TALK WITH ZVI GOTHEINER AND SASCHA KRAUSNEKER
corpus: We are sitting here in the
teachers' lounge at the arsenal, for I was asked to lead a talk with both of
you about Feldenkrais technique. So I was looking up your CVs on the homepage
of ImPulsTanz to gather some information about your workshop assignments. I
know that Sascha is a certified Feldenkrais teacher, but when I looked up Zvi,
there was no trace of Feldenkrais about him at all. So I thought perhaps you
know more of each other than what is written in the official curriculum.
Sascha, what do you know about Zvi?
Well, Zvi and I have known each other for about ten years, not well though. I
think Zvi originally is a musician and as far as I understood a violinist. But
I also took some ballet classes with him, which I enjoyed incredibly. The way
he teaches his classes is very different to many other ballet teachers I have
experienced. The specific thing for me is the way he looks at movement and the
human body, and how both come together in his class is unique and special. And
this somehow reminds me of the things I do with the Feldenkrais method.
corpus: Zvi, if you had the chance to
describe Sascha to someone who hasn't heard of him yet, someone who is not
involved in the dance field, how would you introduce Sascha to that person?
was his teacher, and in my memory we had a wonderful relationship in class.
Sometimes you invest into someone and you see it coming, and that is my memory
of him. But I lost touch with him, so now I hear that he is a Feldenkrais
practitioner. I wouldn't say that I am expert in Feldenkrais because I never
really studied the technique thoroughly. I was introduced to it by my mother
who was a devotee of him. She had studied for many years with him, she had a
lot of books of his classes, and I think I read some of them. So maybe there is
a small link that unconsciously made an opening for my investigation of that
technique, and as much as I know about it, Feldenkrais is close to my heart. So
I am happy to see that Sascha is doing that.
corpus: When I was looking up what
your lesson offers to the participants, Sascha, I learned that your workshop
description revolves around the notion of improvement. So why would Zvi need a
Feldenkrais session in order to improve himself?
Krausneker: We all do, and we all don't.
I don't look at it that way – in terms of "need". We can all use some
improvement and learning on many levels, certainly also on the movement level,
and on the other hand we all don't, because we function. I would never give a
Feldenkrais lesson without asking the person if she/he wants to improve or
learn. So I would start with this question.
Krausneker: So I would ask him.
Krausneker: I am not going to ask you
now, Zvi, because we are not in that setting now.
Gotheiner: You know, I did one session
of Feldenkrais when I was seven years old, and my memory of it was pleasure. It
was lying on the floor, and mobilizing the shoulders, checking the range of my
motion, it was a very gentle approach to movement, so, yes, definitely, if you
asked me to participate my answer would be yes.
Krausneker: Was it a group or a single
Gotheiner: It was a group session. It
was in Haifa, Feldenkrais conducted the session from a little stage, the class
was recorded. He was amazing, something about him was life force. An old man
who is alive, engaged. Amazing.
corpus: Perhaps I hand over my
question to you, Zvi: why would you need a Feldenkrais session?
Gotheiner: To be truthful I never
thought about that until this very moment. I was not seeking it when I was a
kid, even though I enjoyed it. Since I am not dancing anymore, I do keep up
with some of my ballet routine, part of which could be traced to Feldenkrais
when I lay down on the floor and I mobilize my shoulders (laughs). So I mean if
somebody looked at what I do and gave me some instructions that would be fun.
corpus: I am interested in the link
of movement ideologies to one own's body. Everything of Feldenkrais is aiming
at one's own body, as far as I understand its principle. Since every body is
singular, its singularity asks for different solutions. (to SK) You led a
Feldenkrais session a couple of years ago where I was involved in. After the
session I was very confused in such a way that I felt the strange need to
reassemble my limbs to become a body unit again. I felt dissociated. In my
understanding of your session, it was about mobilization of singular parts to
create specific awareness for them. We also did eye movements, and when I was
finished with it, I remember very vividly that I had to come up to another
participant, feeling strangely empowered at the same time, so that I said
something stupid to that person. She was so thoroughly shocked by my attack
that she would immediately burst into tears. I had the impression that both of
us couldn't deal with the emotions arising. Do you remember that situation,
"In the Feldenkrais method, we don't play
so much with
the mobilization of joints or body parts, but we play with the image of
since images are located in the brain."
