Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gesture (theme for May)

Welcome! I'm starting this blog because I teach a weekly Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement® class. Each month I choose a theme for the class. I write up a little description of the theme in my emails about the class, and I always want to write a little more than is appropriate for a brief description. Also, I find that thinking about these themes and exploring them is a great way to think about Feldenkrais and describe it to others. So here's the long description of the theme for May. I'm going to include a few entries on past themes in the next few weeks.

My class has a performing arts focus, so I'm going to include examples from the world of professional musicians (which I also belong to) and other creative artists.

Gesture is basic to our life in the world. Movement, expression, communication, thought, observation--all are accomplished through gesture. Gesture is how we interact with the world around us.

In a flute masterclass a few years ago, I saw a master flute teacher point out that a gesture a student was making with her flute had nothing to do with the gesture she was making with the air. She made a big accent with her arms and the flute, but the accent was almost exclusively visible, because she didn't make an accent with the air as well.

When we're self-conscious, on stage or in an anxiety-producing situation, we may make similar false gestures.

An Awareness through Movement (ATM) lesson can help us regain authenticity of gesture. Many lessons explore a single whole-body gesture. Even the label "whole-body" is too small, because it's the whole SELF which is participating--movement, thought, breath, and sensation. The ATM lesson uses various strategies to explore the gesture: slowing it down, breaking it into smaller components, directing the attention to various places. Sometimes lessons explore just the initiation of the gesture, using so little movement that it's almost imperceptible. Letting go of effort that is not completely necessary to accomplish the gesture helps it become more natural. Our bodies and nervous systems have a natural logic that becomes more apparent as this excess effort, or parasitic movement, falls away.

As performers and as people interacting with the world, we benefit from clear gestures. Exploring and clarifying a gesture in movement helps us clarify gestures of thought and emotion as well. And clarifying HOW we communicate something helps to clarify WHAT we're trying to communicate as well.


  1. "And clarifying HOW we communicate something helps to clarify WHAT we're trying to communicate as well." -- So true. I notice that now that I see the 2 monks in residence from Bhutan at work every day. Their English is mostly limited to "milk?" which is what they offer when they find me in the kitchen making tea, and I don't speak either of their languages at all, but you can't beat the grinning and hand motions when we all try to talk to each other.

    Have fun with the bloggin!


  2. Thanks for explaining this. It makes a lot of sense, particularly thinking beyond the body when speaking of a musical gesture.