– For more information and a full transcript of this video, check out fun4thedisabled.com. When joining us for this video, you need to take some precautions as your health and safety are the most important. To avoid any injury or harm, you need to check your health with your doctor before exercising. By performing any fitness exercises without supervision, like with this video, you are performing them at your own risk. See a fitness professional to give you advice on your exercise form. Strategy for Access Foundation NFP and Dark Room Ballet will not be responsible or liable for any injury or harm you sustain as a result of this video.
– Welcome everybody to No Diagram Anatomy for Dancers in the Dark Room. This dance and movement class is going to be a little bit of an overview of some biomechanical concepts and some opportunities for you to develop your improvisational movement palette based on our new learnings about anatomy. My name is Krishna, I’m the director of Dark Room Ballet. I am a blind ballet dancer and ballet dance educator. And I also have a really considerable background in biomechanics and biomechanical sciences, which is what I’m gonna be teaching all of you folks at home today. So this is the Dark Room Ballet studio, which is my home in Upper Manhattan, this is my kitchen. So as you can imagine, all of us who had to shelter in place, the kinds of adaptations we’ve had to make with our homes. This is a real kitchen in a real home where I have my real life and even though they’re covered, you’ll probably be hearing my real little budgies chirping away in their cage behind me. And it’s possible that you might notice a little fluffy gray bunny rabbit hop along the floor to interrupt me at some point, her name is Flora. She is a young and spunky little bunny rabbit who lives here with me in the kitchen, here at the Dark Room Ballet studio.
And I would also like to point out how my dance floor is set up today. I have a professional dance floor set up in my kitchen studio. It is about two meters by two meters. That’s roughly a little bit more than six feet by six feet. It is a square, it has a foam sub floor underneath and it has a smooth Marley top, Marley is a plastic substance that a lot of dancers like to dance on because it manages friction and traction. And what you may notice if you are a sighted person, is that I have two lines of bright orange tape on my floor and they are arranged in a cross. We have one orange line running right to left through the middle and one orange line running from front to back in the middle. And I have situated myself more or less at the intersection of these two lines of orange tape, I’m right in the middle. And there’s a reason for that, the reason why is because I am gonna be talking about the planes of motion today, that is gonna be our first topic of examination today.
What are the planes of motion? The planes of motion are our three dimensions. We are three dimensional beings living in a three dimensional world. So we have three planes of motion on which we can move. And these lines of tape are going to help me to explore those three planes of motion. The first plane of motion is called the sagittal plane. Now the sagittal plane, like all three planes of motion can be thought about in two ways. One of them is how your body relates to itself. And the other is how your body relates to the space around you. Let’s think about how the sagittal plane relates to the space around you first. Imagine yourself in a long narrow hallway, there is a wall right on one side of your body, there’s almost no room there, you’ve got a wall on the other side of your body, almost no room there and all you can do are movements that go forward and backwards. So I’m gonna be taking a couple steps forward on my orange tape, and I’m gonna be taking a couple steps backward on my orange tape. I’m moving through the sagittal plane. The sagittal plane is a place where you can move forward and backward. Now when I was taking my steps, I was moving my whole body, but I could also think of it in terms of one part of my body moving along the sagittal plane while the rest of me stays still. So I can reach my right arm out in front of me, that’s movement along the sagittal plane, I can bring it back. I could also reach that same right arm behind me. That’s also movement in the sagittal plane. I can do it with my legs. I can bring my right leg out in front of me, movement into the sagittal plane. I can bring my right leg behind me. That’s movement in the sagittal plane.
