Evolutions in Rolf Movement Integration

Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – Vol. 40 – Nº 1

Volume: 40

[:en]Robert McWilliams: What is exciting in the Rolf Movement field for you right now?

Jane Harrington: One of the books that we all read when I first trained, and that much of the early Rolf Movement work came from, was Focusing1 by Eugene Gendlin. I have a good friend Gillian Kok, a Rolfer and a movement practitioner who is studying at the Focusing Institute, which is based on Gendlin?s work. It?s so wonderful to hear a fresh perspective from her concerning what was much of the foundation of my early training and its evolution. Very inspiring! In the early days, much of the movement work was around body knowing, access to that sensing, the living body, and sensation. Body attention was so much of what we did, often to a fault, inviting the loss of other aspects. It is fun to see someone re-excited about that aspect of our work.

RMcW: Is this renewed excitement showing up for you now in your work and life?

JH: Yes, absolutely. I am no longer doing structural Rolfing work. I stopped just about a year ago, closing my private practice last January. I realized it wasn?t inspiring me any longer, and my body feels a lot better for not doing it. I am doing my private practice in movement work again, and also some teaching. It?s so much fun to be doing functional work only. After so many years of divided attention, I am now only doing the movement piece with some cranial and touch that I?ve developed over the years.

RMcW: Will you be teaching CE classes related to the Rolf Movement syllabus again?

JH: I just scheduled one in Scottsdale for early March 2012 and I?ll be teaching a ?Principles? week in April. I love Principles weeks! That brings up for me how I was first trained, which is key to how I see the work. I first trained in 1979, and my first training was in movement integration. I was a movement practitioner for maybe eight years before I trained in structural Rolfing work; I had a straight movement practice for that period of time. Our training was organized (with Peter Melchior as the instructor) so that the eight of us doing movement study went to the structural Rolfing class in the mornings and we would hear Peter?s lectures about the series and see his demos. In the afternoons, when the other students were working with each other, we would be on our own. We would explore what, given the session, are the concepts of that session, and how do we translate them into function. The two teachers we had for that were Megan James and Heather Starsong. It was a long training! It was incredibly valuable, though, because I got such a blend of understanding of Dr. Rolf?s work. We were still making the movement work up as class was going on. I think I?m the only one still practicing from that group. Vivian Jaye was in it, and this was when our long teaching relationship and friendship began.

RMcW: Was it all women?

JH: It was. We had a week-long admission class, and that was all women too. If I remember correctly, Gary Weidner was the first man to train in [Rolf] Movement, just a year or two after my training. [Jane?s later addendum: Jason Mixter may have come earlier, according to Heather Starsong.]

RMcW: How much of this was based on the work of Dorothy Nolte, or did Judith Aston have anything to do with this training?

JH: Dr. Rolf farmed out the original movement work to Judith Aston. Dorothy Nolte and Rachel Harris were also doing some of the early development. Judith Aston taught the early movement work within the Rolf Institute®. At that time many Rolfers were involved and the work was taught in a workshop format, much like it is being done now. Judith Aston left the Rolf Institute to develop her own things. Then there was a group of people, including (but not limited to) Gael Ohlgren [now Rosewood], Heather Starsong, and Megan James and Janie French, who are no longer living. Gosh, all these people are dead! Anyway, after Aston?s group went off, these folks said ?wait a minute, we?re interested in movement as it relates to Ida?s work, and we also want to stay within the Institute with the work!? There were about two or three years of symposiums. I went to some of those before I trained. Louis Schultz was very involved in this. The inquiry was: what was the movement work that directly related to Ida?s vision? There were many people influencing it.

RMcW: Can you talk a little bit about your background as a dancer in relation to your later Rolf Movement work?

JH: Like others, I came to the Rolf Institute from the field of dance. This background gave me a passion for function and a deeper toolbox. Because of my dance background, I was very curious about how each of us organizes movement. Some of us have a more basic tendency towards inner sensation and proprioception, while some have more interest in perception and the space around us. I really think this is key in how you read and interpret different peoples? work. People tend to teach and write from their own basic preferences. Hubert Godard has brought some wonderful pieces into the work, and he?s very space-oriented.

RMcW: It seems as if a lot of his concepts have percolated down through Rolfing trainings, and they do seem to be space-oriented.

JH: The movement work in the beginning was much more about sensation, or the felt sense, and then the spatial piece got added. I now see them coming together with equal value as both are needed in the work. My dance background has a lot to do with the fact that my basic preferences are for the felt sense, sensation, and proprioception. When I went into dance I studied Hawkins technique, which is often more intrinsic in orientation, where something like Cunningham technique is more about how we move in space.2 So it was a very natural direction for me to study movement with the Institute. I was also a single parent and starving, teaching dance. You know the story!

