More about BF “Heel Rocks”

Class notes for Karen Studd’s WholeMovement Class Session April 17th 2020

A WholeMovement approach to Bartenieff Fundamental’s traditional “Heel Rock”(s) – starting from the basics and clarifying the intent of this action. Then continuing to explore possible variations and linking the action to BF Connections, BF Rhythms and BF Principles and the Basic 6.

What is the “Heel Rock”?

I am (in this document and representing the WholeMovement approach), defining this BF action as:

A repetitive, rhythmic, successive phrase of movement that is generally done through a lower to upper, successive, sequencing linked to the foundational aspects of the human form. The action is standardly performed from a lying supine position. Heel Rocks are based on, and stimulate, our foundational kinetic chains of action.

In other words, the BF Heel Rock (generally speaking), is a phrase of action that is initiated in the lower body and follows through the upper body, synergistically connecting parts to whole. Heel Rocks support and bring awareness to the efficient and harmonic patterns of our whole body’s innate postural actions (through limb/core differentiation and integration). It is linked to our design – i.e. to stand and walk upright. (I stress “generally” as Heel Rocks can, and from my perspective should be, explored in many ways)

What is the idea of Heel Rock?

Why do it?

Why is it significant in the practice of BF?

The “Heel Rock” is used to explore and experience whole body connectivity in order to:

  • prepare
  • recuperate
  • mobilize (activate through directing the internal paths of our flow through our kinetic chains)
  • diagnose (through observation, awareness and/or sensation)
  • intervene (to support change or a shift in emphasis)

How and why it works

The Heel Rock is based in the Vertical Throughness of our Axis of Length

In the Space Harmony of our human design our length is dominate. We are of course 3-Dimensional, but we have mostly length. We are taller than wide or deep. And our length (in our vertical upright stance) is a foundational part of the pattern of our species design in relation to gravity and to the environment. We are defined by our bilateral upright stance to interact with, and to locomote through, the world. The BF Heel Rock action is both based on, as well as supportive of the function and expression of our essential design.

To reiterate: The action of the Heel Rock supports Whole Body Connectivity through the Axis of Length. And awareness of our Axis of Length is a Bartenieff Fundamental Principle.

The human Axis of Length is linked to our spinal column, and as vertebrates the spine defines our midline. In addition, our spine is foundational to the Patterns of Body Organization, starting from the Spinal Pattern and linked to what BF identifies as the Head /Tail Connection. The spine, with its 2 ends (head end and tail end) is also the foundation of our Upper/ Lower aspects of Body and the Upper/Lower Pattern of Organization. And then subsequently the basis of the Body Half (Side/Side) Organization, because the spine as our postural midline, provides the structure to frame how the 2 sides are organized – toward /away from midline through the anatomical actions of adduction and abduction. Furthermore, the spine (and Axis of our Postural Length) is a significant aspect of Cross Lateral Patterning, where the midline (as demarcated by the spine) is crossed. And this culminating contralateral developmental pattern is linked to our walking pattern (and thus back to the essential function and form of our design: our upright stance and bipedal locomotion). This Cross Lateral Pattern is also linked to other ‘crossing the midline activities’ such as the corpus collosum bisecting the right and left sides of our brain…

Spinal design

There is a synergistic relationship of the spines parts which we can experience in several ways.

One way is accessing the Rhythmic interplay between Skull and Sacrum. This is what WholeMovement identifies as the Occipital/Sacral Rhythm. WholeMovement’s perspective of LBMS includes the Occipital/Sacral Rhythm as one of the 3 identified BF Rhythms – the other 2 are the Gleno-Humeral Rhythm and the Ilio-Femoral. ( I can talk about these in another context!) This is NOT the same rhythm as addressed in the Craniosacral Therapy – although of course may be linked to this work. In the Heel Rock action the spinal curves of the lumbar and cervical sections have a reciprocal, inverse response as the wave like action travels through the torso along the Axis of Length.

WM defines Rhythms as: foundational actions expressing the Mobile/Stable, limb-core proportional relationships. (NB The spine in humans serves as both “limb” and “core” – core as the central midline and the container of the spinal cord content, but also because of the two ends, head and tail, considered in another sense as limbs (2 of the 6 limbs we identify in core limb relationships.)

So in LBMS and more specifically the Bartenieff Fundamental aspect of the system, “Heel Rock” is directly linked to these concepts of BF:

  • PrincipleAxis of Length (one of the BF Principles as explicated by WholeMovement)
  • Rhythm – Occipital/Sacral (one of 3 BF Rhythms that WM identifies)
  • Connection – Head-Tail
  • Pattern of Body Organization – Spinal

In LBMS all the BESS Components are connected so now let’s considering Heel Rocks in relation to all BESS Components

Heel Rock Link to Shape Component

Shape in Heel Rock can be addressed through the Convex/Concave relationship of the spinal curves and foundational spinal actions of our developmental progression and foundational postural actions. The Convex/Concave aspect of Shape, is a foundation of the Body Space intersection. It can also be viewed as the basis of our patterns of Basic Body Actions in postural Condensing and Expanding (Body Component) and the explication of the 3 dimensions of Space (Space Component). The length of our spine creating up-down, while dividing us bilaterally and creating side-sidedness and in the action of spinal flexion/extension exposing or protecting our “front” and “back” (anterior/posterior) surfaces, is the foundation of our relationship to the world. Remember that the Shape Component is, in essence, the Body Space relationship. So the 3 dimensions of Space as we define them come from the experience of relationship of our form’s design – in its function and expression in the environment.

Heel Rock Link to Basic 6

The link to the Basic 6 is in that it supports each of these actions as the Axis of Length is a support for all these actions. In addition, these actions can be also experienced by adding the “rock” into the Basic 6 actions themselves, and by bringing the foundational spinal action more dramatically into the awareness of the mover and supporting an emphasis on mobilization.

Heel Rock Link to Effort

The Heel Rock sets the stage for Effort to emerge as it activates foundational Flowsensing and Weightsensing as precursors to Effort. The Heel Rock actions also sets the stage for time expression, due to its rhythmic nature.

Heel Rock Link to the Space Component

Access to Space starts from the expression of the Inner Space of the Body and directing the internal flow through the Innersphere. This then can be the beginning in defining our access to the Space of our Kinesphere in preparation to engage with the world around us.  OF interest perhaps for some of you if we analyze the Space of the Heel Rock action it can be best understood as the Space of the Dodecahedral Sagittal Plan and not the Sagittal Plan that we associate with the Icosahedron. There is, as you may know, a dual relationship between the 2 forms – Dodecahedron and the Icosahedron. This relationship is something that in the WM approach we are beginning to explicate more fully in addressing the Body Space relationship of Space Harmony and the human form.