It also works with our torso. If I take a bow and I bring my torso into the space in front of me, also known as the front space and I come back up, that’s movement in the sagittal plane. I can make it even smaller than that. If I nod my head forward and I bring my chin down a bit, that’s movement in the sagittal plane. Now there’s a question that my ballet students might have. What if I come up onto the balls of my feet and I lift my heels up off the floor? All right, I’m only on the balls of my feet. I’ve lifted my heels up off the floor. That’s also movement along the sagittal plane. Why? Here’s the reason why: when my heels leave the floor and my whole torso and head and neck and arms are balanced only on the front of my foot, I’m moving forward in space. And when I come and I bring my heels down to the floor, I am moving backward in space. Practice that with me if you want to, come up onto the balls of your feet, your whole body’s moving into the forward space a little bit. Bring the heels down, you’re moving backwards again. Those are all ways to play with the sagittal plane as a spatial concept.
Now there’s also a way to think about the sagittal plane as something that relates to the body itself. If the sagittal plane were to split the human body in half, it would separate us down the middle between the eyes, through the nose, through the hollow of the throat, passing the sternum, passing the naval and coming between the legs, between the feet. It separates us into a right half and a left half. If I’m working in the sagittal plane, I’m thinking about the right side of my body moving through these front and back spaces, or I’m thinking about the left side of my body, moving through these front and back spaces. So that’s the sagittal plane, that’s dimension number one.
Now let’s move on to dimension number two, the frontal plane. Let’s think about it in terms of the space around us. So the frontal plane, let’s now imagine that we’re still in this really narrow hallway, but we’re oriented differently now. Now there is a wall right in front of our face, right at our nose, no room in front of us. There’s a wall right behind us. Maybe it grazes the back of the shoulder blades. You can feel there’s no movement in the front, no room to move in the back, but you have this big corridor on either side. So I can sneak along the frontal plane and walk, side stepping to the right on my tape, side stepping to the right, and I can go side stepping to the left, moving side to side. That’s my whole body moving along the frontal plane. Now I can also break it down and have one part of my body moving along the frontal plane, moving into these side spaces. I can reach my right arm into the frontal plane, the rest of me stays still. I can reach the left arm into the side space, I can reach a leg into the side space and bring it back to me. I can bring the other leg into the side space and bring it back to me. I can also tilt my ribs into the side space. My body still fits between these two imagined walls. I can tilt to the other side. I can make it smaller, make it just my head, tilting an ear a little bit to the right, tilting an ear a little bit to the left. For my ballet students, this might remind you of side cambré, that’s exactly what it should feel like. It should fit within these narrow pathways of side.
Now, what if the frontal plane were to bisect a person and split someone in half? It would bisect starting at the crown of the head, slicing across the middle of each ear, coming down the sides of the neck, cutting us in half along the shoulder, cutting us in half down the sides of the torso, cutting through the hip bones, coming down the outside, the out seams of our trousers down past the ankles to the floor. And it cuts us into the front and the back. So it is what reminds us that we have a front of our body and a back of our body, that is our second dimension. So we have these two dimensions that are limiting, very limiting. So sagittal plane, I can only move front and back. Frontal plane, I can only move side to side.
Now we have the plane that makes all things possible and that’s the transverse plane. The transverse plane is also known as the rotational plane and the rotational plane is where, as you could probably guess, rotation happens. So that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m here on the middle of my cross shaped tape, and I’m just gonna rotate in place right here in the middle, rotating my body, facing all different things in the room, facing the camera, facing my clothes dresser, ’cause this is New York City, facing the birdies, facing my stove and my refrigerator and my front door and then coming back to the camera. That is rotating, that’s my whole body rotating, but like all of the other planes, it can also be thought of as one part of the body rotating on its own. So I could rotate at the waist, I can rotate at my waist but my legs are still. Rotate at my waist, face the door, come back to the middle. Rotate at the waist, facing my husband’s archery equipment, come back to the middle. I can do it with just my head, can look, rotating right, rotating left. I think in the US, we say, okay, this is saying no. Not every country says it that way, but here in the United States, that’s what we do. So we can also think about it.
