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Using Touch to Facilitate Body Connectivity

This is an excerpt from Laban/Bartenieff Movement Studies by Colleen Wahl.

Touch can facilitate greater connectivity, ease, and awareness in movement by increasing sensation in ways that ­will foster new possibilities for movement.

Touch is a vulnerable and power­ful experience. In the Laban/Bartenieff work, touch is not a given or an expectation. It is impor­tant to learn that you can say yes and no to touch from another person. Saying no to touch can be an empowering reminder of your owner­ship of and agency over your body. When working with ­others, ask permission to touch that includes where on their body the touch ­will be and what kinds of touch you ­will deliver. If someone decides not to be touched they can use their own hands, or you can assist them in finding other ways to experience the purpose of the touch.

The following are basic ideas for incorporating touch that are easy to learn and particularly useful for enhancing body connectivity. The types of touch discussed below are part of a larger body of work developed by Peggy Hackney and Janice Meaden with Ed Groff and Pam Schick as part of Integrated Movement Studies' “Touch for Repatterning” curriculum. Each brought other training perspectives including Body-­Mind Centering, Irene Dowd's kinesthetic anatomy and neuromuscular re-­education, and massage therapy to the curriculum. This is part of a much larger body of work, but this ­will get your started.

Being with Touch

Use this method to become pres­ent with the connection between your body and your partner's. Being with touch asks the toucher to be pres­ent with and listen to what is under­neath their hands. It does not seek to do anything or ask that the person being touched do anything besides be pres­ent with what is ­there. Try this type of touch on the torso. As the toucher, you may want to check in with the person you are touching, asking questions like, “What are you noticing?” Or, “Is this pressure okay? Would you like more or less?” Keep the dialogue ­going to demonstrate that conversation about what is happening is part of the experience.

Locating Touch

Use locating touch to help your partner get a sense of where dif­fer­ent parts of the body are sited and how they relate to other parts. Locating touch can go to one body part or slide along a pathway. It is like using your hands to say, “Focus your attention right ­here.” Try this type of touch to locate the hip joint or the lesser trochanter or the base of the scapula. ­After locating an area or part of the body, cue your partner to notice how that area relates to another area.

Sliding Touch

Locating touch can phrase into a sliding touch, where the toucher uses her hand to slide along or trace a line or connection on the body as if to bring awareness to the connection between one area and another.

Sending Touch and Receiving Touch

Use ­these techniques to find a connection or pathway through the body. Sending touch has directionality that give an energetic quality of sending information through the body's tissues. Receiving touch gathers or receives the sending touch somewhere ­else in the body. For example, try placing a hand on the sternum, and imagine you can send a message through the sternum. Place another hand on the sacrum, and imagine this hand can receive the message being sent by the top hand. The directionality in this kind of touch is clarified by the receiving touch. In this example, the hand on the sternum is sending a message in a down and back direction. Explore this type of touch with multiple pathways through the body.