Let’s begin with morning, morning in Bad Wiessee, a town that is still sleeping under cover of thick cloud. Stern, grey and stubborn, this cloud glut has spiked itself onto the shadow-haunted, pine-bristling mountains and settled in for the long haul. It has rained all night, and as I set off for a wander by the lake, a roaring tumult of winter-melt is hurtling itself down the mountain, careless about the directions it takes on its vertiginous passage, pulling this branch, that root and any loose earth with it. For a while, earth (gravity’s anchor), becomes water, and flows. Water responds by dyeing itself a muddy, sludgy brown. As this admixture reaches the lake it forms a contrasting, widely billowing ribbon in the crystalline waters of Tegernsee.
Class begins at 10am, but long before we arrive, the room has been transformed from a characterless, if bright and spacious room, into a space that invites thinking about and exploring developmental movement at every turn about. Thick, wide mats, designed for comfortable relations with the floor await our eager bodies and surrounding these, covering the walls, and perched on tables, images of children, at various stages of development serve as friendly guides and teachers for what’s to come.
We are an international group, coming from far and wide to learn the skills needed to work with children using the Jeremy Krauss Approach. Jeremy Krauss, a student of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, has further developed Dr Feldenkrais’ method as it relates to working with children, particularly through a comprehensive engagement with the field of child development, developmental movement, and inter-subjective neurobiology. From the outset, it is clear that we are being tasked with gleaning an in-depth knowledge of developmental processes, and to understand these as any series of changes associated with discovering and embodying new information about ourselves in the world, and with putting this information to use. Taking the exploration of the diverse movements of hands as an example, hands that through exploring movement become articulate enough to reach out and touch the face of the carer, grab a nose, or a fistful of hair, we can see that developmental processes refer us not only to motor-abilities and motor skills but to object-relational, social-relational and emotional skills also.
One of the ways we go about understanding developmental processes in the JKA training is through honing the skill of observation. “What are we seeing”? , Jeremy asks on the very first day, as we peer at picture after picture of child after child, each occupying and exploring space in a different way. In the beginning, I see what I have so-far been trained to see, which is little in comparison with what we, as a group, are guided towards noticing; the minutiae of children’s incipient, progressively and dynamically forming movement abilities, the relationships between the head and eyes, the variables and invariables of adventures in the field of gravity, the round-abouts and all-abouts of transitions-from front to back, from side to side, down to up, up to down, and much more (so much more!). In line with children’s education researcher Liane Mozere, we are not looking at children’s development from the adult down, but from the child up. And when we do, an astonishingly complex, thrillingly creative, open system of development emerges, one characterised by seemingly tireless experimentation and incremental change.
Of course we also go about our own movement experiments, not to reproduce the experience of a child (our own movement biographies are too firmly entrenched for that), but to gain kinaesthetic clarity about the effects of particular, developmentally significant, ways of moving in/through space. The effects are compelling. Leaning into different parts of my chest when on my belly for example, I rise from the floor some centimetres taller as my chest experiences itself anew as a clear support for my head. When looking, in the words of Gregory Bateson’s well worn phrase: for the “difference that makes the difference”, sensation is the key. For after all, how would you know the temperature of the water had become hospitable enough for you to swim in, if you were not able, through the temperature sensors of the skin, to sense the warmth that tells you now is the time of salubrious bathing? Isn’t this part of what coaxes you to get in the water? “Sensation”, Deleuze points out, “is that which is transmitted directly, and avoids the detour and boredom of conveying a story “ (Deleuze, 2003:26). Our movement experiments get under our personal stories of injury and insult. They strike us with an embodied understanding of the connection between clear sensation and the perception of difference. Without sensing difference, in our developmental trajectories, how would we ever know of the emergence of new and excitingly different paths to experiment in and follow? How would we ever have gone from lying quietly on our backs, to rolling onto our bellies?
Every part of the learning day is stimulating and holds my interest, but for me, it is when the children and their parents enter the room that an enchantment of the group’s attention occurs. Something in the entire room changes, a quiet falls, an intense mode of “being with” opens up like a door to another dimension. The context of the lesson is by now established in the principle that each child is unique, and in each encounter, the movements to be explored will be led by the child themselves, according to what they are currently engaged in developing, and motivated to explore. As Jeremy remarks in class discussion: “ we are looking for the possibilities that are possible”.
Now, in my riffling through the dictionary earlier, I left out my favourite part of the definition of development, development as it relates to a piece of music, something Deleuze and Guattari are also fond of referring to. That definition of development goes as follows: the part of a movement/composition in which themes are unfolded or elaborated by various technical means. The lessons with the children resonate with this definition of development, where the technical means of elaborating or unfolding a movement theme, such as rolling over, or crawling, proceed by making an affective connection with the child and by introducing movement possibility and variation via a gentle and precise touch. Deleuze himself notes:
It is not just a matter of music but of how to live: it is by speed and slowness that one slips among things, that one connects with something else…one slips in, enters in the middle; one takes up or lays down rhythms (Deleuze, 1988: 123)
On the floor, with the children, this is a lot like how the lesson looks. Slipping in where they are, connecting through touch and movement, taking up and laying down rhythms. Precise, technically adept touch delivers clear sensation in this meeting, which adds to the surplus of information garnered by the movement experiments that the child is engaged in. This touch is in the vein of the mutual affect I referred to earlier, where the body’s power to affect, and be affected, is drawn upon. The bodies of practitioner and child come into composition with each other, such that an adding to or augmenting of sensory experience, may push at the threshold of a child’s habitual movement patterns, leading them to adapt, create and explore something new.