And this starts to get things really interesting. We can also rotate certain bones in the socket. I can rotate my upper arm bone, which is also called the humerus bone, in the socket. I can rotate it in there, I can rotate it in and out, I have it rotated in and I have it rotated out and I can put my hand on that shoulder and feel it rotate in and out. My arm is moving on the transverse plane all by itself. I can do that also with a leg, I can pick up my right foot and bend my right knee and I can rotate that leg out and rotate it inward. My knee faces the side of the room, my knee faces the other side of the room. There’s a certain limitation to how much rotation you can get in those joints, but it is absolutely possible to rotate them on their own.
But the transverse plane also includes any movement that kind of breaks your walls. So these little walls that we have, sagittal plane, frontal plane, they’re easy to break. Anytime we wanna break them, we can and that means we’re playing on the transverse plane. So if I’m gonna say, all right, I am moving my right arm away from me on the frontal plane, it’s now parallel to floor, my palm is facing down, a straight arm reaching the side. I’m gonna break the wall of the frontal plane and I’m gonna bring it across me, reach it all the way into the left front diagonal. That means I’ve played on the transverse plane. I can do that with my body. If I take a step forward with my right foot and I start reaching my torso forward, but then I bring my left leg inward to rotate it making a 90 degree sweep along on the floor. I’ve played in the transverse plane and I can bring it back. And I’m still playing on the transverse plane.
Now you can also mix and match your planes of motion. Let’s say I’m gonna do something really simple. I’m gonna walk in a circle around on my dance floor. I’m walking in a circle, what am I doing? I’m walking in a circle, what am I doing? What plane am I doing? While I can say I am walking in a forward kind of way, that’s sagittal motion. But I’m walking in a circle. So in a way we’ve found an intersection between sagittal plane and transverse plane. How much fun is that? So you can play with including different kinds of movement ideas. Here’s your challenge for the next two minutes. Think about these three planes. Think about ways that you wanna move your body. And then we’re gonna come back and talk a little bit more about moving in the planes. Doesn’t matter if you just play for a little bit. It doesn’t matter, even if you’re just playing in your imagination. Just think about these planes of motion and figure out how they might inspire you. So I’m gonna let myself be inspired for the next two minutes and then we’ll regroup and figure out some interesting ideas and I’ll share with you what I had been thinking about.
All right, let’s regroup everybody. Something that I did not tell you when I started to introduce these concepts of planes of motion, is that in biomechanics– this is still a new and emerging field of science by the way. When the big fancy scientists came together and decided, okay, we’re going to learn how to describe planes of motion, the ways that a person can move in space, they decided, okay, we have to work with the neutral body. What’s the neutral body according to these scientists? The neutral body is a person standing up with their legs touching, with their feet facing forward and with their arms down and their palms facing in and they’re tall and straight. That’s the neutral body. And also the neutral person exists in an environment that doesn’t have any gravity in it. So I don’t know, I felt a little skeptical of this. How many people are existing in a world in this specific posture, in an environment that has no gravity and also no friction? So I thought to myself, I don’t really like this idea of a neutral body.
I think that all of us have a different neutral body. A lot of us in blind and visually impaired community, we have a special relationship with our head. What they think is the neutral head position might not be your neutral head position. As someone who’s been using a white cane for a really long time, my arm doesn’t fall with the palm facing my leg, my arm rotates outward with the palm facing up. That’s an adaptation to my life that I live. Also in case you haven’t noticed, not everybody stands.
Some people don’t stand. Why isn’t their neutral position sitting down? In fact, according to these very fancy biomechanical scientists, if someone’s in the sitting down position, they’re already activating movement in the sagittal plane because their knees are forward. But that to me doesn’t make any sense. To me, I prefer a looser definition. Your neutral position is your neutral position and if your body parts move away from you or move toward you or cross any of these lines of movement, that is up to your neutral. If you are a seated dancer, if you are a dancer with different anatomy, if you are a dancer whose head might be screwed on a little differently, I think that that should be your unique starting point. So then you can say, “Well, I’m kind of an all over the place rotated person, what’s my front?” Think about your heart, that’s something we’ve all got. Your heart is your front. Wherever your heart is reaching to, that’s your front. And it doesn’t matter if other parts of you don’t line up, your heart will decide the direction that you go. So that’s planes of motion.
