Monday, October 24, 2011

I Forgot To Inhibit

Warning: nerdy dancer jargon incoming. Today I subbed ballet classes for Maddie D. and I introduced the upper level students to the concept from Luc and Rebecca’s book (and workshop) about using the double spiral in pirouettes.

In a nutshell, in the preparation for a pirouette en dehors from fourth position to the right, the diagonal through the torso from the left arm in a la seconde to the right hip are in a secondary spiral. Before turning, you collapse the spiral toward primary. The body coils like a spring and then releases into the pirouette.

This is a really remarkable thing to feel and see when done right. For many of my students the results were immediate and exciting--floating, effortless, well-placed pirouettes where there used to be struggle and strain.

However, it did not work for all of them. Some of the students were so entrenched in their habitual turning patterns that they could not let go of those habits to make room for this new exploration.

This is where I messed up. I forgot to inhibit (ala Alexander Technique). If I were on my teaching game, I would have had those students not keep trying to do the concept, but to first recognize what habits they were deeply engaged in and to inhibit those first.

Without inhibiting, they simply tried to add one more idea onto a whole heap of other ideas and corrections they have built up over the years--kind of like stuffing an already overflowing drawer with an extra shirt. Before you can fit it in, you have to notice that the drawer is already stuffed and make some room for new pieces.


  1. I'd be interested in methods you use during class to encourage students to get some/all of those "shirts" out of that drawer. I've been using the tried and true partner observation, taking a moment to shift focus before repeating an exercise, typical personal corrections, things like that... Is there something that you've been using for a while or that has been working lately?

  2. If only you could have em from day one......:)

  3. Katie: The partner observation is still one of my favorites and most effective. If I can't get that to work, I try to create a situation where they absolutely cannot continue to do what they are habitually doing. This takes a little creativity on a case-by-case basis. But last night, one student continually would start to collapse the spiral as directed but then would suddenly wind up the entire spine with the left arm swinging back before beginning the turn. So, I stood behind her arm and made her try it. After a few false starts where she was about to hit me in the stomach, she finally inhibited that habit and did a beautiful pirouette. I'd love to hear any other tools you find useful.

    Publisher: So fact, even one of the students recognized this saying, "You should teach this to the young ones."