Turning The PlayGround Green

I love being outdoors. I love to garden (though one might describe it as an "its complicated" relationship). I love hiking. I love dancing outside. Because of all this love, beginning January 2013 The PlayGround will begin transforming our artistic practice into a more sustainable and ecologically responsible process. The environment and climate change has long been an interest of mine and has manifested most prominently in the company's three year project, My ocean is never blue. During those three years the company explored humanity's multi-faceted relationship to water - from our personal relationship to spiritual, societal and political relationships. More recently we have explored the space where dance and nature can meet through our Scenic Route events. (see a wonderful video by Brian Harris from our last event here.) Beginning next year we will begin to incorporate those interests and concerns into our daily practices.

To begin, we are going to purchase carbon off-sets for the company's travel to and from all rehearsals and performances. Through carbonfund.org we will donate money in direct proportion to the miles we travel. This money will be used to develop renewable energy, energy efficiency programs, and reforestation projects. It is a small first step, but one we hope will make a difference.

As we move forward with this initiative - which we are calling The Green PlayGround - we will continue to finds ways to expand our conservation efforts to help make the world a greener place to dance.

Katie and Stephanie on one of our rehearsals for our recent performance of "Scenic Route 2.0".


Good Girls and Boys

Here is a favorite quote from Feldenkrais:

"The dependence relationship in which we are given a sweet if we are good girls and boys, in which we have to acquire the right to live by complying with somebody else's desires, must be completely eliminated before a society of creative and evolving beings will be formed."  

--- Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais from The Potent Self: A study of Spontaneity and Compulsion


The body is not an "if...then" statement, or why I love Feldenkrais

It is easy to want direct answers to questions, problems and concerns. This is certainly true when one is physically injured or are in pain. When we are suffering we go to an expert - our doctor, physical therapist, or even the trainer at our gym. Sometimes they are helpful, sometimes not. I would propose that the cases where we are not helped it is because we are often treated as an "if...then" statement. If you experience lower back pain then strengthen the abdomen muscles. Or, if your elbow hurts then you get a shot. But, each person is uniquely different and not one of us is an "if...then" equation. Why your lower back hurts may be entirely different than why my lower back my hurts. One elbow may be in pain because of an isolated, traumatic injury and another because of inefficient use of the whole body. To try and "fix" a person based on formulas may work in some cases, maybe even in many cases, but they will not work for everyone. Nor will they address larger systemic issues that may be effecting an individual's pain and discomfort. One must pay attention to how the whole works together, how the parts integrate into a whole.

This is why I love The Feldenkrais Method. A person is never treated as a symptom nor as a set of parts. We do not look at a person and think, "If A hurts then do B". We certainly consider a person's pain, but we explore how that pain fits in to their overall organization and functioning. When someone's lower back hurts you must look at the organization of the pelvis, the spine and head, their hip joints and even how they stand on their feet. And each individual's organization is going to be unique, so their path forward will also be unique. This approach is more complex and doesn't always yield simple answers. But it does give an opportunity for lasting and profound change in someone's organization and greater freedom in their movement.

When we approach the body as an "if...then" statement our understanding will be limited; if we approach the individual as a complex, integrated whole we arrive at a fuller and more satisfying place.

photo by Christine Stone Martin


After the hike, space.

On Saturday, October 6th The PlayGround - myself, Katie & Stephanie - lead 12 audience members on a 3-hour hike/performance, entitled Scenic Route 2.0, on Section B of the Billy Goat Trail in Maryland along the Potomac River. We were blessed with a beautiful morning - cool, clear and slightly breezy. In addition to stopping along the path a number of times to share site-specific dance sections, we were lucky enough to have classical singer Allison Hughes accompanying a couple of sections. And while the hike was deeply satisfying in a number of ways I didn't realize the impact of the performance until a little later in the day. After the hike I stopped at a small natural food store to get a snack, which I ate at a small table on the porch of the store. As I sat there I noticed a deep groundedness and calmness I was experiencing in both my mind and my body (is there a difference between the two?). Maybe because we did so much of the hike in silence there was a spaciousness to my awareness, much like after a deep period of meditation. Only infrequently have I experienced this state so clearly. I would like to say that now, as I sit on the Metro this Monday morning, that state of openness and calmness is still fully present, but of course it is not. Though as I remember those moments, both on the trail and sitting on the porch, I can re-sense that state clearly, if less intensely. It is always so satisfying when a performance, either one you see or perform in, stays and lingers awhile. Scenic Route is one of my favorite projects to share and experience. 

