Simonson Technique, created and developed by master teacher Lynn Simonson, Is an organic approach to movement that prepares the body to dance in a way that is anatomically intelligent and somatically aware
A teacher of Simonson Technique recognizes that each student is unique and operates within individual musculoskeletal parameters. Rather than ask students to fit a pre-described ideal, they are guided and taught as to what is anatomically correct for their bodies. Through balanced alignment, deep stretching, proper muscle development, and natural range of motion through the joints, the student learns to self reference a movement through sensory awareness and how it feels, not by how it looks.
A cornerstone of Simonson Technique is injury prevention through education. Simonson believes that most dancers do not fully understand how their bodies work. Ignorant of their own body mechanics, they often make movements happen without considering, or knowing, how and where a movement initiates anatomically. The goals of Simonson Technique training are to eliminate the pre-disposition to injury from previous mis-lignment patterns, develop and support the body In a way that allows efficient and free movement, and, to experience the joy of dance with longevity and wellness.
Simonson Technique Is progressive on four levels. This technique comprises a complete dance technique which not only trains dancers in jazz dance but prepares them equally well for working in modern and other dance vocabularies. Hailed as an intelligent and logical method to prepare the body for dance, the Simonson Technique has received recognition throughout the world since 1970 and is taught by certified faculty in 20 countries worldwide.
Some principles of placement and alignment
Simonson Technique focuses on extensive and specific stretching in most exercises. The emphasis on stretching is based on the premise that skeletal alignment problems cannot be corrected until ineffective and/or hypertonic muscular holding patterns are released. As held muscle patterns are released, body parts can be re-aligned with ease and not force, and range of motion increases in affected joints. Using force to correct alignment creates an additional holding pattern superimposed on the original. This intensifies body confusion and lessens the ability for a free range of motion through the joints.
SKELETAL ALIGNMENT AND PLACEMENT
Alignment of the skeleton, as viewed in profile, follows a plumb line running from the crown of the head through the center of the earlobe, shoulder joint, hip joint (trochanter), and knee, ending just to the front of the ankle bone. The chin forms a 90 degree angle to the throat and head weight is balanced on the top of the spine without tension Standing placement of the pelvis is always vertical whether in parallel or lateral (turned out) rotation of the legs.
In parallel positions of the legs the student is asked to work parallel from the hip joints, not, parallel from the feet. If tibial lateral rotation is greater from the knee down than from the hips, the student is asked to stand with the lower leg in natural rotation. He is never asked, in this case, to stand with the feet parallel.
In turned out positions of the legs the student works only from the natural turn out line from the hips. This applies to both the supporting leg and working leg. If one leg has considerably more turnout than the other, the student works to the turnout line of the lesser leg, when standing equally on both legs (ie: first position turned out).
Hyperextension of the legs is always corrected. The student never pushes the knees back, as this creates a weakening of supporting and soft connecting tissue in the knee joint. In parallel rotation and downward flexion (inverted body weight), as in hamstring stretching, the student softens his knees which directs the stretch into the belly of the muscle and away from the knee joint.
In full body contractions, viewed from profile, in parallel or turned out demi-plle, the shoulder is vertically aligned over the hip joint while the pelvis tucks under and the rib cage deepens back.
USE OF WEIGHT
Working in bare feet, the weight of the body is supported by a relaxed foot with the weight spread equally throughout the foot Three points of contact with the floor are brought into awareness: the first and fifth metatarsal and the center of the heel. The student is observed moving through demi-plie, straight standing leg and releve to see if there is any suppination or pronation of the foot from the ankle.
In releve (demi-pointe) the weight of the body generally falls in a iine from the center of the tibia through the second toe. The second toe is the strongest point of contact with the floor. Slight variations on this point of contact happen with tibial torque or tibial lateral rotation.
In parallel demi-plie, the weight throughout the foot remains the same as it does when standing with straight legs. The knees float out for demi-plie, not shifting down and/or forward into the knees or ankles. The top quadriceps muscle softens down and away from the hip. Body weight shifting forward on the feet in demi-plle usually Indicates tight hamstrings and tucking under or a movement of pelvis weight forward in space.
In first position turned out demi-plie, the bulk of the weight remains over the back two thirds of the foot. If the student has a long Achilles tendon, and therefore a deep demi plie, he is asked to execute a demi-plie only as deep as the weight remains on the back two- thirds of the foot. Weight shifting to the front of the foot in a too deep demi pile places strain on the patella tendon, creates compression on the anterior ankie joint and knee, and develops a hypertonic anterior tibialis muscle. Again, the knees float out while executing demi plie
Grand plies in first position turned out are taught descending only, never ascending. Ascending from a grand plie places too much compression and strain on the ankles and knees, especially as all exercises in Simonson technique are executed center floor without the use of a barre.
Grand plies in second position turned out are done with the legs wide apart, so that at the depth of the grand plie the knee is directly over the ankle This provides vertical support for the knee from the back two- thirds of the foot as a base, and through the ankle and tibia. It also allows for maximum stretch of the adductors without placing undue strain on the knees
USE OF BREATH
The student is continually reminded to breathe calmly during exercise. This especially applies when a position Is held for several counts, as there is a tendency to hold the breath at the same time.
Contractions or forward rounding shapes are executed with an exhalation. The abdominals contract and flatten to push the air out of the lower lungs. The diaphragm then moves upward and into rest, expelling the air from the top two-thirds of the lungs. The sternum and front of the ribs lower, therefore the student a maximum lengthening of the posterior spine, as the spinal extensor muscles are stretched.
THE BODYMIND CONNECTION
"Mabel E Todd. The Thinking Body'
The principle underlying the concept of bodymlnd is that there is no separation between body and mind, and that changes in the body can be effected through a mental imaging process. The student struggling with a sensation of limitation or resistance In the body can be guided to send that the particular area in question is "free", visualize muscles softening, or sense more inner space in that area. Thus, instead of working automatically, he becomes fully present in his experience, and, rather than cluttering his mind with thoughts of biame and judgment and what his body cannot accomplish, he actively effected through a mental imaging process. The student struggling with a sensation of limitation or resistence in his body can be guided to send the thought that a particular area in question is "free", visualize the muscles softening, or sense more space in that area. Thus, instead of working automatically, he becomes fully present in his experience, and, rather than cluttering his mind with thoughts of blame and judgment at what his body cannot accomplish, he actively encourages his body towards change. He can thus experience an immediate lessening of tension through this process. Once he has experienced this bodymind connection as an authentic sensation rather than an intellectual concept, the doors of limitation open and all potential becomes accessible and possible.
Simonson Jazz teachers are not required to work with this philosophy, but those who do explore the bodymind connection find exciting and profound results. Thirty years ago bodymind was more intuitive than conscious for Lynn Simonson, but over the course of time it has become fully integrated into her personal teaching style.