Spiral staircase

We have been exploring the work of Irene Dowd. Last week, we learned Spirals and this week we will look at Orbits. 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.



10 thoughts on “

  1. Irene Dowd makes a good point when she says that it is not always easy to tell when you are shortening or lengthening in your movements, and I feel that I too have experienced this. In this article, she says that it is because we are rarely performing another motion from a neutral space, and I hadn’t really thought about that before. It makes sense that movement is sequential and grows off of previous ones. I think Irene Dowd makes it really clear about the enhancement in stability, injury prevention and our performance in general when we take the time to notice which muscles are contracting or extending, lengthening and shortening.I feel like the spirals choreography really exhibited the different bodily awarenesses in each movement sequence and it really got my body warm.

  2. Movement for Memorization.

    After learning Spirals and Orbits last quarter, I was anticipating and excited to revisit the wonderful world of Irene Dowd again. I am especially thrilled that we are learning more this time around. I love building on things and it seems Dowd meant for her Spirals and Orbits to be open for continually growth to whomever is practicing. When I was practicing yoga, the first few classes the instructors always show you the basics and I remember looking around at the elite yogi’s never feeling inferior to them in my “newbiean” poses, but rather finding it inspiring. I was amazed at what practice and stretching one’s limits could amount to. Balance seems so difficult sometimes and if you practice patience like the yogi’s do in their poses, it becomes easier and easier over time. That being said, I could tell how long it had been since I have been avidly practicing in Tuesday’s class. I could tell how I haven’t been pushing my limits or dancing enough and after learning these progressed Sprirals and Orbits of Dowd’s, I am again inspired and plan to practice them daily until I get my balance back. Wow am I out of shape. My muscles were burning everywhere and I could feel myself tensing up. Balance was near impossible due to the sleeping muscles I was trying to wake up. Now that I am very aware that my body has been taking too long of a nap, it’s time to come out of hybernation. I’m really excited to be researching Irene Dowd for our paper and can not wait to open her book that just came in the mail today! But just as she said in the article above, “We learn by doing. If we learn it intellectually, we forget,” I will be reading her book, but more importantly, I plan to incorporate Spirals and Orbits in to my life as a whole. I always wondered why after time, dances just stick with someone or yoga moves and terms are imbedded after a few months practice, yet math equations or literary words we wish we could remember forever dissipate if left for too long. Movement is so rewarding in more ways than anything else I can think of. We are all so lucky to have Gerald to pass down the challenging and mind perpexling movements of Dowd. Tuesday’s class was a big WAKE UP call to my body, mind and overall balance in life.

  3. Spirals feel good on my body! I understand what she is doing and I feel the benefits of practice. I have been motivated to do this at home by myself, and it changes my day. There are places where I need more upper body strength, like the one arm push-up. I’ve made it a point to work my arms daily and I’m seeing some improvement, thankfully! I’m noticing that I have increased muscular balance and more muscles firing together. Orbits are more challenging, it’s my wobbly balance that distracts me from what I’m doing but I could really feel the work from Tuesday. I felt like I was wearing the tightest Spanx made, and that’s a good thing. My calves were screaming too. Thursday’s strike kept me home so I embodied, practiced Spirals, sketchy Orbits and some core work. It felt great and was reminded that doing these movements on a regular basis is the best therapy for my physical self and helps me to be self-motivated. Practicing 5 minutes of meditation has “changed my life,” as Gerald said in class. My running list of projects is more manageable and inspiration flows freely, I’ve even got my husband meditating and he feels better.

  4. I agree with Irene Dowd! Dance follows a sequential pattern; one movement leads to another with such flow and ease. One movement feeds off the previous one and so on, allowing everything to fall in place. After Tuesday’s class, my body felt relieved as if I had dropped a heavy weight off my shoulders. I felt more connected with myself, I was more well aware of my body and how it moved in relation to gravity.

