Recognizing right

Alexander Technique wooden block doll goes from jumbled to organized

“Everyone wants to be right, but no one stops to consider if their idea of right is right.”
~F.M. Alexander

Often, problems we feel with a partner arise not because they (or we!) don’t know what to do, or even how to do it. They arise because we don’t know when we are doing the right thing. After lifetimes of misuse and abuse of our bodies — 20,000 hours in school desks, countless more hours sitting at a work desk or watching TV or working a computer, hunched over a smartphone, sports and other injuries — we can in many ways come to a point where what is wrong feels right, and what is right feels wrong!

In our teaching of students and in our practice with partners we can often spark quick and even profound understanding when we guide experiences that help a person discover for themselves a range of possibilities and where they want to work within that range.

Sensitivity calibration game
Using simple movements in place, such as weight change, step and return, rebound, twist to invite partner’s step, etc. Between steps, or a series of steps, the receiving partner silently chooses a “sensitivity setting” between 0 = immediate responses to no inputs, to 6 = heavy force required to move. They will move and react with what they perceive as that level. Then the sending partner will say what they think the setting was.

After a productive session of this, where you each come to understand the other, now you can turn the table and make it a …

Force calibration game, where the leader silently chooses a level of force they will use, from 0 = just thinking about moving, to 6 = Mack truck. The receiving partner guesses their partner’s setting.

Now the two of you can have a pleasant and productive talk about your preferences, and likely come to a comfortable range that suits both of you.

Discussion: If we respond too eagerly to a lead, we likely will cut off possibilities to know what our partner actually intended. We want to be aware, as well, that some partners will have more or less “noise” (unintentional, undirected, or misdirected movements) in their movement system. If we respond slowly to a lead, if it takes significant force to get us to respond, then we will feel uncomfortably heavy to our partner.

If we lead with lots of noise, it makes it harder for our partner to home in on what we really mean; they get confusing, multiple signals. If we lead with too little force we can feel tentative to our partner; too much force and we feel unpleasantly demanding.

Also, some dancers will naturally favor a light, quick, highly responsive partner; while other dancers want their partner to respond or lead in a heavier, more forceful way.

We want to mirror and accommodate our partners, while keeping sure that we are neither too sensitive, responding to things that aren’t really intended, nor too INsensitive, requiring a heavy lead.

[Previously published 2017-08-22 on Facebook.]

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