January 19th, 2023
Shape Flow Support can be defined as the internal support for form change, the baseline of which is growing and shrinking (breathing in, breathing out).
When we are babies, our movements stem from the torso, the core, but as we become upwardly mobile, we often forget that the core can continue to support all movement. The arms and legs can move independently, but how much more ease can we find by supporting the movement from the core?
This video explores using muscles in the torso to lift the arms to playing position on the cello, so that the muscles of the arms are not engaged just to hold them up, but can instead be free to move the hands and fingers where they need to go. It saves a lot of energy and hopefully prevents pain, too!
The Body category of Laban Movement Analysis contains various subsections, one of which is Patterns of Total Body Connectivity. They are: Breath, Core-Distal, Head-Tail, Upper-Lower, Body-Half, and Cross Lateral. These are based on observable neurological patterns babies go through in about the first 14 months of life. The differentiation of the upper and lower parts of the body allow the baby to experience locomotion! The baby realizes that if they push with their legs and feet, they will move forward, and if they push with their hands they might move back. Our lower body, though it is responsible for ambulating (walking), is also quite good at stability, which is very useful to us as cellists (and musicians in general), and certainly allows for upper-body mobility. The questions addressed in this video are how can we feel stability (and power) in the lower body? How can we use the upper body mobility that is gained by lower-body stability? How can our lower body connect through to the upper, and what does all of this do to our sound? I encourage you to work to notice also what it does for you physically. Is there any tension or relaxation that wasn't there before? How is it helping? hurting?
(Please see the previous post as well.) 3-D breathing allows us to initiate and support our movements in any direction. The movements can be subtle and small or obvious and large. You may find that the bigger and more dramatic you need the sound to be, the bigger and more dramatic the movement will be! I strongly encourage you to try these different types of support with your breath: vertical, sagittal, and horizontal, and listen for differences in your sound. I mention this in the video as well, but it's important to support movement with your feet and feel that your pelvis can roll with the movement. Observe the way that the breath can not only initiate and support the movement, but how that makes the movement feel. Perhaps it's easier, or perhaps the sound is more fluid when breath is the focus. Feel free to leave comments about what you observe!
Breath and Breathing Scales
The Body category of LMA (or sometimes called L/BMA to include Bartenieff) was developed by several people, but Irmgard Bartenieff was the main innovator. The Patterns of Total Body Connectivity (PTBCs) are based on neurological patterns that an infant works through in about the first 14 months of life. The patterns, and the physiological development that occurs as babies work through them, allow new sensations and new experiences. What must it be like the first time a baby rolls over? What a change in perspective! The patterns, in order, are: 1. Breath, 2. Core-Distal, 3. Head-Tail, 4. Upper-Lower, 5. Body-Half, and 6. Cross-Lateral. Each pattern gives the body a different way of organizing and coordinating itself in movement. Above you see the symbol that represents the first pattern, the Breath Pattern.
This pattern, which is the focus of the following video, is not only the first but also the pattern from which all of the others develop. Breath is in every subsequent pattern. Breath supports movement, makes it easier, and connecting to breath can center you and bring your focus to your inner mobility and structure.
To become aware of the breath is to simply observe it--no need to make changes! If you like, try sending breath to different places in the body, try varying the depth and frequency of your breath. Does it change how you feel? In what way?
In the following video I ask that you inhale to initiate down bows and exhale for up bows. What do you feel if you try the opposite? Think of these videos as starting points for creative, experimental practicing. Enjoy!
"The main objective...is to suggest additional modes of perceiving yourself and the world around you, using your live body totally--body/mind/feeling--as a key to that perception." (Irmgard Bartenieff, 1979)
Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) gives us a scaffolding and a vocabulary to understand, observe, and describe human movement. Founded by Rudolf Laban, a dancer, choreographer, and dance theorist, and further developed by Irmgard Bartenieff, among others, the system is composed of four categories: Body, Effort, Shape, and Space. The Body category concerns internal connectivity, sequencing of movement, initiation, phrasing, and relationships between parts of the body. Effort is the category of intention--how is the movement of reaching across your desk for a pencil different from a boxer's punch? Effort is often considered the "emotional" category. Truly emotions can have an effect on the type and quantity of energy you invest, but it is best not to make assumptions about emotion when observing movement. Each person's movement signature, the movements they are most comfortable and familiar with, means something slightly different. The Shape category addresses the form and forming processes of the body. This category clarifies the appearance and structure of the body's movement.(Colleen Wahl, 2019) Lastly, the Space category explores how the mover is engaging with the space, revealing space, stirring it up, pushing against it, and so on. It also deals with where you are directing your movement in 3-D space: forward, back, left, right, up, down, a combination of several?
This is only the beginning! More specifics will come with video explorations of particular ideas and aspects of LMA and how it relates to playing the cello. Stay tuned!
Cellist, baroque cellist, Laban Movement Analyst, and cello professor at Idaho State University.