  5. I just watched Irene Dowd’s video from the link pasted above and it really brought a new angle to looking at pile’s. When I would pile in dance class all I would think about is bending my knee’s, after all, the only movement the audience sees is me moving down. As I continued my training my teachers told me to reach upwards with my head as I move down and employing a sort of counter reach to the movement. After several ankle injuries, I had to re-teach myself how to correctly align my knees over my feet and I am still current.y working on that. I was also only later in my training that I discovered that my turn out comes from my hip and not my knee, ankle or foot. Now, after watching Irene’d video it only makes sense that the hip should also engage the pile. I will think about that next time I work on my plies.

  6. When watching the video on outward rotation, I thought it was interesting how she told the dancer to rotate from the socket and the thigh. Whenever I turn out I almost always concentrate on my knee and outer thigh rotating instead of the hip socket. I wrote my paper on Mabel Todd, who really encouraged dancers (and people in general) to be aware of which parts of their bodies are active. Irene’s methods of teaching the dancers about their bodies is so similar to Todd’s methods. It’s cool to see how Todd’s work has lived on for so long and is now a common practice among dancers.
    As for Orbit, I was having a difficult time being able to transition through all the different movements, but I will try to be more aware of how my body is working and I think it will definitely help!

  7. The past two weeks have helped me to think about the way my body moves in more of a scientific way than an aesthetic way. For example, when we were doing orbits and isolating the hip before the leg, I wouldn’t think about it too much. But when Gerald said to start going the opposite way, I realized I never knew which way I was moving my hip. And it was harder, for some reason, to engage the movement in the opposite way than I was initially moving. Orbits is especially challenging, and kind of throws everything in my body off, especially balance! But I have noticed that I feel like my “onion” gets sufficiently warmed up during this time. I played water polo for a long time, and the egg beating motion is all about your hips. I had multiple injuries in my knees and thighs and eventually could not play comfortably anymore. I always thought the pressure was on my knees, but these exercises have got me thinking more about it being about my “onion” not getting warm before I go crazy on it.

  8. I really agree with Irene Dowd’s overall understanding of dance technique. I like how she emphasizes kinesiology in order for her students to truly understand what she wants them to do. This can especially be seen in the video that was posted in the given article. Dowd describes doing a développé fondu to the front as imagining the thigh bone is outwardly rotating as much as possible in the socket. It is a weird description to think about alone but thinking about it while doing the movement makes it so much more understandable.
    The “Spirals” phrase was very interesting to me in terms of the way we learned it. I enjoyed how we learned the arms first then added the legs afterwards. This made it easier to get down every detail of what each muscle was doing during the phrase because everything was rotating in different directions. This became another one of my favorite pieces just because of how many aspects there were to keep in mind about the body’s rotation.
    The “Orbits” phrase is actually my number one favorite piece out of the entire quarter. It is the most challenging and useful phrase to me. I love the challenge of balancing on one leg for most of the piece because when I finally get better at it, I feel so fulfilled. Also, I have learned so much about my hips and turn-out from this piece alone: I found my “onion”, know how to rotate all parts of my hips, and learned how to work/stretch my hip flexors. Sometimes workouts that do not involve full body extensions tighten up my hip flexors and I am glad I have learned a way to stretch them out.

  9. I really enjoyed learning spirals but had a hard time with orbits. I enjoyed spirals because it’s on the floor and transitions on the floor are easier for me. At first I struggled to twist my upper half in a different direction from my lower half, but the positions actually feel really natural and comfortable. Orbits were a lot harder for me because I am not a very graceful person and do not have very good balance. I found that my standing foot would cramp when doing orbits and I was overall uncomfortable. Most definitely orbits has been the most challenging combination for me this entire quarter. However, I am really glad that Gerald shared Irene Dowd’s work with us and I have benefited so much from it because I will continue to use spirals to warm up before dancing in the future.

  10. Although I found it to be very challenging, I really enjoyed learning orbits. I like how Dowd explains the initiation of movement from the hip sockets. Since I’ve had several injuries in my knees and ankles, I really connected to what she was saying. The engagement of the whole body makes me feel prepared to move and more mentally prepared to dance. I feel more in tune with how my body should be moving according to the limits to my body, as opposed to the aesthetic appearance of it.

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