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Bartenieff Fundamentals™ (BF) - Dynamic Moving blocks

Posted Sep 29 2008 9:13pm

by Lesley Powell, Director of Movements Afoot

Dynamic moving blocks

My training at the Laban Institute of Movement Studies changed how I saw movement, performed and how I taught others. In 1985, I enrolled in the yearlong program at the Laban Institute of Movement Studies. I was fascinated by Laban theories about space as a choreographer and dancer. Being a CMA, a certified Laban Movement Analysis, opened a new world about movement and my teaching career.

Irmgard Bartenieff, the founder of the Laban Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS), was like a Renaissance woman. All movement fascinated her: child development, cultural perspectives, non-verbal communication, psychology, Physical therapy, dance and more.

Bartenieff Fundamentals™ (BF) is a system created by Irmgard Bartenieff to teach people concepts to promote healthy function. The beauty of the system enhances strength, function and mobility. This is one of the few body modalities that address how the body organizes for different spatial demands. How the body moves in basketball is very different than playing tennis.The system is simple in breaking down to 6 basic movement actions. The complexity comes with the many combinations of the 6 actions with underlying concepts of breath, core support, alignment, rotation, phrasing and spatial intent. The applications to movement are endless with no conflict of style. Within the framework of any physical practice, BF is a modular system within any form of movement. By enhancing function, physicality improves. This is essential with problems of injury rehabilitation and sport/dance performance.

Teaching Bartenieff Fundamentals™ within any movement lesson are wonderful shorthand devices to improve the coaching of a session. Whether it is the dancer’s port de bra, the tennis swing or the injured arm of a client, interlacing BF within the movement lesson plans quickly enhances the lesson. For instance if the shoulders are up, putting the client’s attention of working from the scapula can improve form.

My first classes based on Bartenieff Fundamentals™ were at Dr. Backrach’s Center for Osteopathic Medicine in 1987for conditioning to injured clients. Teaching Bartenieff Fundamentals™ to an injured population taught me the power of this work. My colleagues in my certificate Laban/Bartenieff program were such great movers that I did not understand the importance of BF. Working with injured clients led me to a deeper understanding into the concepts of BF and their potential in assisting neurological repatterning. Working with clients with injuries, I saw dysfunction in their movement patterns. BF gave the clients information about their movement patterns and how to make positive change.

Because of my success with working with clients, I was invited and paid to learn how to teach Pilates at JRW Physical Therapy in 1990. The physical therapists at that time were having difficulties with traditional Pilates teachers working with an injured population.

A majority of the cases of the clientele of the physical therapy practice were suffering from repetitive stress disorder. Because their arms/hands were in trauma, a lot of the Pilates exercises were contraindicated. Bearing weight on their hands especially on the footbar was painful. Within my Pilates sessions, I would work with the clients on the Bartenieff Fundamental™: hand-scapula relationship before I trained more complex and weight bearing exercises. My first goal was to get ease of motion of the scapula to help lift the arm. When they could work pain-free, I added slowly more resistance.

The Bartenieff Fundamental™: thigh lift is an important action of all movement: gait and dance/sports activities. It is the dancer’s passé, the initiation of the kick in sports, yoga, fitness and most importantly our walking. The ability to move our legs and move us through space is essential for everyday activities. The freedom of the thighbone in the hip socket with the strength of the leg and torso muscles take us into standing, walking and more complex movement actions. A lot of problems of back, hip and knee pain can be a cause of poor patterning how the thighbone moves in the hip socket, pelvic stability and lifted to propel us in space.

A poor thigh lift disconnects to the deep use of the abdominals and the psoas will be lost. Other muscles will have to take over for the lack of this connection. The thigh lift is essential for all abdominal exercises and all movements that require level changes and propulsion.

This is the beginning towards a book primarily about Bartenieff Fundamentals™. This is a small part of an application of the Laban material.

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