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In dance, release technique is any of various dance techniques that focus on breathing, muscle relaxation, anatomical considerations, and the use of gravity and momentum to facilitate efficient movement. It can be found in modern and postmodern dance, and has been influenced by the work of modern dance pioneers, therapeutic movement techniques such as Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique, and yoga and martial arts.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries dancers began to question the rigidity and formality of classical ballet. Isadora Duncan in particular articulated the need for dance which she described as being connected to the earth, sensuality and the natural body. In pursuit of this goal, pioneers such as Margeret D'Oubler, Martha Graham, Rudolf von Laban and Doris Humphrey began to invent new dance techniques that involved radically different movement.
Elements of release technique began to emerge as these pioneers, and protégés such as Merce Cunningham, Jose Limon, Irmgard Bartenieff, Erick Hawkins and Anna Halprin, contributed further ideas and inventions. For example, D'Oubler envisioned dance based on scientific analysis of human anatomy and movement; Humphrey's technique focused on allowing gravity and momentum to affect the body; Hawkins advanced the idea that physiologically efficient movement is inherently beautiful. Some elements were the result of exploring other movement disciplines. For example, Hawkins invited proponents of Ideokinesis to teach his dance company, and others were influenced by F.M. Alexander's concepts.
The phrase "release technique" emerged in the 1970s. Modern dancer Joan Skinner created "Skinner releasing technique", which employed elements of Alexander Technique, and Mary Fulkerson created "Anatomical Release Techique" based on the work of Mabel Elsworth Todd, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and others.
Today elements of release technique can be found in contact improvisation, Tai Chi, yoga, and somatic practices such as the Feldenkrais method. In dance, it is usually taught as an integrated part of contemporary dance classes and, less frequently, in classes that focus on release technique.
- Olsen, Andrea; Caryn McHose (2004). Bodystories. Lebanon NH: University Press of New England. ISBN 1-58465-354-X.
- Bainbridge Cohen, Bonnie (1993). Sensing, Feeling and Action: The Experiential Anatomy of Body-Mind Centering®. Northampton MA: Contact Editions.
- Johson, Don Hanlon (1995). Bone, Breath, Gesture: Practices of Embodiment. Berkeley CA: North Atlantic Books.
- Diehl, Ingo (2011). Dance Techniques 2010 - Tanzplan Germany, English edition. Germany: Henschel Verlag.
- Lepkoff, Daniel (1999). "What is Release Technique?" (PDF). Movement Performance Research Journal (19).
- An article about release technique at contemporary-dance.org
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