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The Feldenkrais Method and the Dancing Hip

By Cathy Paine

I was a professional dancer, choreographer and teacher for over twenty years when I began to experience stabbing pains in my right hip. X-rays indicated early arthritis, a condition that affected my mother when she was about the same age.

My doctor said the arthritis would probably not worsen (as in my mother’s case), but in any event, dancing wouldn’t affect it one way or the other. I could dance without fear of damaging my hip joint— if I could ignore the pain. For six months I kept working, but I was in pain, unhappy and very worried about the future.

It was at this point that Sally Nash, longtime friend and colleague (and, unbeknownst to me, a Feldenkrais® Practitioner), noticed me limping in rehearsal. She asked what was wrong and, when I explained, offered to give me a Functional Integration® lesson.

As I lay on her table, she lightly pressed, lifted and rolled various parts of me. Afterward, I felt very relaxed, a little woozy in fact, but my hip was still painful. Sally watched me walk, then began asking questions about how I was protecting myself from the pain. She suggested some possible adjustments to my thinking and my movement exploration. As I continued to walk, concentrating on the new information, I suddenly noticed that the pain had completely gone.

What became clear was that my own thinking habits had completely wiped out a whole range of movement possibilities. I was unknowingly stifling my own natural creativity and curiosity. What a realization for an artist!

Ten years later, I am a Feldenkrais Practitioner and a solo dance improviser. I delight in the freedom, spontaneity and definition that the Method calls forth in my dancing and in my life. I can realistically look forward to growing for the rest of my life.

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