Updated: Sep 28, 2019
Spiralling is a very important component of movement, human and otherwise.
Like a lot of things nowadays- after my training in Feldenkrais, I have started to take the most simple things and wonder how they work and what underlying meaning there might be in them. Spiralling is one of them.
Recently I taught a day-long workshop in Norwich at the beautiful Old Green Door studios called Move Around Your Centre. It was a joy from beginning to end and I hope to go back soon. The theme, though, was this business of moving around yourself; spiralling, in effect. You could call it turning or rotating and both would be pretty accurate but spiralling brings a degree of panache to the table! Spiralling also implies an up and down movement as well as the purely round and round one.
There are obviously many and various practical applications of this kind of rotating, and the more you look into it the more important, evolutionarily, this rotation is. Think of our ancestors on the savannah, having to see prey and be ready to see predators; turning around yourself in this situation is literally life and death. But nowdays you might say that the ability to turn quickly and spot danger is also present particularly when pedestrians meet traffic or in more grizzly circumstances when someone is confronted by an assailant; the ability to rotate in an trice is not the same as it once was when we were in more mortal danger from animal predators more of the time but still it forms a deep part of our sense of ourselves as moving creatures.
To pivot quickly or rotate about yourself effectively takes balance, coordination and speed, which is all developed in the Feldenkrais Method and more explicitly in practices such as marital arts and various sports. A thing that I taught in my Awareness Through Movement classes this autumn was actually just this; how to spiral to the floor and back up. In fact, this was highlighted when, in Norwich, I asked whether anyone had done Feldenkrais before and one said, "I think I have. Is it where you do that "spirally thing"? I said, "Yes, it probably is".
It is one of the most well-known of the 1000s of lessons we have to teach, and in fact it is really the first Feldenkrais lesson I ever did. It was the School For Fools in 1989 run by Adrian Mealing of the North West Register of Fools at Manchester's Green Room theatre space just before I headed of to the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Ben Keaton who was back then a kind of clown, was the first to teach us. First thing we did was to lie on the floor and drag one arm across our chest and on to the other arm very slowly over and over again, going a bit further each time. It sounds dull, but it was fascinating! Then we did his version of spiralling to the floor and back up. Again, it sounds inconsequential but actually it was really beautiful. Ben was not a Feldenkrais practitioner but had, no doubt, come across it via Garet Newall or the people she taught at the London International Theatre Workshop. Then, like now, you could just say its spiralling or you could let its strange magic work on you; you learn how to do it really easily and effectively and that unlocks a whole world of grace in movement. Once learnt, it taps into something quite deep in the human psyche, I think. Lots of people who learn it, this spiralling, seem to be really GRATEFUL!
(This is quite a nice video from prominent Feldenkrais Practitioner Cynthia Allen opening up the Feldenkrais approach to spiral to the floor and up)
It's as if it has hooked them back into some sort of lost land of ability that they may have had as child but have lost track of as an adult. Gorgeous movement in this following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQFRSWlOunE
Along with rotation the practical applications of this are actually huge. Especially as we get older, the ability to organise yourself to get back up when maybe injured is greatly beneficial and as I have been explaining to students ( or indeed, they to me) the feeling that you KNOW how to do it, gives you a little extra, almost imperceptible confidence as you go about your business.
As I was researching spiralling before my Norwich gig, I came across something that really interested me. It was a picture or actually a video of a sperm. Now, I have always thought of sperm as "swimming"; they kind of wriggle towards the egg, no? No. They do not. They spiral!!
As you can see clearly in the video, the sperm clearly turns around itself. It vigorously pivots and spirals its way towards the prize. Take a look here, https://medium.com/health-and-disease/sperm-spiralling-to-the-egg-d170c1540a3e and you can see the sperm head cranking around itself. Now I am not about to make any large claims about the connection between this amazing movement and our need for and deep connection to spiralling; it would be totally fanciful. But I will just let you ponder it or even wonder about something you may not have been aware of. Ask yourself as you go about your ways whether you allow yourself to spiral. Do you pivot in the kitchen? Do you take pleasure in the 360 degrees view around you. Do you waltz enough through life? Don't leave it to the sportsmen and professional dancers; get in contact with your "inner spermatozoa" and allow yourself to cavort as much as you can!
And a last thought; the ultimate spiral is of course the centre of one of my favourite stories. The discovery of DNA by Francis Crick, James Watson and Rosalind Franklin. Surely one of the most beautiful spiral there is; truly the spiral of life.