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Ideokinesis.com | Introduction

INTRODUCTION

The Ideokinesis.com website serves to disseminate information on an educational approach that promotes the improvement of posture and movement. This approach has been known by many names in its nearly 100-year history and is currently practiced primarily by individuals in the field of dance. The term "Ideokinesis" was applied to the discipline in the early 1970s and has become its most universally recognized title.

Unlike other approaches with similar goals, Ideokinesis was never codified -- doing so seemed to contradict the nature of the educational process. Yet, certain principles associated with Ideokinesis are distinctive, separating its philosophy from that of other disciplines. Given the physically active orientation of most of its students, it is somewhat paradoxical that Ideokinesis involves sustained mental focus upon imagined actions. A central tenet of the approach suggests that disciplined concentration on precisely formulated imagery will improve the coordination underlying our habits of posture and movement.

This website examines the historical development of Ideokinesis in three distinct eras:

PIONEERS

Mabel Elsworth Todd's ideas and practices served as the foundation for the field now known as Ideokinesis. Initially Todd's work was taught privately in studio settings. First, students learned simple aspects of anatomy as background for the introduction of certain body images or goals. Next, in the "table work" component of the lesson, the teacher used touch to facilitate concentration on the imagined actions. This highly individualized system of education helped students to identify poor postural habits, reduce muscular tension and explore new patterns of coordination.

Many of Todd's most dedicated students became Studio Teachers and helped her to refine her teaching methods. The careers of two of Todd's better-known students, Lulu Sweigard and Barbara Clark, established Ideokinesis as a scientifically tenable and broadly accessible educational process. Students like Sally Swift carried features of Todd's approach into other dimensions of movement education. The discussion of the first era in the history of Ideokinesis brings focus to the work of Todd and her students, who can be considered the field's Pioneers.

DANCE GENERATION

The Dance Generation shaped the second era in the development of Ideokinesis. Many of the students of Todd, Clark and Sweigard were dancers or were affiliated in some way with the dance profession. Struck by the implications of the material for dance education, a number of these individuals immediately applied their new knowledge of posture and movement efficiency to the teaching of dance. Without attempting to impart the ideokinetic approach itself in their classes, exposure to the work influenced their language for describing movement, strategies for perfecting dance alignment and often, their creative preferences in dance.

Others of the Dance Generation endeavored to teach more facets of ideokinetic approach than could be readily transmitted in a traditional dance class. Special courses (functional anatomy, kinesthetic anatomy, etc.) were developed to introduce the anatomical and kinesiological foundations for the approach. Some teachers offered private lessons using the tactile techniques they had learned from Todd, Clark or Sweigard; others modified and simplified the tactile teaching procedures for use in class settings.

The section of the website devoted to the Dance Generation presents the backgrounds and ideas of teachers who applied the ideokinetic approach to the needs of dancers. Their diverse interests spawned many new educational methods and contributed to a substantial change in the post-modern dance aesthetic.

NEW CONTRIBUTORS

The third section of this website profiles the views and activities of the New Contributors to the field. In many respects, the work of these individuals emulates the evolving interests of their teachers from the Dance Generation. Some of them are combining their knowledge of Ideokinesis with work in other somatic disciplines. Others make use of information and techniques from physical therapy, exercise science and motor learning. All are working at a time when the influence of the ideokinetic approach is making itself known in dance philosophy, educational theory and aesthetics. It would appear that the broad intellectual climate has begun to catch up with the revolutionary ideas of Mabel Todd in this era of the New Contributors.

USING THE WEBSITE

The three major sections of the Ideokinesis.com website feature essays describing the work of key figures from each period. Each essay is linked to a bibliography of that individual's published works to encourage continued study in greater depth. If major references in the bibliography are currently in print, links to the publishers of the works have been provided. Postal address information and/or telephone numbers are listed for privately published material. Out-of-print books and articles can be found in the collections of most university libraries.

This website is "under construction" and will be augmented as new information becomes available. Questions and suggestions can be submitted to the teachers who have provided their contact information. Due to the interactivity made possible by the Web, unforeseen discoveries about the development of Ideokinesis are eagerly anticipated. We look forward to presenting additional essays as they become available, as well as articles and interviews related to the field.

It should be emphasized that it is not the purpose of this forum to delimit or circumscribe the subject of Ideokinesis. Rather it is hoped that a centralized source of information about the approach will enhance understanding and broaden recognition of its significance. The bibliography for this introductory essay is intended to initiate the learning process, addressing the fundamental question, "What is Ideokinesis?"

Pamela Matt

Bibliography for the Introduction

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