many applications and levels of Summers' Kinetic Awareness work.
Most individuals, including those who eventually incorporate Kinetic
Awareness into their own work, initially come to study because they
have an injury or other problem with their bodies. Training and
maintaining the body is the central concern of dancers and the reason
major dancers in New York have ended up on Summers' floor.
KA does not substitute one system of movement for another, but by
learning how the body works - physically, physiologically and
psychologically - students can
reclaim their bodies as their own.
"Summers uses anatomy and kinesiology to help students connect their subjective experiences with objective understanding of physical structure and function. KINETIC AWARENESS should find a place in every body therapist's library and in the classrooms of movement educators".
Martha Myers, book review of Kinetic Awareness: Discovering Your Body/Mind
Release (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary Second Edition):
Illustration by Ann de Vere
is a part of tension. Release is one of the possible ways we may choose
to use our tension. Our freedom to use the full galaxy of our tension
system depends on our genetic gifts, functional use, hereditary endowment,
cultural environment. It is part of our life history on every level; including
emotionally, kinetically, physically; on a micro or macro level, from
cellular to our total body/mind/spirit life.
We are always involved
in the struggle between two opposing forces, gravity and levity. "Levity
is a hypothetical force formally believed to be inherent in certain bodies.
Levity is also a tendency to rise by the action of such a force."
(Webster's unabridged dictionary, second edition.) Our tension balances
gravity and levity. It cannot change gravity so tension changes and adjusts
levity so that we can stand and even jump, or leap. As gravity lessens
we float. In the absence of all gravity we would float outward into space.
Tension is the force that can resist the magnetic force of gravity. When
we release out tension totally we collapse, we literally give in to gravity.
Gravity is always pulling us towards the earth's center. In rising from
the ground we feel the pull of gravity and the energy necessary to resist
Kinds or Elements of Tension: Speed, Quantity and Direction
We have choices in all the elements of tension. We each have our own scale of speed, our own amount or quantity of tension possibilities, and the ability to direct it to any part of our body. Within the (amount) scale of tension we can choose to use zero % which equals collapse or to use 100% 3 dimensional tension. We may vary the speed of tension from the split second reaction of a reflex, to an infinitely slow exquisitely controlled breath; or as in the discipline of Yoga, slow down even our heart beat. We can direct any amount of tension to any part of our body including one tiny molecule or cell; or one part of our body, our little finger, the lower lid of our eye, or to our entire body simultaneously or successively. We can develop or ignore this resource. We can work within the center of our tension boundaries or explore the edges.
Each culture and civilization
explores the tension and the energy of their physical kinetic being and
its relation to their minds, emotions and spirit. Different cultures have
developed taboos or an emphasis on or use of particular parts or qualities
of their tension systems. This includes all the cultural attitudes towards
touching: as simple as, for example, a handshake. How much tension do
you use and when do you release a handshake? If you use a firm handshake
in one culture you communicate honesty, directness, trustworthiness: in
another culture you are seen as overbearing, intrusive, dominating. We
are taught early to restrain / restrict / control our body's desire to
CENTER: The place where your body can sustain itself independently
with the least amount of tension. The place where your body can just BE.
Standing is a balancing act of skeletal alignment sustained by the tonicity
of the muscles. In a healthy body we are always moving from contraction
to some form of release or letting go or relaxation.
RELEASE: is a word that describes a particular use of our tension
system. It is a part of the whole bio-kinetic physical system called tension.
It is the action of changing tension levels from a high level to a lower
level; its intensity can vary from a sudden explosive letting go of whatever
state of tension you are in, to a gentle release at any speed. You can
choose the dynamics of a release by using the elements of speed and quality.
We can release any part of our body, but the release and contraction need
to be balanced. In order to inhale we must use tension to draw in the
air; to exhale we release our breath.
FROZEN: Sending energy constantly to one or more parts of the body
in order to maintain a position. It is very difficult and a great skill
to be able to "hold one shoulder in a raised position above its center"
for long periods of time, although not often desirable.
SOMATISING: expressing a feeling kineticallv or physical that you
cannot express verbally like gritting, grinding (sometimes a use of tension
to express emotional feelings) your teeth, or clenching your jaws.
IRRELEVANT: tensing some part of the body. Producing a movement
that does not help or hinder an action, i.e. frowning, tensing the eyebrows;
biting the lip; tapping the foot or fingers.
EXPRESSIVE: tapping the foot or fingers; holding your tongue; sighing,
caressing, striking out; smiling, frowning (contracting), laughing,(releasing);
dancing, singing; or to fulfill an internalized emotional body image.
EMPATHETIC: tension used to express love for another by copying
and internalizing their tension patterns: or dislike of another by rebelling
against their tension patterns.
ECCENTRIC: extension tension (my favorite): lengthening / elongating
the muscle is a way of contracting which narrows the muscle 3 dimensionally,
(elongating, and stretching the muscles). The eccentric contraction; instead
of shortening the muscles we use our tension to stretch the muscles. This
kind of tension develops a flexible, panther like body.
CONTRACTION: We can also contract, by shortening and widening our
RESIDUAL: tension left in the musculature as a result of previous
CONFLICTING: our bodies may demand different or conflicting amounts
or kinds of tension: from the internal molecular level through the visceral,
skeletal, muscular, psychological, emotional. Holding our breath may conflict
with our need to exhale.
COMPENSATORY: We can develop an asymmetrical use of tension in
order to adjust to or compensate for: injuries, or functional discrepancies
or genetic development, organic problems or neurological misalignment,
or as an emotional expression. Misalignment may be caused by the thyroid,
chronic fatigue syndrome, neuropathy, or skeletal asymmetry (as in scoliosis).
Any of these problems and others may cause excess use of tension, or compensatory
tension. They may require an asymmetrical use of tension in order to balance
or to move.
INAPPROPRIATE: Excessive; using more tension than is necessary
for the movement; or so much that the movement cannot be accomplished.
Trying to lift an elephant with only enough energy for a tea cup or lifting
a tea cup with enough energy to lift an elephant.
Loving My Tension: Or How To Care For Your Tension
I love my tension so I give it lots of Vitamin B, especially B 12 and Folic Acid. I listen for proprioceptive signals to balance calcium and protein for the energy to flow through my muscles and be able to confidently release and give me the most movement for the least tension. I ought to treat my adrenaline system better but I do love that one cup of coffee.
I give it lots of chances to be intense, fast, stretch, contract, expand, articulate, extend, release, relax, collapse and respond. It is always greedy for movement so my tension loves to dance, swim, wiggle & squiggle. We need to move every muscle, every joint often without pain, as a way to stay healthy.
As a choreographer
I want dancers to understand and experience the full scale of all the
elements of their tension. Dancers need safety through alignment and flexibility
and an understanding of their own bodies. They need to explore and experience
the totality and the edges of their own dance. I love a dancers' vocabulary
to include the intelligent development of high extensions, long extensions,
responsiveness in improvisation, endurance, daring, leaps, falls and to
have experiential confidence in the pre-thought swiftness of their reflexes.
excerpt from the chapter on Tension from a book in progress "Kinetic
article originally published in Movement Research Journal,