And some other fun ideas, let me tell you what I was thinking about when I was doing my movement exploration. I was thinking, okay, I wanna play with the frontal plane. I was doing movements like this. I knew I could fit within those walls in front of me and wall behind me as I did these kinds of side sweeps with my arms up high, it’s my spine undulating right and left, right and left, arms undulating right and left. But I rotated my body to face the side of the room when I did it. Now you can say, “Oh, is this still movement in the frontal plane even though she’s rotated to face the right instead of the front?” The answer is yes. Once I’ve stopped doing my rotation to face a different direction, movement on the transverse plane, when I start moving my spine and waving it right and left and I am fitting between a different set of front wall and back wall, that’s frontal plane. It’s always the space traveling with you. Here’s another thing for my ballet students, something I’m sure you’re all thinking about.
And let me tell you, this is a hot topic in biomechanics. What about what happens when we turn out both our legs? What happens then? Now some biomechanists say, “Oh, any movement done with turned out legs, that’s movement on the transverse plane, 100% of the time.” But what if that’s just how you live your life? What if you’re a turned out person? What if you always have turnout? And what if you do a plié and your arms float out to the side and you can fit between two walls, a wall in front of you and a wall behind you. Is that not movement in the frontal plane? What if you do a relevé and come up onto the balls of your feet? Your heels are still in the back and the balls of your feet are still in the front. That’s still a movement in the sagittal plane. What if I take a step forward with turned out legs? I still fit in that corridor, I haven’t crossed that line that bisects me right and left. I can do a lunge with turned out legs and I’m still playing sagittal plane. But maybe I want to play with rotational plane. What if I wanna think about as much of me rotating as possible? So I start to make a turn and I’m pressing my arms through diagonals and my hands press against each other and I rotate, weight on one heel, weight on the other, femur bones rotating in the pelvis as I turn around and I shift my weight, my whole body rotates and my shoulder bones and my thigh bones are rotating too. I wanted to really give as much transverse plane feeling to that movement as possible.
So now keeping all of these things in our memory banks, storing it behind our ear, let’s move onto our second topic. Our second topic is ideas, sets of opposite words, antonyms that can describe how body parts relate to each other. I have five pairs of antonyms for us to play with. The first set is anterior versus posterior. Anterior means closer to the front, posterior means closer to the back. So I can relate different body parts to each other using those words. So I can say, all right, my toes are anterior to my heels. My heels are posterior to my toes. My sternum bone that covers my heart is anterior to my shoulder blades, which sit on the back of my ribcage. My shoulder blades are posterior to my sternum that sits on the front. So that’s anterior, front of the body, posterior, back of the body. Some people use a more old fashioned set of words, which is ventral and dorsal, but we don’t really use those words for people anymore. That’s mostly for animals. Although people are kind of animals too.
Next set of antonyms, we have medial and lateral. Medial means close to the middle, lateral means farther away from the middle. So if I think about my face, my nose is medial. It is that center midline that the sagittal plane cuts down, cuts right through my nose. My nose is medial to my ear. My ear is lateral of my nose, my ear is more to the side.
Now if we’re talking about our limbs though, because limbs are more complicated, ’cause they move around and do all kinds of strange things. They have their own set of antonyms. For limbs we have proximal and distal. ‘Cause let’s say I decide I’m gonna hold that arm in the “neutral position” with my palm facing down, it’s a straight arm. What’s closer to the midline of my body? It’s all equally close to the midline of my body in that position. That’s why you need to have a separate set of antonyms. Proximal and distal say, all right closer to the torso or farther away from the torso. So we have the origin point of our arm, that’s our shoulder, that is our proximal point. Then we have our distal point, fingertips. Now let’s say I bend my arm and I bring my fingers to touch that sternum and bone covering my heart. Has anything changed? The answer is no, because my shoulder is still attached to my torso and my fingers are not, thank goodness.
