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Teaching Dancing with Ideokinetic Principles

Drid Williams

Publication Year: 2011

In examining ideokinesis and its application to the teaching and practice of dancing, Drid Williams introduces readers to the work of Dr. Lulu Sweigard (1895-1974), a pioneer of ideokinetic principles. Drawing on her experiences during private instructional sessions with Sweigard over a two-year span, Williams discusses methods using imagery for improving body posture and alignment for ease of movement. Central to Williams's own teaching methods is the application of Sweigard's principles and general anatomical instruction, including how she used visual imagery to help prevent bodily injuries and increasing body awareness relative to movement. Williams also emphasizes the differences between kinesthetic (internal) and mirror (external) imagery and shares reactions from professional dancers who were taught using ideokinesis. Williams's account of teaching and practicing ideokinesis is supplemented with essays by Sweigard, William James, and Jean-Georges Noverre on dancing, posture, and habits.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Dr. Drid Williams provides us with a vivid and perceptive account of the work she did with Dr. Lulu Sweigard, the founder of ideokinesis, during the 1950s and 1960s, and how she applied Sweigard’s tenets to her own teaching of dance over many years and venues. This detailed explanation offers an invaluable look at the historical context and groundbreaking teaching concepts...

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pp. ix-xiii

When I studied with Dr. Lulu E. Sweigard (b. 1895–d. 1974) in the late 1950s, I went to her for “neuromuscular reeducation.” The name “ideokinesis” didn’t yet exist (the word is a combined form meaning ideo = “idea,” plus kinesis = “body movements” or “gestures”). This name was applied to the discipline in the early nineteen-seventies. There were comparatively few people in the New...

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Chapter 1. Beams of Light

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pp. 1-17

Because I took courses in physiology and anatomy at Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon, during the early forties, Dr. Sweigard said I could begin lessons with her after completing a single private course in bone anatomy with Dr. C. A. de Vere in New York City. I enrolled with him in 1957 and worked with him for six months. I started with Dr. Sweigard at the end of...

Appendix to Chapter 1: Lexicons of the Body

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pp. 18-20

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Chapter 2. Relaxation

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pp. 21-34

Throughout A Kinesthetic Legacy, Barbara Clark refers to the so-called relaxation features of ideokinesis as “table work” and “table teaching” (Matt 1993: 43–47, 49). I found her comments especially interesting because my introduction to ideokinesis was entirely through the constructive rest position (hereafter called CRP). Many sessions I had with Sweigard consisted...

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Appendix to Chapter 2: Constructive Rest

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pp. 35-36

Consistent daily rest in the constructive rest position produces various changes in the body. The pressure area of the pelvis on the floor becomes greater. Any discomfort from pressure at the end of the spine (coccyx) lessens or disappears. The low back rests closer to the floor; its hollow is not as great. The knees stand upright more easily. The arms should lie across the chest more comfortably. However, continued tightness...

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Chapter 3. Baking Biscuits and Kinesthesia

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pp. 37-46

More important to realize, perhaps, is the fact that there are huge differences between teaching ideokinesis to nondancers and dancers. The area of overlap grows smaller for dancers because the aims and attitudes of serious dancers toward their bodies are in a class by themselves. On the whole, professional dancers are in a distinctly different social group that is defined by what they...

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Appendix to Chapter 3: The Dancer's Posture

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pp. 47-53

During a distinguished career in research, teacher training, and private teaching, Dr. Lulu E. Sweigard came to the Juilliard School of Music, Dance Department in 1956, in the sixth year of that pioneer project in the professional training of young dancers—a pilot project by virtue of its introduction of serious study of the art of the dance in its various aspects into one of the world’s great schools of music and by virtue of its aim. As Juilliard president...

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Chapter 4. Doctors, Dancing, and Ideokinesis

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pp. 54-68

Before making specific distinctions between teaching dancing to professionals (or aspiring professionals) and the kind of classes I taught in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I will make a further point about Sweigard’s book and her system of teaching as I conceive it. I alluded to various responses to her book (and, by extension, to ideokinetic practice) in a review written in 1979...

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Appendix to Chapter 4: Better Dancing through Better Body Balance

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pp. 69-72

Among dancers, equally blessed with all other qualities which contribute to their success, and subjected to equally good teaching, the dancer with the best posture will progress faster, reach a higher degree of attainment, and last longer in his profession. In fact, there is probably no activity in which one’s body alignment, or posture, is more important than in the dance. ...

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Chapter 5. Mirror, Mirror . . .

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pp. 73-85

Mirrors made by polishing metal surfaces have been in use for centuries, beginning with ancient Egypt, where the aristocracy had gold, silver, and bronze mirrors as early as 2500 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). However, mirrors as we now know them were first created in Venice, Italy, in the sixteenth century. They were made of glass with a backing of tin-and-mercury...

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Appendix to Chapter 5: Accentuate the Positive . . .

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pp. 86-89

Perhaps few people today will remember an old popular song that began: “ACCEN- tu-ate the positive, E-LIM-in-ate the NEG-a-tive. . . DON’T MESS WITH MR. IN-BETWEEN,” but I recall these words well—though nothing beyond them has remained. Not only was the song in vogue when I began studying ballet in the early nineteenforties, it provided an idea about teaching that I never forgot. ...

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Chapter 6. Imagery and Habit

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pp. 90-99

In the last chapter, I argued that there are different kinds of imagery important to the teaching of dancing. I focused on an important distinction between mirror imagery (outside the body) and kinesthetic imagery (internalized imagery) inside the body. Of the three definitions of image we began with, we have dealt with two: 1. mirror images and 2. the notion of idea or mental...

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Appendix to Chapter 6: Walking Bundles of Habit

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pp. 100

Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state. We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar. The drunken Rip Van Winkle, in Jefferson’s play, excuses himself for every fresh dereliction by saying, ‘I won’t count...

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Chapter 7. More about Teaching Dancing

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pp. 101-112

There are features of any class in ballet and modern concert dancing (including ballroom dancing at a competitive level) that are, in my opinion, liabilities. These liabilities are inherent, first, in the composition of most, if not all, dance classes of any kind. Classes are usually divided, first, into age groups, then into beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes. These designators...

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Appendix to Chapter 7: Letter XI

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pp. 113-118

It is rare, Sir, not to say impossible, to find men perfectly proportioned, and for this reason it is quite common to meet with a crowd of ill-proportioned dancers, in whom one only too often sees defects of physique which all the resources of art can scarcely conceal. Is this due to a fatality of human nature by which we always withdraw from that which is suited to us, and so often pursue a career in which we can neither...

References Cited

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pp. 119-122

Author Index

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pp. 123

Subject Index

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pp. 125-128

About the Author, Publication Information

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pp. 129-130

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093067
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036088

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2011