Head-Tail Relations

Oct. 18 to 22, 2021 

This year’s MEF inquires into “head-tail” relationships — a pretty open term that could be used to describe a relationship between the head and pelvis (or could also extend beyond these two places or focus on the pathways between them).  

This year’s forum invites teachers across fields of practice including Karen Fennell, Kevin O'Connor, Susanna Hood, Andrew Harwood and Lauren Semeschuk, to divulge their respective ways of putting the head and tail in relationship. We begin knowing that a “head-tail” relationship is not one thing and ask; How do the ways we conceive of, or imagine our head-tail relationship change our felt experience of the body in motion?  How does each teacher elaborate, envision, or enact the “head-tail” relationship in their practice?  What does each enactment do for our movement, coordination, timing…? How does the head-tail relationship behave? Where does it begin and end? How do we feel it?  How does it move us?  What other relations get pulled along in the various enactments?  The MEF invites participants to inquire into these differentiations as a way to learn, become more articulate and ultimately to expand and reinvigorate our notions of the body in movement.

SUSANNA HOOD // Rooted in experiential learning, OSF is guided by the philosophy that the source of creativity and physical wisdom is available in each of us, and can be supportively accessed through the shedding of limiting holding patterns, connecting to energetic impulse, developing agility to navigate and integrate different states of consciousness, and through the use of imagery as a powerful tool for transformation. Sessions employ touch, deep-state imagery, and alignment/coordination-focused physical explorations. For this class, Susanna will experiment with combining some introductory-level building blocks with imagery from more advanced OSF practice that relates directly to the MEF theme of Head-Tail relationships.

Susanna Hood is a Montreal-based dance artist, musician and educator. Her overall teaching practice is influenced by her experience practicing, teaching, and training teachers to teach Open Source Forms (OSF), a fluid expansion of Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT).  Practicing SRT and, subsequently, OSF since 1996, the work is a foundation of Susanna’s total artistic practice as an interpreter, as an improviser, as a teacher, and as a creator. Since 2004, she has taught improvisation, composition, voice and movement synthesis, and OSF in various institutions and through independent workshops across Canada and internationally.

TUESDAY: KAREN FENNELL // Karen will offer a class that looks at the head-tail relationship through the lens of GYROKINESIS®. Gyrokinesis is a unique exercise system that employs breath and a series of fluid, circular movements to promote deep core strength and long lean muscles, while simultaneously strengthening the nervous system, detoxifying the organs, and awakening the senses. One of the primary principles of the method is the use of dynamically opposing forces (for example, gravity and antigravity) to promote stability of the joints and more freedom of movement in the entire body. We will start with the spine – finding the opposition between head and tail, stabilizing and liberating the vertebrae – and gradually expand our awareness and movement throughout the entire body and out into the space.

Karen Fennell is a contemporary dance artist based in Montreal. As a dancer and choreographer she works on a diversity of projects for stage, video, installation, and site-specific performance. She has performed in the work of choreographers Tedd Robinson, Dana Gingras, Martin Messier, Sasha Kleinplatz, and Maria Kefirova (among others), as well as visual artists Chloe Lum & Yannick Desranleau and Sarah Wendt & Pascal Dufaux. As a choreographer, she collaborates frequently with artists in other disciplines, and is currently working on the creation of her first self-solo work. Parallel to her career as a dance artist, since 2009 Karen has cultivated a teaching practice in the GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Methods. Offering private and group instruction to people from all walks of life, Karen finds in these methods a healing, grounding practice that promotes the ongoing deepening of her understanding of the body in motion.

WEDNESDAY: LAUREN SEMESCHUK // We’re going to explore the head-tail connection vaguely / obliquely / hazily through an Ilan Lev-esque class, followed by a question building, list making, optional sharing session. It will not be an Ilan Lev class in its purest form 🙂 but rather a practise I’ve developed myself, highly influenced by Ilan’s philosophy of movement for health and healing, as well as by other personal experiences. It will be an invitation to shake, to get lost in sound and rhythm, to heat up and cool down. It will be an invitation to repeat small pushes and releases and thus, perhaps challenge / disturb / agitate our nervous systems. It will be an invitation to discover / rediscover our bodies as bags of water.