I’m glad I’m not wearing fly paper, that’s all I have to say. Now another interesting set of antonyms, superior and we have inferior. Now these have other colloquial meanings, but in biomechanics it means superior is anything closer to your head and inferior is anything closer to the feet. Remember this is a neutral body hovering in space, so there’s no ground. So all right, we have the most superior thing is our head. Our most inferior thing is our feet. But what about everything else? Well, I could say, all right, my chin is superior to my neck. My neck is inferior to my chin. You can say, oh well they’re right next to each other, but they still have that antonymic relationship.
Now there’s one more. And this one’s really interesting and really fun to think about in really complex ways. And that is superficial and deep. And once again, they have their own colloquial, poetic meanings. Superficial means close to the outside of the body, deep means closer to the inside of the body. So what does that mean? What body many parts are you talking about? Skin, that’s the most superficial part of the body. Everything else is deep to the skin. The skin is superficial to your muscles, but your muscles are superficial to your bones. Your bones are deep to your muscles. Your heart is deep to your sternum bone, which is deep to your skin. Your skin is superficial to the sternum bone, which is superficial to your heart. Like I said, that’s a really fun set of pairings.
Once again, time for us to do independent practice. Can you think of a movement that really makes you integrate and think about these five relationships? Anterior/posterior, superior/inferior, we have lateral and medial, proximal and distal, and we have superficial and deep. Let’s play for two minutes and then we’ll rejoin each other. Have some fun everybody.
Take a break everybody, let’s regroup. Let’s have some thinking time. What kinds of relationships did you play with? I played with a lot of those sets of antonyms. There were a lot of things I found really interesting and inspirational as artistic improvisation points. Something I’ve really thought about because these words really are interesting and almost funny to me, superior and inferior. I was like, well, I’m a dancer and I know if I bend forward enough, I can get that head really close to my feet.
And yet while that’s absolutely a thing that is humanly possible for some of us wild and crazy creatures here on planet Earth, the relationship does not change, even if I fold in half like that, my head is still considered the superior and my feet are the inferior. Something else that I wanted to explore right away was superficial and deep. I started to do a contraction. I started to bring my deep abdominal muscles and push my spine into a C shape. I really feel them when I do that, I bring my whole spine into a curve. And I brought my hands to touch the skin right that covers my sternum bone, this superficial light touch. And then as I opened out, I could still feel those muscles deep within, but the skin that I touched is so vibrant. And then this shape really made me start to think about proximal and distal and how distal can I get these fingers and toes away from their origin points? How distal can I possibly get? That was a lot of frontal plane play, reaching arms and legs far into the side space, really playing with those ways of how distal can I possibly go with those extremities?
One more thing to play with today, and that is chains of energy. “Planes and Chains” is the title of this seminar activity, I don’t know, chains of movement. Now a kinetic chain is a way to describe where the energy of a movement goes. There’s two kinds of kinetic chains: there are open chains and there are closed chains. And it talks about, now we’re not in neutral body anymore, now we’re not hovering in outer space with no gravity and no friction, standing like a strained, I don’t know, statue or a column or something. Now we’re allowed to relate to things like air, like surfaces, like the floor, like your furniture, like your walls. Now you get to be you, that’s what chain play brings into the mix. A closed chain movement is a movement of a body part that is connected to a surface. So I’ve got my two feet on the floor. They’re about hips width apart, and they’re parallel and I’m gonna do myself a squat. And I’m gonna do myself a little squat and I’m gonna bend my knees and I’m gonna come down and then I’m gonna straighten my legs and come up tall again. Of course I put my arms in the genie granting wish position with the elbows out the side and the hands holding the forearm, so I can squat down and I can come up again. That is a closed chain movement. My knees bent, my ankles changed their position and my hips changed their position. I moved at three different joints and my feet were attached to the floor. The energy of that squat goes into the floor. And when I straighten up, that energy of that squat is still going into the floor. That’s a closed chain movement.
