Reflections by LCDS Student on Sasha’s Pedagogical Methodology

Andrew Macleman

In regards to my physicality, I have always been the sort to “replicate” but never has it been so apparent that this means to an end serves no purpose but to disguise a sense of truth in the body. With an over-emphasis on connecting what I would see, to how I moved I became fixed in a place, which limited any individual artistry I could create; there would only be mimicry. It creates no space for interpretation or imagination. The breath is held.

Unlike more traditional and placed forms such as ballet, the focus for release seems not on meeting the requirements of an aesthetic; in fact for me the aesthetic is nought without the practise.  For instance, a port de bras has space to be interpreted differently by each individual who executes the action, however the interpretation seems to derive from an immediate need to make the action visually appealing. Within the practise of release I find that any aesthetic qualities my body attempts to adhere to begin their process from a far deeper understanding of the anatomy and imagery of my own self in stillness and motion.

Yes, it is hard to conquer the mind when it is so easy to assume that a curve is a curve and the process of reaching that point is relatively irrelevant based on the end result being the same, but having investigated my musculature, skeleton and centres of energy I find that the process of discovery and self-awareness has become unmistakeably the most important aim of any action.

Already as a result of this term I am becoming less interested in doing things the “right” or “correct” way. I now have the option of individuality.e

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Leila Bakhtali

We observe what patterns, sensations and shifts occur in the body, triggered by different stimuli.

Awakening connectivity through the whole of the body in order to be able to move/dance to your fullest extent.

Besides ‘doing’, there is a lot of room for ‘observing’ and ‘allowing’.

We let the sound, quality, texture and rhythm of the music inform the sound, quality, texture and rhythm of our dance/movement.

Sasha incorporates all of her wide knowledge and experience in her teaching (gained from various backgrounds such as aikido and dance) which results in her own unique style or technique. She creates a positive but focused atmosphere in order to meet the depth of the work. Individual explorations are encouraged within the given movement phrases. There is also room for observing and studying the movements in smaller groups. The observations and explorations can be shared afterwards in group discussions.

Different aspects are taken into account in order to move economically, connected and to your fullest potential. Moving from the bones, muscles and breath allows you to explore different movement possibilities that develop a greater understanding and awareness of the body and oneself. Doing repetitive movements (e.g. stirring the body) allowed me to discover places in the body that I was never so aware of and ‘body states’ I never experienced before.

Sometimes Sasha reads some texts or quotes which informs and inspires the rest of the class. Bringing in the skeleton or anatomy books into the studio to study the bone structure gives a clearer understanding of the spaces inside the body and body function. Making drawings of the movement phrases allows you to observe the movements from a different perspective and can function as a useful movement score. Bringing in all those different elements into class creates a richer source to draw upon when discovering/studying dance.

It happens that something suddenly ‘clicks’ in my understanding or awareness. For example, I still remember, Sasha’s saying; “Everyday a different body”. It helped me accepting my body/mind as it was that day, letting go of rooted expectations or preconceptions, allowing me to discover ‘new places’.

Sasha’s classes are challenging, both physically and mentally. It has given me a greater awareness of movements happening and of three-dimensional space inside and outside my body, which makes me feel more connected and fuller.

Practice Over Technique

I see your work in terms of a practice. It differs from techniques like Ballet or Cunningham, which have a set movement vocabulary and are characterised by certain recognized actions, this set of actions is the means by which the form is created. Each teacher has their own personal interpretation of this set form and they have their own particular beliefs and methodology they have related to the form. So the form is the set structure and the methodology changes with the teacher.

Instead your technique has a methodology and philosophy which is essential to the form and remains a constant. It encompass a set of belief that are integral to the practice, these beliefs are not related to any spiritual meaning but are more related to state of being, a body mind relationship, similar in some senses to a meditative practice. Though it is complex and is a distinguishable technique, the approach to the work and the way in which it is practiced is fundamentally of more importance than the recognizable form we see.

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Marta Masiero

What I find really interesting with Sasha’s approach to movement is that we not only work in a purely physical way but that she also engages us intellectually – it is an integration of body and mind that enables you to experience yourself fully, in a deep way. It takes time to become aware of yourself, to be able to register and consciously direct your movement. I have to say I found the journey even more important than the actual result sometimes because the approach gave me time to experience the movement and myself in the movement, exploring qualities and feelings that were not familiar in my body and trying to understand how they were working in relation to myself.

In Sasha’s classes I found myself learning not just a dance technique but a way of being somehow. I know this can sound quite pretentious but I really believe I gained patience and I learned the value of time, time to fully be in the movement and in my body – something you can only do if you are engaged also with your mind.

Becoming aware of breathing does help a lot and knowing how breathing works effectively within movement vocabulary is one of the most important things for a dancer – it enables you to perceive and perform those movements in a different way.

Another aspect of Sasha’s work I have always been amazed by is the understanding of skeletal alignment. Through the martial arts knowledge that Sasha brings to her teaching, you become really aware of the position of your spine in the space and having this in mind you can allow yourself to take risks and to push the movements to the edges of stability, knowing that you can always come back to your alignment and be strong and powerful in your centre. This, of course, enables you to dance in a qualitative and interesting way, illustrating the maturity that comes from the knowledge of your own body and of yourself.

Julia Roberts – BA3 student LCDS

One of the things I’m most grateful for is to have your trust which allows me to take the time I need to go through the movement by myself and explore the pathways of the sequences in my own body. I feel free to explore those things in class and the most important I feel your support in that process. It is during these moments when I feel creative and contributive, it is a precious time in which I can really embody the movement material and bring my own interpretation. I’m not just a shape reproducer but a person who is expressing herself and her experiences while dancing. It is not always easy to listen to oneself but in your classes this is essential. I met myself in many moments.

In your classes I’m feeling guided, you guide my awareness and my intentions. I’m becoming more conscious of the pathways in space, the timing in it and the connections within my body as well as the emotions that I experience when moving. One of the things I discovered and I’m still fascinated about is the internal shift of weight that occurs at the end of one movement and beginning of the next one and which can be extremely subtle but amazingly intense. I constantly recall your words: “how you allow your bodies…/ how you allow yourself… /how you allow the space, the movement, the other…”It is all about “allowing” to be who we are in relation to ourselves and the environment. In those moments of internal shift I come back to myself in a very deep level.

Sometimes I become an observer of the changes that are occurring inside me and at the same time it is when I’m more present in each little shift before letting the movement go into the space. I have the same feelings during the stillness at the end of each sequence. I enjoy having the sense of “mobile stability” where the residual movement is still affecting the body and the thoughts before letting everything settle down – these are the moments when I’m aware of the internal changes and of embracing them with my whole being.

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