RMcW: Yes!

JH: At that time I had a good friend, my roommate, who was a Rolfer, who told me the Institute had this new movementoriented training, and suggested I do it. At that time I was doing a lot of Continuum, and also Body-Mind Centering®, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen?s work, so it was a logical next step for me.

RMcW: I would imagine that if you had a tendency to being interested in sensation and felt sense, you would be naturally attracted to those kinds of movement practices.

JH: I also studied Laban Analysis and Bartenieff work. This is probably where I learned to see through movement. I remember sitting in the chair watching video, and analyzing it frame by frame by frame. All of these hours of focus really taught me the skills of movement analysis. Unfortunately, our trainings don?t allow that kind of focus. What?s really important and interesting with this new movement certification training is that it is being done now in a series of workshops. The training is designed so that you take the workshops with different teachers. The training segments can be done as the Rolfer is ready. This lets people go where their interest is. That?s pretty neat. For instance, Rebecca Carli enjoys working with sense of self in space, and relationship between self, others, and objects in space. That?s a brilliance of hers. Mary Bond has done this incredible job of clarifying the educational piece, and has really updated and brought that forward. Each person on faculty has, in my view, real gifts. What?s wonderful is the format allows for each of us to teach from our gifts, rather than try to fit into something that?s not our passion. We have all have done different things. Carol Agneessens, for instance, has done wonderful work in embryology, and in using subtle touch relating to function. It?s exciting what?s going on right now.

RMcW: For people who are not movement certified, and even for those of us who are, could you frame any thoughts on a movement intervention, thinking in terms of ?what?s first, what do you do next, and how do you know when you?re done?? Does that question speak to you?

JH: Absolutely, because before all else, I?m practical. I really value the people who do the research and develop this amazing work, but it?s just not my way. I prefer to just jump in and get my hands dirty. So, I assume your question, Rob, refers to people involved in structural integration [SI].

RMcW: Yes

JH: Regarding ?movement certified or not?, the practitioners who are movement certified, and who also grab ahold of that work, are those who have a natural inclination towards it. Yet we want to see all of the people in the Rolfing [SI] field able to gain some basic familiarity and experience of the work, because it is essential for the client?s embodiment. The first thing to remember is that every session, just like every series, has a beginning, middle, and end. That?s true regardless of which modalities you?re using, whether structural or functional, light sensing or deeper structural touch ? it doesn?t matter. These are the components. The first thing for me, when I?m working with someone (and I am now thinking of your ?functional session? question), I need to know: what are the basic preferences of this client; how does he gather information about himself and his world (this relates to that whole discussion we had earlier about ?inner? versus ?outer? preferences); and how much does this client have the ability to remain in present time, or are there places that are still held historically?

RMcW: Do you mean by that places that are held historically in [his] way of relating to [his] own world?

JH: If a person is beautifully organized in [his] way of relating to the gravitational field, then when [he moves] we?re going to see beautiful spinal response, we?re going to see the girdles of the body relating well to each other, and we?re going to see a person who is scanning the environment ? for lack of better words ? in an appropriate way. So [he?s] present with the right amount of energy; no more, and no less than is appropriate. Occasionally we see that, and most of us have had moments in time where we?ve experienced this in ourselves. So when a client comes, I begin by looking to see how [he is] doing that, and where are the gaps? That would be the ?beginning? ? analysis, essentially. Some of it is done with touch and some is done with listening. Some of it?s done watching the [client] move, functionally. When watching functionality, I mean sensing into [his] movement with all of my inner senses. True seeing involves all of our senses and trust. When working with possibilities for the client, as you know, it?s my belief that you always start with [his] preferences. This lets [him] begin with success. [He] goes ?oh, this is what I naturally do! This is what?s already working for me.? Then it can be taken and expanded into new options. So there?s a beginning, middle, and an end, be it in a session or a series. Where deeper changes happen, we call these the core sessions; or, the heart of each single session.

What I am curious about at this time is, how can I assist this client with the parts of [him] that aren?t really responsive? Sometimes it?s like ? oh! ? this right psoas is jammed.? But oftentimes it?s a functional question for [the client], like ?what happens if I really stretch down through that leg, or reach through that cylinder, and allow my arm to move,? or whatever it is.

Regarding techniques, there?s not one technique. The technique may be as simple as how exploring how the cranium and eyes track as the arm or leg is reaching. It may be spending time with how [the client moves] from sitting to standing and take in more special awareness. The point is, we can?t do [clients?] work for them. Sometimes it would be easier if we could just distract them, do the work, and go ?here you go!? But we can?t!