Lauren Semeschuk is a mover, collaborator and dance artist based in Tiohti:áke (Montréal) where she has worked and created with a variety of companies and choreographers. She is an Ilan Lev practitioner, reiki supporter and general movement nerd. She also can be seen doing income taxes on the side. She has a rigorous and therapeutic practice developed with fellow dancer and movement educator, Melina Stinson, called mermaid tag. 

Lauren is not a wordsmith, although she attempts to change that every single day in her practice. She has a deep respect for all of those who make, play, do, or who help others make, play, do. 

Lauren loves to play in the woods and the world in general alongside her dog-daughter and baby-human. They seem to have a few basic things figured out.

THURSDAY: ANDREW HARWOOD // In the first part of the session we will explore our spine as the sensuous central limb that links every other limb in our body.

We will begin exploring sinuous mobility through self touch hands on work with focal points at the top of the spine (where the head sits on the atlas) and the root or tail (that rests at the bottom of the spinal column). Touch points will include the two temples + the occipital ridge and the third eye surrounding the atlas as well as the two sit bones + the pubic bone and tail bone surrounding the sacrum. This will lead to rippling of waving thru the spine from one end to the other in various ways.

In the second part of the session we will play with light weight 6 foot wooden dowels both on our own and between us. These strong pliable wooden rods will act as external links connecting us physically as we refine our deeper sense of communication and play with pressure, direction, balance and levels.

Andrew de Lotbinière Harwood is a world renowned master in the art of dance improvisation as well as being recognized as one of the pioneers in contact improvisation.

During his long career he danced for the companies of Marie Chouinard, Jean-Pierre Perreault, Jo Lechay and Fulcrum, as well as the dance collectives Discovery Bal, The Echo Case and Improvisational Movement Fund. He was the founder and  artistic director of AH HA Productions (2000-2014) a dance company dedicated entirely to the research, education and dissemination of dance improvisation as a performing artform.

Still passionate about teaching, he has shared his art all over the world since 1977. Here in Montreal, he has taught regularly at  l’École de Danse Contemporaine de Montreal and at the l’University du Quebec à Montreal for over 25 years and has also taught at Concordia University, National Theatre School of Canada, Cirque du Soleil, Circuit-Est and Studio 303. He is the recipient of the Jacqueline-Lemieux Award for the year 2000.

FRIDAY: KEVIN O’CONNOR // This head tail workshop will move and think through fascia research and biodynamic craniosacral practice.  How might these practices intersect and create new head-tail sense-abilities? We start this workshop with the statement ‘We do not know what a body can do…’ This declaration of ignorance is a provocation. Through this provocation, we can ask many questions.  Where does a head-tail relationship begin and end? How do habits become? How do practices enact new bodies? How does a body question?

Kevin O’Connor (he/him/they/not only) is a multidisciplinary artist working as a dance improviser, circus artist, installation artist and writer from Ontario, Canada. He is involved in a decade-long artistic collective, Sweet Labour Arts, exploring participatory de-colonizing performances within polluted watersheds in Ontario.  Their collaborative art-making explores practices of togethering across radically different sense-abilities. Over the last 15 years he has worked with NAKA dance in Oakland, Skywatchers in the Bay Area, Oncogrrrls feminist art collective in Spain, and collaborated with Inuit hunter and designer Paulette Metuq on a project in Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic. He has been learning with the Axis Syllabus community for over a decade and is a biodynamic craniosacral practitioner.  Currently he is working on a piece called TRY with dance improvisors Ishmael Houston Jones, Keith Hennessy, Jose Abad and Snowflake Culvert. Through dancing, experimentation, and collaboration TRY will create a queer futurist encounter where race and masculinity are destabilized, and this queer instability is the ground for new forms of solidarity, desire, and community.  TRY will open in San Francisco in November 2021. His PhD research examines anatomies, body performance capacities, interventions and imaginations in relation to science studies, including the material-bio-cultural tissue called fascia. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Dance at Concordia University. www.ecologicalbodying.com