Krausneker: It was a special thing,
because the lessons were designed for a dance group that was in the course of a
rehearsal process, and you popped in for one lesson which was specifically
designed for very small eye movements. Movements with the eyes go very deep for
some people. In the Feldenkrais method, we don't play so much with the
mobilization of joints or body parts, but we play with the image of movement,
since images are located in the brain. Images or the way how we perceive
ourselves in movement are put together in patterns, otherwise we could not do
anything. If we had to think of single muscles, of how to assemble them or the
like. If you want to change something in the image of yourself, there is no way
around disorganization. Before we can integrate something new, have a new
pattern grow to be learned, we have to let go of old patterns. So what you
experienced is a part of what we do. Even though we certainly don't leave
people disorganized or confused, it's certainly part of the process to find
corpus: A couple of weeks ago, I did
another session which had a similar impact. I was concerned about my body not
being symmetrical. As if it wasn't organized along the vertical axis, not being
harmonious. I rather had the impression that my body is completely
asymmetrical. This caused a lot of problems for me.
Krausneker: Well, your body is just not
symmetrical. That's how it is. We only have one heart, it's (in most of us) on
our left side, we use one hand very differently than the other, we have a
dominant eye. We are just not symmetrical, that's the fact.
Gotheiner: How do you know, Peter, that
your body is not symmetrical? And why do you believe in that?
corpus: That's a good question.
That's the first question one comes up with: what's the image of the body that
by default has two legs, two arms, where everything is placed around a vertical
axis? There is an overall notion of symmetry. But Feldenkrais makes me find out
that MY body is not symmetrical. That for example one leg is longer than the
Gotheiner: How do you know that?
corpus: By the work of imagination
and the attempt to focus on ONE part and not on both at the same time.
Gotheiner: My heart for you. When you
work on the body, there's maybe a process that can allow you to find a
symmetry, to play with those two sides to become one, in the way that the right
and the left side correspond to a whole thing, so you don't experience it in a
fragmented way. I think ballet is great for it, because you take care of both
the right and the left side. Mental, physical blocks control the body, but when
you let go of it there comes the perception that you are symmetrical.
"I am looking at a holistic body for the
sake of motion,
a wholeness that brings the body to an organic flow, if you call it beautiful
or not, it doesn't matter in this context."
corpus: Doesn't the notion of
symmetry have a lot to do with beauty?
Gotheiner: I am not talking about
corpus: That would be exactly my
concern I'm afraid. If our bodies are inscribed by discourses, practices by our
culture in such a way that my body is not just my body, but it also belongs to
the culture, since the culture produces it. That means if my perception of not
being symmetrical somehow resonates in the fact that beauty, the way how in
Western civilization culture addresses beauty, is exactly dealing with
symmetry. If you do inquiries on what is beautiful and what is not, a lot of people would understand beauty as
one manifestation of symmetry. One historical beauty project in that regard is
of course classical ballet, since classical ballet and its technique revolve
around the notion of symmetry. The most beautiful dancer is perhaps the one who
is able to do left and right likewise at the same time, revolving around the
axis of verticality.
Gotheiner: Beauty is another issue, and
again it's a mental structure that is not uniform, since in different cultures,
people look at things differently. I am looking at a holistic body for the sake
of motion, a wholeness that brings the body to an organic flow, if you call it
beautiful or not, it doesn't matter in this context. In our culture nowadays, most
of the sexy body images you see are very dynamic, they are even not necessarily
symmetrical, not centered.
corpus: In which way not centered?
Gotheiner: You project an image of
sexyness, but you are not centered in your body, you are not holistic at all,
since you think that some parts of your body are more important. So you play a
role, you become an object, and the object defies your body in the way that
what becomes important is your pelvis or your breast. But in the end, the old
question comes up: what is not beautiful? The leaves, the trees, they are all
wonderful, all bodies. What should be wrong with any kind of body?
"There are so many asymmetries that we
have to look
into in order to understand how to deal with that. If we didn't have these
asymmetries, we wouldn't be able to compare."
corpus: The work of Feldenkrais in
this context is to come to terms with yourself, that you are not a projected
image. That you and your body are unique.
Krausneker: In a Feldenkrais lesson,
through the sensation of difference, we would come to a more harmonious whole
so there is no way around the sensation of being very different on two sides,
knowing that the brain constantly makes a whole out of it. The question is: can
it be a more intelligent whole? If there is a blockage somewhere, there is no
way around sensing it in order to change something about it. So the work is to
sense the differences and asymmetries in order to find – and now that is the
next topic I need to introduce when we speak about it – the functional use of:
what do I want to do with my body? If I want to dance, and if I need to be
symmetrical, or do something at the same time on both sides, I need to have a
better symmetrical functional use. So we can't just speak about the structure.