Let’s say though, I’m gonna pick up one of these feet, I picked up my right foot. It’s just in the front space of maybe doing a sagittal plane stroll, about to do that but instead of doing that I wanna bend my knee and bring my foot up. Oh, I change at my hip joint, I change at my knee joint, I even change at my ankle joint and I straighten that whole leg out. I’m bending that whole leg and I’m straightening that whole leg. Technically my right leg is doing this same thing it was when I was doing that squat on the floor. But my foot is not attached to the floor anymore, it’s in the air. That is an open chain movement. We can do that with our arms too. Let’s say we’re gonna go have nightmares of high school PE and are gonna do a push-up. All right, we’ve got two hands on the floor and we bend our elbows and we come up. And we bend our elbows and we come up. And then we stop at two because who likes doing push-ups? The energy of that movement, change at my wrist, change at my elbow, change how the upper arm bone relates to the shoulder socket, maybe even change how close or far apart my shoulder blades are on the back of my ribs, that is a closed chain movement.
But what if I take that same movement and I just push my arms into the air? It’s the same joints that are changing, it’s the same joints that are changing, but it goes into the air instead. You can do that in almost an infinite number of ways, taking a movement, changing it from being open chain to closed chain. Let’s say I’m gonna bow forward as I’ve been playing with a little bit here and there. Now my feet are on the floor, but what’s really changing is my torso, my torso goes forward. That’s an open chain movement. Open chain movements oftentimes have a much larger range of motion than closed chain movements. But if I get my arms, my forearms on my clothes dresser, and I get myself into this position where it’s like I am a 90 degree angle against my dresser here. And now I’m going to push up, now I’m closed chain. And my range of motion isn’t as large. It’s limited by how long my limbs are and how long my back is. An open chain movement, it extends beyond yourself. It can suggest movement infinitely into the air, throwing energy far away from you, like a Kung Fu master gathering flames and throwing them out into the world.
Of course, all kinds of combinations can be done. You can be doing a closed chain movement with your legs while you do an open chain movement with your arms. You can do all different kinds of things down on the floor. If I’m doing navasana, boat pose, and I’m balanced on my tailbone, my feet can do open chain kinds of things. They can kick up and down the open chain length, but I can also roll onto my back, that’s a closed chain and roll back up to my tailbone, roll onto my back, that’s a closed chain, come back up onto my tailbone. One more play time, let’s do some chain play. Improvise a little bit, come up with some movement concepts that help bring these chains of motion into your imagination and we’ll regroup in just a minute.
So let’s bring it back. What did you play with? What kinds of ideas did you experiment with? And a thought that came to my mind was, can I set up a closed chain system so my feet can be open chain? So I had my hands down on the floor and I was doing these kinds of these little kicks and then I remembered something really interesting.
What is a jump? Is a jump a closed chain movement or is it an open chain movement? If I do a little jump and I clear the floor and I land, what’s that? Well, let’s think. I prepare for my jump by bringing my heels into the ground, bending my knees, coiling up all the springs in my body, our Achilles tendon is a spring by the way. And if I clear the floor and I land again, where did that energy come from and where did it go? Went into the floor. A jump, even though you leave the floor for a moment, is a closed chain movement. Is that not the wildest thing? Is that not so much fun to play with?
To me that is just so much fodder for creativity and exploration in movement. Some of the greatest things that I love about improvisation is that it helps me to understand how I exist in the world, how my body fits into this universe. Disabled bodies do fit into this universe. All of us are capable of an infinite number of creative movements that can come through our understanding of ourself, how our body parts relate to themselves, relate to the space around us, real and imagined. So with that everyone, have a wonderful day. Thanks for dancing with me, thanks for improvising and I’ll be back with another biomechanical exploration, with another No Diagram Anatomy class for dancers in the Dark Room. Bye everyone!