Steve Paxton and Material for the Spine (MFS)
I first met Steve Paxton in 2002 when he came to teach the Material for the Spine to my MA class at Goldsmiths College in London. I knew he was the spark behind Contact Improvisation and an important figure in the famed Judson Church post-modern dance revolution, but that’s about all.
I didn’t know he would end up influencing my career so profoundly when he answered a question during that workshop. In response to one of my classmates, who was getting frustrated with the repetition and rigor of the exercises and asked why he wasn’t being given more freedom to use his imagination in the movement, Steve said: I am using my imagination, I’m just applying it to something real.
Material for the Spine is a potent technique that he has distilled for bringing movement to our consciousness, with key practices for connecting our imagination of our movement with our real-time experience of it. Part meditation, part workout and all dance, it cultivates internal initiation and deepens our contact with our reflexive mind.
I had the pretty incredible privilege of working with Steve Paxton, Lisa Nelson, and a small group of professional movers over the course of a year from November of 2011 to November of 2012 as part of the Figure Space program at Earthdance. Light bulbs have been turning on and shining brightly for me since. And experiencing Steve’s early choreographic work from the inside as a performer at the Some Sweet Day exhibit at MoMA in 2012 was sweet indeed.
I teach MFS workshops occasionally and highly recommend the form to anyone who loves to improvise – it is fuel for traveling far with your dancing.
- Link to MFS Blog Posts – 11/2011