Below is a video Brian Harris created. He was an audience member that joined us for Scenic Route, though an occasional collaborator. He, quite nicely, captured the feeling the morning. 

Scenic Route from Brian Harris on Vimeo.


Breathing a little Deeper

Breathing is an essential function of the body and the only function that is automatic yet under our conscious control. We normally do not think about breathing, but we can hold our breath or change its rate at will. Breath is an important aspect to our functioning as it is our base-line for living and moving. It is the foundation and ground from which we are able to move, explore, and express. We breath slower when we are relaxed and faster when we are excited or exerting ourselves. When we are stressed or feel threatened we often engage the abdomen muscles and restrict the movement of the diaphragm - our main breathing muscle. This allows us to act, as in the fight or flight reaction. When the diaphragm is unable to fill with air it increases our sense of tension and unease. Unfortunately, people often live much of their daily lives without breathing fully - whether they are stressed, pull their belly in to "look good", or never slow down because they are always on the go. When we do allow our abdomens to relax and take a full deep breath, we let go of our flight or fight response and release our unneccessary tension. It is important to take the time to slow down and truly breathe deeply.  With deeper breathing people often feel more relaxed, at ease and in tune with their bodies. 

This month, October, I will teaching a Feldenkrais-based workshop at The Spa Room (near Tenley in DC) called, of all things... Deeper Breathing. It is a wonderful intensive for people who want to breath deeper and relax, as well as athletes, performing artists or anyone whose breathing affects their activities. In the workshop we will explore movement sequences designed to allow a fuller use of our lungs and breathing mechanism, and bring greater awareness to how you are breathing. A take home guide will be provided describing the movement sequences learned in the intensive.

The two workshops are Wednesday, October 10th @ 7:30pm, or Friday, Oct. 26th @ 10:15am. For more information or to sign up go to www.sparoommassage.com


Scenic Route 2.0

On October 6th at 8 a.m. The PlayGround will lead 15 people on a three hour hike along one of D.C.'s most scenic routes with performances at specific locations along the hike, in a work we call Scenic Route. I was recently talking with someone about this performance and while they were intrigued with this idea they had a central question, "Why?". This is, of course, a very good question. Why take a group of people out of a theater into an unpredictable environment? Why present a work you can only show to 15 people at a time? Why dance on rocks, next to a river, or along a dirt path? Why, oh why, schedule a performance to start at 8 a.m.? There is no doubt the work is difficult to create without the comforts of a studio - we've battled mosquitos, been caught in a rain storm and rocks are much less forgiving than a nice suspended dance floor, but, at the same time, it is exhilarating standing on a rock, peering over a ravine and allowing that experience to inspire you to move. There is something deeply satisfying about returning to the same place, away from the concrete and noise of the city, and have the space to breathe, move and find an openness nature encourages. I, and I think the whole company, finds a new way to relate to our bodies and find surprising movements and connections. We are also given the opportunity to explore new ways to share our dancing - playing with perspective, movement generation and proximity. And finally, looking forward to the performance, there is a difference in the relationship we are allowed to have with the audience that is not as formal as in a theatrical setting. Between the different movement sections we are able to talk, share our experiences and experience community with the audience - even if this community only lasts 3 hours. We have the opportunity to settle in, truly connect with the place and each other, and find a different, slower way to engage in performance, dance and nature. 

Contact us at info@danielburkholdertheplayground.org if you're interested in being one of the 15 lucky ones to join us on your hike! (sliding scale: $25 -$250) :)


What is Good Posture?

