MFA Monday: What is a Notochord?
Monday is no longer as blah with awesome insights into holding a Master of Fine Arts!
Here is another installment by MFA student, Angela Falcone. Enjoy!
What is a “notochord”?
A former Kilgore College Rangerette and friend of mine, Carla Rudiger, came to our somatics class at Texas Woman’s University to introduce us to Body Mind Centering. This ninety-minute introductory workshop changed the way I think, feel, and know my body. Carla’s first request (before meeting) was to read “The Place of Space” (Interview with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen on the Embryological Embodiment of Space) by Nancy Stark Smith and Andrea Olsen. Below is my reflection on the process of the class.
My experience with the Body Mind Centering class revealed how much I do not know about my own body. One of the most basic principles of Body Mind Centering is this idea of “support precedes movement.” With that, the class was structured into four sections: reading about the embryonic process (Smith and Olsen article), visualizing the embryonic process (from sperm to egg) on a sheet of paper, watching Carla’s embodiment of skeletal structures of the spine on a Pilates ball, and, finally, trying the embodiment ourselves. In the skeletal structure, she revealed three layers of the spine: the notochord, the intermediate plates, and the lateral plates. The notochord is the innermost part of the spine. In more anatomical terms, the notochord is “a flexible rod-like structure that forms the main support of the body, from which the spinal column develops” (The Free Dictionary by Farflax). As Carla began rolling on the Pilates ball, she placed her attention and focus on her notochord through visualization. During this somatic practice, her movement shifted ever so slightly. When Carla began to involve the other spinal structures (the intermediate and lateral plates), I could also see Carla’s movement becoming fuller and richer. I wanted so badly to embody this quality.
This vulnerable demonstration opened my eyes to the importance of my own support system. Her embodiment of the movement began with her deepest form of support, her spine and even more specifically her notochord. Unlike most of my fellow classmates, I, personally, became less familiar with my connection the deeper we brought our attention to the notochord. (Perhaps this unfamiliarity stems from my training and upbringing, which lacks somatic practice in general.) What I find ironic is the notochord layer is the most basic, deepest level of your body, but I quickly discovered that I am unable to embody this layer at this point in my life. As Carla began taking us through more exercises, I found a lessened connection to my body. Which, frankly, scared me. I began to tear up in class as I questioned my own support system, which then made me question my movement patterns. I finally asked myself…have I been “faking it” my whole life? If we choose to bring our attention and focus to our innermost layer of being, I believe our dancing can reflect that intellectual and physical connection.
All things considered, I am completely intrigued by this Body Mind Centering approach and want to take it a step further. My future ambition is to begin taking classes this summer at Dallas Yoga Center to develop my own practice so that I may inform other dancers about this approach to embodiment. I truly believe educators can begin at the core of the body (literally) to develop a more somatic approach for young dancers as well. Let’s all jump on the bandwagon and preach finding the notochord!
For more information about Body Mind Centering, check out the website at www.bodymindcentering.com.
Angela Falcone, a Houston native, graduated from Friendswood High School in 2007. She was a member of the drill team, the Friendswood Wranglerettes, where she held the title of Grand Marshal. After graduating, she followed her dream and tried out for the Kilgore College Rangerettes. She had the honor of being chosen as the Freshmen Sergeant and Swingster her freshman year, and received the greatest honor of being chosen as Captain her sophomore year. Following graduation from Kilgore College with an Associate in Fine Arts, she was accepted to the University of Texas at Austin, where she holds a B.F.A. in Dance. Angela currently attends Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas where she is pursuing her M.F.A. in Dance. She is specifically interested in shifting the paradigm of high school drill team by reinvigorating the choreographic process and bringing a somatic awareness to high school dancers’ bodies.