There are so many asymmetries that we have to look into in order to understand
how to deal with that. If we didn't have these asymmetries, we wouldn't be able
to compare. By experiencing ourselves, we achieve pleasure or improvement,
meaning being more potent to do what we want to do, and by that, we come to our
own sense of beauty and elegance.
corpus: To feel better, to be more
holistic, a strive for improvement, this seems to collide with the basic idea
of Feldenkrais to come to terms with yourself. Feldenkrais first of all tries
to make yourself aware of how your body actually differs from your body image.
The way you speak about improvement makes me rather think that one is simply
replacing a body image by another one.
Krausneker: Most people want to grow, want
to learn. And the Feldenkrais method offers a playful, organic way of learning
about the body. One of Feldenkrais' books starts with the following sentence:
"We act according to our self-image." So anything we do starts off from the
image that we have of ourselves. So if a dancer wants to improve a movement, we
need to look into that, because there is no improvement if the self-image
doesn't go along with it. In the end, if we play with what's there the learning
will happen by itself.
Gotheiner: The confusion sometimes,
concerning the body, is that people think they need to implant different
software in it, that they need to educate the body to function specifically. To
move muscles from one place to another, they would use opposing energies, what
leads to problems, to tension. I feel that the best investigation is to figure
out the wonderful intelligence that is already built in. The more you invest in
investigation, and become yourself, the clearer you become. And usually you let
go of things.
"The intelligence of the body is part of
the intelligence of the universe, it's the same intelligence that
makes a plant come to life, why two cells come together."
corpus: Sascha, you are talking about
learning not as a goal, but as a method, and Zvi advocates the intelligence of
the body. Where exactly is the intelligence in a body?
Gotheiner: The intelligence of the body
is part of the intelligence of the universe, it's the same intelligence that
makes a plant come to life, why two cells come together. Your body is
regulating temperature, your immune system is fighting invasions, you don't
even notice that you are breathing, there is an intelligence that is
phenomenal. When you try to control or subvert it, you usually create
resistance and blockage. Let's take an example from ballet. A plié is a basic
movement. What you do is that you go down and you bend your knees. If I ask in
class where is a plié going, people say it's going up and down, it's going in
two directions. This is the image the mind creates while you are looking at
your body during the movement. When you do that you tend to resist the flow,
and instead of going down, you kind of go when you don't go. And that in my
eyes is not intelligent. It's not connected to the simplicity of just going
down and up when the body decides to do, and it does it naturally,
corpus: Is it intelligent at all to
do a plié?
Gotheiner: There is a natural connection
of body and mind which commands that you go. If you look at command, control
and manifestation of the movement itself there is ongoing intelligence in the
corpus: (pointing to the room) While
the three of us are talking, there is a dancer who is warming up. (To the
dancer) May we look at you and talk about you while you keep practising? When
you look at the moving body, what do you see?
Krausneker: There are so many things to
observe when you take the knee in both hands and you move it towards your
torso. So first of all, you can look where does the movement take place, and
then when you watch closely, what's the idea of the person of the movement, for
the different parts, joints that are involved. What does the person expect, how
far does it go, how much power to use? How much movement is there in the hip
joint, and how does the pelvis participate, which part of the back is
participating, shoulders, arms …
corpus: When you get that
information, how do you deal with it then as a teacher?
Krausneker: Let's take pain for example.
We can see that pain in many cases is also just a pattern in the brain. When
someone has a pain lifting his arm for example, it might be that the pain is
not felt when we stabilize the arm and move instead the torso or the rest, even
though it's the same exact movement in the joint. But this pattern of pain
hasn't been triggered before. So we turn the game around, the brain by that
gets new input about the same joint. When we come back to the original arm
movement, there will be a different perception of the movement. We feed the
nervous system within half a minute with more experience, sensation, and a
different expectation with the next movement. And in turn we get change.
corpus: The notion of pain is
interesting. In the realm of ballet, pain becomes a measure for correction.
Some ballet teachers would for example touch and overstretch the leg of a
dancer in order to achieve the perfect arabesque. Next time, the dancer
wouldn't feel the same aching body. Zvi, do you correct dancers' bodies during
class by touching?
Gotheiner: I always work with touch to
create awareness and pinpoint places of tension. What I usually look for is a
lack of flow, why things are not moving. Many times, I also adjust an
alignment, yet it's not that I create magic since it's not always working. I
rather create options. But I have realized that class functions much better
when I am not interfering with it. The more irrelevant I am, the better it is.
Krausneker: You don't often hear teachers
saying that the less they interfere in the process, the better it works. We
have to be very humble. There is so much to learn from somatic approaches, that
we forget all the books and we just observe what is happening.
(August 15, 2008)