    When asked how to improve posture I usually disappoint because I don't, and can't, give a simple answer. When deciding what good posture is, we must know what we're trying to accomplish, because posture is situational. In different contexts we arrive at a posture through different lenses – either aesthetic or functional.  In some situations we judge posture for what it looks like, in others for what it allows us to accomplish. An example of an aesthetic posture is ballet, where dancers stand with legs turned out and pressed together, head erect, spine straight(ish) and arms held still. This posture is only “good” when trying to accomplish the movements associated with ballet. Watch athletes run the 100 meter dash and you will not see a posture determined by how it looks, but instead organized to move as fast as possible through space – and that is not a straight spine, head erect and legs turned out. Of course, if a ballet dancer took the posture of a sprinter it would be equally out of place. Posture is determined by context and desired functional outcome, and shifts from activity to activity.
    Another factor effecting our ability at achieve an ideal of posture is the fact that we are actually never still. To assume a posture suggests that there is a specific shape that is best for us and implies a sense of stillness or holding. Few people are still for very long, even when they are sitting or standing. Wanting to acknowledge that we are are always in action Dr. Feldenkrais coined the term “acture” to replace posture. This alludes to the fact that most of time we are always in "action" by constantly shifting, making slight changes and adjusting ourselves as we sit at our desk, waiting in line or even walking down a street.
    Posture is situational as well as always shifting and dynamic. But, this doesn't quite answer the question as to how to achieve good or appropriate posture. From a Feldenkrais perspective the first thing we must do is increase our physical awareness. Often our postural and movement choices are without awareness and simply habitual. As we increase the ability to sense ourselves we find more efficient and comfortable options in every situation. Hence, good posture is achieved not by having your head, shoulders and torso in a certain configuration, but instead being able to sense the changes needed situation to situation and moment to moment. A Feldenkrais Practitioner's goal is to assist students in improving their ability to sense themselves and choose the correct posture for any given situation.
I will be teaching a series of Awareness Through Movement lessons (May 7-21) at The Spa Room exploring "Improving Your Posture".  You can try a free lesson Monday May 7 from 6-7pm. Sign up here.
This entry is a re-post from my now defunct blog about The Feldenkrais Method.


Feedback for 'Worship/Home'

If you came and saw Worship/Home this weekend (April 21 & 22, 2012) at Joe's Movement Emporium, please leave any thoughts, comments, impressions, responses or even suggestions in the comment area below. Please let us know if you saw the video or the live performance first, and, maybe, how that impacted your experience.... but, really, any comment would be helpful. Thanks!


Earth Day Connection, By Chance

This coming Sunday is Earth Day, it is also the second night of the company's performance of our newest work - Worship/Home. In this work we explore acts of home, creating home, leaving home and being without a home. A metaphor often used in conjunction with Earth Day is that the earth is everybody's home and, of course, we should take care of it. Throughout Worship/Home we address the question "What is your favorite place in your home?" Coincidentally, when developing this material I wrote about how my favorite place is my family's garden - which, obviously, connects closely to Earth Day. Here is the text as performed in Worship/Home:

"My favorite place in my home is the garden. The optimism of the moment. The potential of bounty. The peas and tomatoes and beans. A bowl full of chard. The satisfaction of growing food. Between the planting and picking, early in the morning, when my family - my wife, my daughter - and I are in the garden, checking its progress, picking weeds, watering - these are the moments of togetherness, of doing something that feels vital, important. To have a garden is an act of community, an act of love. It is our spiritual work - to dig in the dirt, plant possibilities, nurture and harvest. This garden is the farthest I can get from my computer and daily to-do lists. It is an embrace and an island, a breath and a release. It just feels so good, to get my hands so dirty."

Go here to get more info on our performances: http://goo.gl/G3gAT


Lo-Tech Hi-Tech

I am interested in technology and how it can effect our art-making, art-presenting and art-viewing experiences. I have dabbled with technology in a number of ways - using video projection in performance, creating a performance for internet broadcast, encouraging audience members to post pictures and video of performances online, and irregularly posting videos online of performances and rehearsals. But I am also interested in technology as an social equalizer and not as an elitist tool. Because of this I am often searching for ways in which we can use technology at the lowest entry point, but still make it compelling and interesting. For instance, many of my most recent videos posted online has been shot and edited using my ipod touch. While an ipod touch is not cheap, it is much less expensive than owning a video camera, a decent computer and having software to edit the raw video footage. By having one, very small and portable devise to take care of many of my video needs I am able to create videos quickly and inexpensively. Another example will be my upcoming performance of Worship/Home in which we will be doing a live video feed (with live internet broadcast) in which we will be using the free site Ustream. Again, instead of expensive equipment and software we will be using an ipod touch with a free app from Ustream (using a free membership) to transfer the live feed from the theater to another location within Joe's. There are times, of course, when I see a performance that using high end technology to great effect and I am amazed and inspired, but because I am interested in the technology available to the widest range of people, I continue to explore these low cost entry points.

Art in the hands of the people!

Join us HERE for the performances live on the internet April 21 & 22.
Or, go HERE to buy tickets to see the performance live.


