Lab recap (2/4): NYC CI Lab, Wed., 2014/07/16, at 100 Grand Dance, New York, NY

This is a recap and summary of conclusions from the second of four sessions of the July 2014 dance lab at 100 Grand Dance, which I am facilitating this month.

What we did

Our focus was on investigating what we might learn by doing various movements faster and slower. I prepared a warm-up, followed by investigation on two topics: jumping on to someone in table and speeding up rolling point.

Warm-up leading into intercepting handstand exercise

  • lying on floor
  • visualizing where your body touches the floor [many people do this, I may have gotten it first from Nina Martin]
    • pressing down on parts not touching floor, to get them to touch the floor
    • moving around, trying to touch all parts of the body to the floor
  • pressing into floor and allowing other parts of the body to rise
    • letting this get higher and higher, into standing
  • falling, rolling, and coming back up to standing
  • foot-shifting [from Rajendra Serber]
    • standing still and releasing (quick version of the Stand)
    • shifting weight entirely into one foot
    • gradually shifting weight into other foot (10%, 20%, 30%, …)
    • picking up old foot off ground, once weight is shifted to new foot
    • repeating process, shifting weight back and forth
    • placing foot with no weight into a new spot, then shifting weight gradually into it — into controlled walking
    • speeding up, and allowing yourself to give a little less attention to the weight, but still making a gradual movement
  • some more falls (to let the previous exercise go)
  • push-ups (no more than 10)
  • “arm pliĆ©s” [from Scott Wells]
    • A is more or less a stiff board. B places hands at top of A’s torso, takes A off A’s axis. B brings A towards B’s body, bending arms, and put A back on A’s axis.
  • “contact” handstands
    • limited momentum, head in alignment with spine (looking back, not at floor), one leg down (trailing), one leg up
  • contact handstands with interception
    • A & B walk next to each other. A goes into contact handstand, B “catches” A by getting into post and catching A on top of B’s lower back/pelvis
  • Discussion

Jumping onto table

  • jumping up on hands (partial handstand) and landing legs on partner’s back/hips in table, speeding up and slowing down

Rolling point

  • Rolling point with partner around shoulders/chest (top of torso), speeding up and slowing down
  • Rolling point with partner around hips (bottom of torso), speeding up and slowing down

Discussion and planning for next time

  • Drawing conclusions
  • Identifying questions for further investigation


We figured out many small physical nuances related to these exercises. One important insight was that speeding up an exercise did NOT help learning in all circumstances — at least, not in the same way. For the “jumping on to table” movement, speeding up seemed to help, by getting us out of thinking and by forcing more repetition. But for doing rolling point, speeding up revealed problems, but did not necessarily solve them.

Intercepting handstand

  • As catcher, it’s difficult to get under the over dancer quickly
  • As over dancer, it’s easier if the down leg is the closer leg to your partner
  • Contrast with jumping on to table – being caught vs. placing yourself on someone (receiving vs. initiating)

Jumping on to table

From the perspective of the jumper:

  • Try thinking high – extending the “up leg” upwards – gives more control and makes you lighter
  • Or try thinking low – think of it as a just a little jump – this actually seems to help kick the up leg higher
  • Easier to land with the inner leg (make the closer leg the down leg!)
  • Increasing speed helps with learning this exercise
    • helps with thinking less, not being frozen
    • helps with not feeling as heavy
    • gives you many more reps! Which helps with muscle memory. That is, there seems to be a virtue in the sheer number of repetitions you’re able to do when you go fast.

Rolling point

  • It’s easy to get dizzy. The solution is to frequently stop and reverse directions – perhaps every two revolutions
  • To smooth out the rolling when rolling around top of the torso, round the back when rolling across your back, open (round back) the chest and shoulders when rolling across your front
  • When rolling from front to back around top of the torso,, something about scooping the arm and shoulder under (forward) seemed to help roll the point around the shoulder, perhaps by evening the weight distribution
  • Footwork is important and tricky, especially when the rolling point is around the hips
    • it seems like there is less space for the feet to work with when the rolling point is at the hips (actually less space between partners, before you bump into your partner’s legs)
    • and the smaller distance between the point of contact and the feet may allow for less “play,” which makes the footwork have to be more precise
    • when rolling at the hips, coming around the hip bone from the back is tricky – the boniness of the hip bone is difficult to roll around. One solution (though we didn’t try it) may be to lighten up on the point slightly to ease the gap to the belly
    • you can’t really keep the point of contact at the hip level when rolling to the front – you have to transfer to the belly
  • The right footwork helps keep the weight even, which aids in speed
  • Unlike the jumping on table exercise, speed exposed problems, but did not fix them.
  • More weight also exposed problems
  • Focusing on your weight going into your partner’s center (balancing your weight on your partner’s center) was helpful, though difficult
    • centering weight between partners (matching weight)
    • really understanding location of other person’s center, not just sending weight in the general direction of your partner

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