Sensation, Brian Massumi claims (and I agree), is the direct registering of potential (Massumi, 2000: 97). This is particularly so, in the case of the super-plastic brains of children, brains forming more than 1 million new neural connections every second. As with any rhizomatic, dynamic, open system, change in the brain is catalysed in response to an encounter with something new in the local environment, a new force or intensity of touch (perhaps in a part of self that has never been clearly sensed before), a different point of stabilisation to move from. Each touch, by clarifying sensation, seems to explore the Spinozian question: “what can a body do”, a question enhanced in its impact by being asked within a relational environment. It is not just the practitioner who is present with the child, but the child’s carers,and at times , siblings too. Relationality and joining together, in this way, form part of the conditions for experimentation, creativity and the unfolding of the unique potential of each child to learn and to explore. This feeds the rhizomatic system’s ability to shoot out new roots (new lines of flight), feeds the embodied, embedded and extended brain, feeds the child’s sense of a self related through its body to the world.
Developmental movement sequences are themselves profitably conceived as sets of movement problems to be discovered and solved by each child, something that is achieved by trying out options, the more the better. It is for this reason that in watching a lesson with a child, you might be struck by the often fast-flowing nature of the work which follows an additive and accumulative logic along the lines of and…and…and…and… This, by the way, is a logic Deleuze and Guattari recommend. Indeed, Deleuze liked to add to Spinoza’s question “what can a body do?”, with “what else can a body do?” Deleuze and Guattari also insist that rhizomatic systems are maps not tracings. Similarly, in the lessons with the children, there is no intention for the imitation of ideals, but for the discovery and mapping for themselves, the “possibilities that are possible” for their own mind/bodies. Rhizomes go about map making, not tracing and so do brains. Our brains map our unique, body-specific experiences of the world and the cartographic lines are deeper and clearer where sensation is clear and where differences between the old and the new have been clearly perceived. Movement, developmental or otherwise, is part of this innate impetus to map the world and it can become the context and ground of what is patterned into our systems as possibilities and potentials in our future.
It’s significant that the children who come for lessons in the Jeremy Krauss Approach are children whose pathways into and through developmental movement are different to the majority. In the absence of a hierarchical, linear model of development, these are different pathways that may be gainfully explored, variations discovered, possibilities for sensing and moving in the world further elaborated. The work sits neither within the strict allocative function of diagnosis, where diagnosis and prognosis set limits on the varieties and styles of movement a child may develop, nor does it sit within a philosophy of cure which might insinuate that difference is something broken, needing to be fixed or restored to some illusory former state of wholeness. The Jeremy Krauss Approach instead is anchored in a respect of and deep listening to difference, while skilfully exploring the potentials and possibilities manifest in that difference.
The last definition of development in my online dictionary is related to mining: the work of digging openings, as tunnels, raises and winzes, to give access to new workings and of erecting necessary structures. This definition points me back to the ground, where, by moving myself with curiosity and attention I am, in a way, digging open the entrenched ground of my self, exploring new tunnels in the form of alternative brain pathways for movement and building new structures, new synaptic linkages, by sensitively exploring the qualities of this new terrain. There is something about the ground that loves a rhizome, something about a rhizome that loves the ground. Without the ground, a rhizome would have nowhere to wander, nothing to sense by way of changes, which might provoke it to explore and experiment with something new. Once out of the watery intrauterine environment, it is the ground, gravity’s anchor, which presents us our first set of movement conundrums. This continues throughout life.
All this is by way of suggesting to you that you too can get rhizomatic, go to the ground, move and explore your own lines of flight. Feldenkrais classes are, in my biased opinion, one of the best places to go to explore movement in a mode that is highly sympathetic with the way in which development is ignited, nourished and flourishes in children. I can share with you that, for me, this kind of movement really is the “difference that makes a difference”. I came away from the Jeremy Krauss Training this time, with more strength and sturdiness than I have ever felt. Maybe this was the result of an opportunity to revisit the question of keeping my head upright and free, even as the rest of me whirled around from my side to my belly. Or, maybe it was the result of being caught up in the joyous affect of the children as they discovered and explored new movement.
Perhaps these two aspects of the training experience bring together both movement and affect, and in these combined, the proposition that movement and affect are inextricably linked. Movement that joins with its ground harmoniously is joyous affect for me. It is the movement of being brought, by music whose rhythms and melodies you have never before heard or felt (or if you had, you have forgotten), into gestures you never knew you could make. I’ll leave you with Deleue and Guattari’s instructions as a last loopy thought:
Make rhizomes, not roots, never plant! Don’t sow, grow offshoots! Don’t be one or multiple, be multiplicities! Run lines, never plot a point! Speed turns the point into a line! Be quick, even when standing still! Line of chance, line of hips, line of flight. Don’t bring out the General in you! Don’t have just ideas, just have an idea. Have short term ideas. Make maps, not photos or drawings… (2000:25)
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!