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By Julie Francis, GCFP & Mary Lou Tromanhauser, GCFP
(Practitioners Mary Lou Tromanhauser and Julie Francis explore the dance that is the Feldenkrais Method®)
I lie comfortably on a low table. Using her hands, Julie guides my right leg through a gentle reality check asking with each subsequent movement one more piece – hip, pelvis, vertebra – to participate. Free of the need to activate on my own, my nervous system relearns the possibility of easy motion. Julie and I continue our exploration searching for the place where movement originates freely, absent of the Parkinsonian tremors, seeking the quiet within.
Parkinson’s exacted a physical and an emotional toll. As a lifelong dancer, fluid movement was not only a way of life but at the core of my very self-image. Without dance who was I? I struggled with the demands of the disease, and eventually turned to friend, mentor and Feldenkrais® teacher, Julie Francis, for both moral and physical support. Together we entered into a pas de deux that would lead us both on a remarkable journey of self-discovery and personal transformation.
Julie Francis came to the Feldenkrais Method because her daughter has Cerebral Palsy. “Like Mary Lou, I had struggled with the emotional discomfort of wanting “perfection” where it wasn’t likely,” she noted. “The Feldenkrais Method taught me to instead hold perfection not as a goal but as a potential that informs individual exploration.”
Julie set out to help me reach that state of acceptance from which anything is possible. She saw me as a dancer even when I felt I wasn’t. “Dance is Mary Lou’s essence,“ Julie adds. “I encouraged her to move for movement’s sake, to revel in fluidity within a small range of motion, and to become her own choreographer using her limitations as creative opportunities.”
I had flirted with the Feldenkrais Method for years, curious about its focus on movement as part of the healing process. Little did I know how profoundly it would impact my life. I first went to Julie for Feldenkrais lessons for pain I was experiencing in my right hip. I wanted her to “fix” me. When she couldn’t, I became angry. But she didn’t give up on me. Instead, she suggested I enroll in a Feldenkrais training so I could learn for myself how to explore my own possibility for healing. It was an aggravation and a gift. I thought of myself as open minded but now realize I blocked some learning because I saw things as all black or white, good or bad.
When even the training didn’t cure my hip pain, I chose surgery. Determined to dance again, I reached out to Julie for help. The road to recovery was paved with bumps. When I received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, I hit bottom.
“I know how difficult it is to see dreams crumble,” Julie shared. “We all want the big, the grand. But it’s focusing on the small that opens the door to possibility, even elegance.”
That lesson has made all the difference for me. I’m no longer concerned with trying to be the dancer I was. Instead, I stay focused on becoming the dancer I am. I’ve realized that my essence is the joy of movement. Recognizing that, I am now more alive to the larger dance we call life. I no longer think of myself as needing to be fixed but instead dance with possibility. I dance. You dance. We dance!
Julie Francis maintains a practice in Glen Ellyn, IL. She can be reached at 630-858-MOVE.
Mary Lou Tromanhauser practices in Westchester, IL. She can be reached at 708-562-0744.
© 2009 Conscious Dancer Magazine. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.