I will be teaching a free ‘Introduction to Safety Release Technique’ workshop on Thursday mornings in May (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th) at Dance Place’s annex studio H (3225 8th St. NE, Washington DC 20017 – very close to Brookland Metro.) The class is open to experienced movers not just dancers, anyone that has a clear sense of their own body and how it moves through space. Please contact me if you’re interested: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BJ Sullivan developed Safety Release Technique through integration of her understanding of Release Technique and other Somatic practices. I had the pleasure of studying with BJ for several years while working toward my BFA at UNC Greensboro, and am very excited to introduce this work to the DC area. Most modern dance classes are a compilation of everything that an individual artist has studied; it is rare to find a codified modern movement technique class. I am looking forward to further developing my own teaching of the technique, which is why I am offering the workshop for free, and continuing to study this movement with other artists.
Personally, I was not so much drawn to Safety Release Technique as pulled to it with an undeniable force. As a bright-eyed high school senior I visited the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to check out the campus, and the dance department. One of the classes that my mom and I observed was BJ Sullivan’s advanced level technique class. I remember thinking to myself: They’re all rolling around on the floor. I want to roll around on the floor just like that. I remember feeling the movement very strongly in my own body just watching the class.
One of the most powerful things about Safety Release, watching class and later practicing it myself, is the intimate relationship with the floor. The technique asks the dancer to initiate movement from the centeredness of the core using breath, weight and momentum instead of through muscular force, and to further develop the movement from that place. Floor work is an integral part of the technique.
When you dance standing up, there is often a linear quality – similar to standing or walking. I love the connectivity and freedom to be found when dancing without the concern of balance/falling off your feet. Movement on the floor can be done with eyes closed and full internal attention to what is occurring within the body. With some practice, freedom found on the floor can be transferred to standing. It is the ease allowed by dancing on the floor, the repetition of movement, and the fluidity of Safety Release that permits inner investigation of movement as opposed to external visual focus.
The technique is focused on personal discovery. BJ likes to say that when she can do it “right” she will quit dancing. Each class offers a new opportunity to explore the movements through your own body. I find the continued opportunity to discover more, to further develop even the most basic movement sequences, very inspiring. Also, Safety Release has helped me to redefine success. Success is discovering something new each time you walk into the studio, and the work to maintain that focus. Studying Safety Release Technique taught me a process for being a dancer. There’s a connection with the metaphysical through the physical movement.
Safety Release Technique has a visceral circularity. I immediately related to this connectivity as my personal movement aesthetic is closely tied to fluidity and enjoying the pathway from one movement to the next. In understanding the movement vocabulary students are encouraged to focus on metaphor and create a story for themselves within the movement. This story or metaphysic understanding allows the mind to fully connect with the work of the body.
So that we are comfortable being really open together in listening to our bodies, I begin each class with a short community building activity. I try to encourage the class to the sense that we are more than a bunch of individuals sharing a space – we are a community sharing a common experience. It’s important that we are comfortable discussing our bodies and personal understanding of their capabilities in this specific movement vocabulary, and what is and isn’t working.
The movement is codified and taught in order very much like a ballet class. You will always do side hooked arm leg swings in a Safety Release class, just as in a ballet class you will always do tendue. Once you understand the mechanics of a side hooked arm leg swing each class offers moments to more fully explore that movement individually. Each movement flows directly into the next.
If you have any questions, thoughts or comments about the technique I’d be happy to respond to your comment here. I have benefited enormously from studying Safety Release Technique, and hope that you’ll join me for my workshop at Dance Place annex studio H on Thursday mornings in May.
Camerin Allgood McKinnon, a Georgia Peach from Atlanta, developed a love for dance as part of Metro Dance Company in Decatur. She received her BFA Degree in performance and choreography from University of North Carolina at Greensboro in May of 2007. After graduation Camerin moved to Washington DC as an intern at Dance Place where she has since transitioned into staff. She also works with Mason/Rhynes Productions. Camerin has done performed locally in projects with Kayla Hamilton, Reggie Glass, Heather Doyle and Coyaba Dance Theater. She is currently apprenticing in Gesel Mason Performance Projects Women Sex and Desire: Sometimes you feel like a ho, sometimes you don’t. Camerin also teaches, working with all ages. She has been particularly inspired by her work with students with disabilities.
Images of Camerin are by Enoch Chan. Copyright (c) Enoch Chan, 2009