Tap as Home, Tap as Source

In my new work, Worship/Home, we are exploring ideas about home, creating home, finding home, or being without a home. As I was thinking about my own relationship to home and its meaning for me I began thinking about how dance is a type of home for me - a place I feel comfortable, accepted, at ease. This lead me think of how when I was younger my mother would say she most enjoyed watching me dance when I was tap dancing because she thought I was most myself when tapping - or, most at home. I began to wonder how to include some tap into this new piece. I decided to us some classic tap steps (buck time step and others) as a base for developing some of the movement by recording when there was a shift of weight from one foot to another, or when there was a hop. From these weight shifts we ended up with specific rhythms (1&2, 3&4, 5&6&7&8, or &2, &4, &6 7&8, etc..). Each dancer used these rhythms to create movement phrases, mostly for the legs, that moved through space. At the end of this process we ended up with movement phrases where the movements are different, but the timing of the shifts of weight are in unison. It creates an interesting tension between being in and not being in unison. We then took these phrases and layered them, combined them, and juxtaposed them to create sections of the new work. The below video is a rough draft of one such section. In performance we will not be dancing to a metronome, but were using one to keep time in rehearsal. Find out more about the performance here.


Freedom Through Addition

Often when working with students I am confronted with their immediate discomfort as well as their deeply entrenched habitual patterns. These are often one and the same, habitual patterns cause or contribute to pain and often pain creates or enforces inefficient habitual patterns. Hence, we can not deal with one without the other. Fortunately, The Feldenkrais Method doesn't see a person's current way of moving as wrong nor do we seek to eliminate students' movement patterns. We understand that the movement patterns people adopt served them at one point, may not serve them presently, but may serve them again in the future. So instead of trying to subtract these patterns, we investigate and offer alternative options that may be more efficient for a student's present needs. We seek to add options to the possible movement patterns available for each individual. 

One example of this is a person's ability to turn when they have an injury or chronic pain in their lower back. When the pain is acute often it is aggravated by rotating the spine. Hence, it is understandable that people begin to hold the pelvis and lower back still when turning. Problems begin when this becomes habitual and continute to hold the pelvis and lower back still when no longer in pain. This will, most likely, create tension and further discomfort. So, you want to be able to rotate your full torso to the full extend that is comfortable, when possible. A Feldenkrais practitioner does not see the “holding of the pelvis and lower back” as a wrong choice, nor the idea of “full rotation” as right. There is only a “correct” way of moving in a given situation. When your lower back is in pain it is sometimes the “correct” thing to do to hold your lower torso still and when you are in less pain it is often “correct” to rotate your whole spine. Ideally each person is able to move back and forth between a number of options depending on how they are feeling, what they are doing and what is being asked of them.

The idea that almost no movement pattern is wrong, but each just represents another option that may be more or less ideal in a given situation is central to The Feldenkrais Method. Dr. Feldenkrais believed that each person needed at least three ways to do anything (turn, stand up, climb stairs, etc...). If you only have one option than you are compulsive and have no choice. If you have two choices you can really only say “yes” or “no” in a given situation, and this is too limiting and not really a choice. So, you need at least three options to really be able to make a choice and have freedom in any or every situation. And this is exactly what we aim to accomplish in both group and private Feldenkrais sessions.

I currently teach Awareness Through Movement® (group classes) and Functional Integration® (private sessions) at The Spa Room in DC, close to Tenley/AU Metro station. Also check out our Feldenkrais informational site


20 Years Done. 20 Years To Go!

In the spring of 1992 Sharon Mansur and I performed together for the first time. I had created a piece called "Floor Plan II" for five dancers with original music by Alex Gardner which was premiered at the Hall of Mirrors dance studio at Glen Echo Park and Sharon danced in the piece. The performance also contained other works, including a solo by Sharon. Over the 20 years since that performance Sharon and I have collaborated in countless ways: by creating numerous works together, co-directing a dance company (Quiescence) for 7 years, as housemates, performing throughout the US, and teaching classes and workshops at universities, studios and even in old barns. This spring we are marking our 20th anniversary with a flurry of activities - last Saturday (1/15/12) we performed in Philadelphia in the Falls Bridge festival at Mascher Space Co-Op, we're teaching a 3-part improvisational workshop at Dance Place, we're creating and performing our first evening length duet (sightlines) February 18 & 19 at Dance Place and we're traveling to Michigan to perform in the RADFestival. A busy and fun winter/spring. Below is a some video excerpts from our performance in Philly. Enjoy.

photo by Stan Barouh