I had the great pleasure of presenting workshops at the 1st Atlanta Aerial Arts Festival 2 weeks ago (thanks to Constance Echo Palmer at The Space for organizing it!) What an amazing event. Instructors and speakers from aerial arts, physical therapy, sports massage, make-up, and other specialties contributed to a well-rounded program.
My workshops focused on fundamental movement patterns and how they inform our work in the air. As a Certified Laban Bartenieff Movement Analyst, I often reference these movement patterns when working with dance and aerial students. Since the system is rather large, I chose to zoom in on a specific pattern for each workshop.
On trapeze I focused on flowing through the spine, or the head-tail pattern. The articulation of each vertebral joint as well as the relationship between the head and the pelvis is a powerful awareness for an aerialist to develop. This pattern enables us to speed up or slow down rolls, balance across the bar, and slither around the apparatus using various pathways. Learning to lead with the head and flow through the spine, or lead with the tail offers us more movement possibilities that not only create more support in the air, but also invite more creativity.
I also offered a mixed apparatus workshop focused on the upper-lower body pattern. This workshop could become a 1.5 - 2 hour session because there is so much to explore! This pattern helps us to ground into one part of the body to facilitate freedom in another part. On the floor, we typically ground through the lower body to find freedom in the upper body. This is the basis for dance, Pilates, and yoga. But once the body is in the air, any part contacting the apparatus can become the foundation for grounding.
We began on the floor exploring how babies learn to crawl, because that is where the upper-lower pattern begins to form. This connected us to a sequence that Bartenieff called, “yield and push to reach and pull,” the foundation for walking and complex movements in aerial arts. Taking this idea into the air was both fun and challenging. I found it easier to access the “yield and push to reach and pull” pattern from seated on the bar, but it can also be translated to mounting the bar and other movements using hand holds.
When an aerialist embodies the upper-lower body pattern, the performer appears to be in true relationship with the apparatus. I think of the great aerialists who know their apparatus so well, it’s like having a dance partner. As a mover, I personally feel more relaxed and efficient when grounding into the apparatus. I can move with greater ease and joy because I am not holding so much weight in my upper body, but allowing my weight to be supported by the bar.
I am excited to develop these workshops further, especially since there are 4 other body patterns besides the 2 mentioned in this post. If you’d like to learn more about Bartenieff Fundamentals or movement patterning, please contact us and we’ll send you some references.
What have you noticed about movement patterns in your own movement practice? Please let us know in the comments below!
About the Author: Julianna Hane traded life on a cotton farm to become a dancer and aerialist. She is the author of the Aerial Teacher's Handbook and Director of Training for Born to Fly Productions.
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