dance by itself
    -Must have memory in memory instead of muscle
    -Unable to isolate the spine
    -Cannot establish a sense of spatial relationship with my limbs
    -Good thing we have a mirror
    -Thinking about how it looks
    -Not as much about how it feels

    This is a much simpler format; glad I gave it a try.

  16. Entering this dance class I had a good idea of how my body represented each dance move. Yet again i think everyone’s body can be surprising. These past few classes i have realized my body could move or stretch more than I believe I could. Some dance techniques that were difficult to do in the past just came naturally at one point. I feel with practice and getting to know your body you are capable of creating amazing body movements. Of course you should always realize your mistakes to learn from them. For example, when we go into a straight back in parallel position I never stopped to look if my back was straight. Lately i always catch myself fixing my back because it is either too low or too high. I think I will learn a lot from this class in correcting my body movements along the way.

  17. This week in class I discovered that I have a harder time learning routines standing up than I do learning floor work. I think that it’s because when I’m on the floor a larger portion of my body can a rely on gravity to use its forces on me whereas when I’m standing I must put more effort on my body to execute movements. For me to be able to remember routines when standing it takes more repetition and review for my muscle memory to kick in and take over. I also found that I have trouble doing turns with my bare feet against the floor. I watched Christina Briggs-Winslow do her turns as she demonstrated and they looked so graceful when she did them. They looked like the friction between her feet and the floor weren’t an obstacle for her and as if her body was a spiral. I hope to improve my turning skills by learning how to effectively push off of the floor to gain the momentum needed.

  18. I’m still struggling with disengaging my mind from worrying about how it looks vs. how it feels. While this is a mental roadblock I’m just going to have to keep working through, I wish there was an easy way for me to just shut my brain off and stop noticing or worrying when I don’t look as “polished” as others in class.
    Apart from this, I injured my back this week by putting on a towel after I was done showering…no idea where that came from. But I spoke with Christina about it and she thought it was probably a physical manifestation of (yet again) my mental state. I honestly think she’s right, and it made me think of when Gerald spoke on the first day about how our outward apprentice often reflects out inward state of being. The constant stress I’ve been under in the past few weeks is a proper culprit for my back pain, and actually, after dancing in class, it felt much, much better! So over the next few weeks, I really want to try and focus on relaxing my mind, both to stop worrying about not looking as beautiful as my fellow dancers, but to not let the day-to-day stresses of life and university overcome me so much that it creates such an obvious and painful physical manifestation.

  19. At first, I was unsure if I had the ability to dance, I feared of failing and making myself look horrible but fortunately so far the course has been taking a hold of me with each process of learning different movements and how we link each step to eventually correlate a dance piece.

  20. I decided to take this class at the latest possible time… An hour before it started. Part of this was enrollment grievances, but I also thought I would be far too busy. I am super glad I decided to take this class.. reflecting back, I think a problem that I had, and one that I am still trying to grapple with is really finding the dance sin my body and taking ownership of the movement.

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