THE WEISS-MANN TECHNIQUE
Jennifer Mann and Heidi Weiss were educated in a variety of modern techniques such as: Graham, Horton, Cunningham, Taylor and Humphrey-Limon. As they began developing their own distinct, more Contemporary teaching style, these older and more conservative techniques remain strong roots and play an integral role in their teaching. For example- the use of the spiral and the use of the back from Graham, skeletal alignment and core strength from Horton, clarity from Cunningham, earthbound weight shifting from Taylor and of course the fall and recovery from Limon. In addition to these older forms have come newer influences such as the Alexander technique, Release, and Yoga. In combining new with the old, the Weiss-Mann technique can be described as well structured with a logical and thorough warm-up, but also an organic style with the emphasis on breath, volume, space and flow!!!
Class begins with focus on the center. Clear placement, stretch and strengthening excercises warm the pelvis and spine (our core) while preparing the body for a more uninhibited experience of movement. This preparation enables the mind to quiet down and focus, gathering energy for the dynamic movement sequences that follow. This phase of the class usually begins on the floor and then builds up, bringing the dancer onto their legs where they can feel their centered core in relationship with gravity.
The "warm - up" phase of the class integrates more "technical" elements (footwork, plies, deep curves, adagio sequences) with short phrases of "contemporary" movement (exploration of muscular release, spatial awareness, risk taking). It's main focus is in exploring a balance between one's technical skills (building strength and control) with a capacity to flow and move through space freely. As the class progresses, the dancer begins to make more connections and the distinctions between these 2 categories begin to soften and fuse into one. Movements that are traditionally considered "technical" become more organic, more full of breath, life and volume. "Contemporary" movements become infused with more clarity, length and control. Dancers will be encouraged to first experience their muscular energy, and then to conciously direct it into space.
When the body is warm and awake, a larger phrase of movement will cycle, moving "across the floor". Here, particular movement themes such as rhythm and musicality, quick directional and level changes, initiation of movements from specific body parts (the fingertips, the toes, the crown of the head, the hip, the sternum, etc.), or floorwork will be explored. Dancers will be challenged to take risks, to test boundaries, to cover more space with their steps. This repetition of steps allows the dancer to dive into a kind of "mini" choreography, one in which they can learn quickly, spending more time working on that day's particualar theme.
The class will conclude with a longer combination of movement that connects all of these elements. One is prepared for an uninhibited range of movement. All spatial levels will be explored: floorwork, taking space on a "middle level", and airtime: jumps. Transitions between these levels and the individual movements become a main focal point. How do we smoothly come in and out of the floor? How do we suspend longer in a turn? How do we "let go", and regain control? Where do we need energy, and when do we need to pull back, reducing it? Dynamics play an important role here. The dancer will be asked to differentiate between movements, deciding for themselves where accents should be placed, which movements should be stretched out or attacked decisively and quickly. Dancers will be encouraged to tell a kind of story with the movement, taking the audience's eye on a kind of journey. "Fine tuning" aspects of performance such as focus, interpretation and intention will wrap up this process as each week draws to a close. This material will be recycled for the coaching* and compositional* work later in the day. The overall stamina of the group will be challenged as they learn to expand their physical boundaries.