The Skinner Releasing Technique fosters dance technique and creativity hand in hand. Classes are improvisational and based on guided imagery and hands on partnering work to foster specific kinesthetic awarenesses. Although different and innovative in its own right, SRT has some clear links with the Alexander Technique. Both techniques focus on letting go of superficial tension to create ease and efficiency of movement, but SRT takes this principle further into a practice even more relevant for dance.
STR is based on the principle that by releasing excess tension we can move with more ease, speed and grace. It allows us to be ready to move in any direction, including in and out of the floor and on and off balance with suppleness and agility. By shedding excess tension we access our deeper strength, suppleness and readiness, and avoid wasting energy holding on to superficial strength and tension, which can cause rigidity and a lack of ability to move off centre.
The poetic images used in class affect the unconscious part of the nervous system, creating deep changes in the physical self. They allow and invite creativity to flourish as we explore new ways of moving. Through a series of classes we are gradually taken through deeper and more refined ways of releasing and finding alignment without force, judgment and excess tension. This also allows the mind and our creativity to be freer, so our ability to improvise and find our own movement vocabulary, based on good alignment and suppleness, expands and develops.
The technique is particularly popular amongst artists who use their bodies directly in their art work such as dancers, musicians and actors. For dancers who have trained in traditional dance techniques it can be a profound way of releasing built up muscular tension and opening up the ability to improvise freely.
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Skinner was originally a dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company and later the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. During a rigorous period of touring and performing with the Graham Company she herniated a disc. During her time of recovery she started exploring the Alexander Technique to help heal her injury and learn how to move differently. It is evident from the Skinner Releasing Technique as we know it now, that this was an influential time for her. It sowed the seeds for the development of SRT and influenced her thinking.
The development of her dance technique happened gradually over time as she was able to experiment with her ideas and visions with students and graduate students at the University of Washington. The technique clearly broke away from traditional dance training at the time and paved the way for ground breaking changes in the approach to dance and dance technique. SRT is continually growing in popularity and is now taught across the world.