The Available Body: Feldenkrais® & Dance Improvisation

The Boston Feldenkrais Training interviews Molly Hess, dancer and Organizer of Electric Fish STUDIO, and Naama Ityel, dancer and burgeoning Feldenkrais practitioner, about “The Available Body,” their upcoming Feldenkrais & Dance Improvisation Workshop at Studio@550 in Cambridge, MA.

Interview by Helen Miller

Boston Feldenkrais Training: Thanks for chatting with us, Molly and Naama. I know it's a busy dance week in Boston and we really appreciate your taking the time. Naama's in town for a few weeks from Berlin. This coming Tuesday, April 26, she'll be teaching a workshop combining Feldenkrais and Improvisational dance. Could you tell us a bit about the connection between these two approaches to movement?

Naama: Dance improvisation and Feldenkrais both demand a high level of attention. Both practices sharpen the awareness of the self and how different aspects of the self are integrated. I believe that the first step in becoming creative is to be able to observe what’s already there and then play around with it. Feldenkrais is a powerful tool for connecting with everything that already exists, and its potential.

BFT: Molly, what made you want to host this workshop? What was it about Naama's teaching?

Molly: I took Naama’s class while I was in Berlin last summer. The class had a great sense of progression. I was engaged throughout, exploring new and unlikely dance territory. I came into the last couple of classes in a longer series but luckily, Naama was generous and articulate, making me feel totally comfortable and welcome in the class. When she mentioned she was interested in coming to Boston, I was excited to propose organizing a workshop, in hopes I could study with her again! In general, Berlin has an incredibly rich contemporary dance scene right now so it’s great to have a little bridge between dance communities.  

BFT: Naama, have you been teaching combined Feldenkrais and Improv classes for a while now?

Naama: I've been dancing and teaching dance for years now but my love story with Feldenkrais is more of a recent thing. The Method appears more and more in my teaching in a very organic way. The dance and the Feldenkrais worlds are rich and full each in their own right. I'm trying not to force the two together in any way that would compromise or reduce the quality of each one. It's a fine line and I'm still finding a good recipe for the combination.

I’m doing my Feldenkrais training in Berlin, which is also where I’ve been dancing and teaching dance. But there are not many other dancers in the training... which is in fact really refreshing for me, to train with non-dancers. There are people from any sort of background you can imagine. Observing such a wide variety of bodies, minds and personalities makes me understand how complex the human system can be. This variety prevents be from taking any kind of movement or way of being for granted.

BFT: Molly, how does Naama’s experience in Feldenkrais align with the objectives of Electric Fish Studio?

Molly: Electric Fish is dedicated to providing rigorous training in Improvisation and Somatic Practices. So, Naama’s work, which combines Improvisation and the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education fits beautifully into our mission. So far, Electric Fish has worked with artists who combine dance practices with other somatic forms such as Body Mind Centering (BMC) and Axis Syllabus, but none of our artists have worked specifically with Feldenkrais and dance, so it will be great to broaden our program with Naama’s approach.  

BFT: Naama, what led you to broaden your own approach to dance with Feldenkrais?

Naama: Well, let me start from the beginning of my dance revolution (I’m young, so it won’t take long!). My dance training in Israel was quite technical. I learned much about form and representation. In a way, I started to feel that I was moving away from using my body as a form of poetic expression. Plus, like many dancers, I suffered from injuries, which suppressed my feeling of joy, one of the main keys for creativity. After freelancing in Israel for a while, I realized that this was not the way I wanted my career to unfold.

So I decided to further my dance education in order to rediscover the very basic sensation of dancing. I moved to Europe and got into the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, a wonderful dance academy in Austria. In this academy, I encountered many methods that promote more organic ways of moving. It was like food nurturing my body and soul. After I graduated and moved to Berlin, and towards Buddhism, I became increasingly fascinated by improvisation. 

Eventually, I started searching for a technique that would support and inspire this practice of improvisation. One that would make my body available to whatever my mind was asking. One that would make my mind sharp enough to follow my body and physical stimulation. Feldenkrais is perfect for this as it deals with the body and the mind, or the body-mind, and the role of attention and awareness through movement, through infinite possibilities as they appear. I am learning so much, becoming more and more available for the work, and play, of improvisation.

Molly: Naama is a highly experienced, qualified, and curious dancer. It’s nice for Electric Fish to be able to support her nascent, inspired and experimental incorporation of Feldenkrais into the teaching of Improvisation. The dance/movement community in Boston right now is a vibrant, interdisciplinary, inventive scene and we’re excited to welcome Naama—her ideas and sensitivity—into the fray.

Naama: I'm really looking forward to Tuesday evening. I'm always curious to see how my teaching is translated in different places. I see this session as a first meeting and foundation for future work. I like continuity and development and “successive approximation,” as Moshe Feldenkrais said. First and second and third attempts, or iterations, of an idea or interaction. I’m looking forward to a longer process with people in Boston.