So, if they want change that is about having more vitality in their lives and more joy, it takes touching the places that weren?t congruent with the rest of themselves, and that?s what I see as the middle sessions, or the heart of a session. That work then needs to be integrated into something that?s functional. Why is it we even bother to work with a structural integration client? It is my belief that we work to give clients more function in the world. This is the reason that I am attracted to this work. It allows me to assist someone in changing his sense of how [he] moves through [his] world. [He] may feel ? ?Oh! That knee is tracking better now so that it doesn?t hurt.? Or it may be on more of an emotional or belief level, ?I can now trust my knee to support me.? I am always looking to create more functionality with this person, so that together we invite more ease, so [he] can actually apply and use it in [his] life.

Daily life is really what matters. That has to do with the educational piece I referred to before. This has to come, in my view, from their preferences. I had a wonderful experience years ago, before I had the privilege to study with Hubert Godard. Because I am very ground- and sensationoriented, I would do tracking with clients at the end of a session. I remember saying to one woman ?just push into the floor as you straighten,? blah blah, and it never worked! So then after study with Hubert, I realized that her preference was about space, so I said, ?bend your knees, and as you straighten, allow yourself to feel the space around your head.? Total magic happened because I matched her preferences, rather than coming from mine. So, the more we can understand ourselves, the better off we are.

I?m always looking at transmission through the body. What is connecting, and what isn?t? Interestingly, now that I have gone back to doing purely functional sessions, I have also gone back to Ida?s original repatterning sequences. These sequences work with each region of the body to help anchor the awareness and begin the shift in the neurological pathways. I?m not teaching Ida?s work as a set of exercises that people go home and do, because it won?t happen and it won?t work. I?m using them while I?ve got my hands on the person to guide [him] to an opening in a particular joint or aspect of pelvic response [he senses] it ? that would be more the middle part of a session ? and then take that into sitting and standing, so that [he has] a bridge from the old way to the new.

RMcW: So it?s as if a movement intervention, by creating this new connection between movement and sensation, gives people a new percept, a new idea that they can also take out with them from the session, just as they take fascial release with them.

JH: Absolutely, Rob, and for that to work, for them to take that with them, the piece around space and relating to the environment has to be addressed. That?s a large part of what happens in the integration part of the session or series.

RMcW: Are you saying that if you keep the session focused on sensation and sense of weight without introducing the spatial element, that people have a harder time integrating it and taking it out with them in the world?

JH: Right. It won?t work. The other thing that you?ll lose is span. You?ll lose length. I don?t know if most people will understand this, but I studied Hawkins Technique when I did my masters degree in dance, and I loved it, but when you watch a Hawkins dancer move, there?s no lift, there?s no length, and it?s really boring! It?s very satisfying, however, to do! Part of our principle of palintonicity is about using two directions, or span, and that?s what you lose without the space element. Hubert brought fabulous insights on this to our work.

RMcW: Wasn?t span from Dr. Rolf? Wasn?t it already inherent in the work?

JH: It was, absolutely, but the piece we didn?t really have is: how do you give someone the ability to move through space with span, when they got up off the table? How can [the client] be taught to be able to consciously come back and recreate it? It is essential for the client to have a sense of weight and space to utilize span. I got a lot of great Rolfing [SI] early, working with some wonderful people, and I remember I would get up after a session and it would be truly magical with shifts and changes, but as I went through the next day or two, I couldn?t always find it again for myself

RMcW: So you?re saying that using some of that connection through sitting, standing, walking helps to get that spatial element integrated. It seems to me that Rolfing [SI] bench work has inherent spatial aspects in it. When did people start doing bench work?

JH: I didn?t study with Dr. Rolf. I had the privilege of meeting her, but she died in May of 1979, and I started my training in August that year. Other than a brief meeting, I didn?t know her, or study with her. People were certainly doing bench work when I was around. When we watch the early class videos of Ida working, we often see her using bench work. You?re absolutely right, bench work is one of those wonderful transition places that bring structure and function together. That?s part of why I love the tracking aspect of our work. Years ago, I taught a three-day that was straight tracking. It was really fun!

RMcW: Would it be correct to say that a lot of ideas that became Rolf Movement [Integration] came out of the earlier tracking work?

JH: I don?t know. The early tracking work that I experienced was much more structurally oriented than you might be thinking of. I can remember the early days of teaching movement workshops, when Vivian Jaye and I put together the trainings to certify Rolfers in movement work. I remember that in those early workshops you might see that while a practitioner was focusing on the lower body, the client?s shoulder girdle and head might not have a relationship to the rest of the body. You know, the client would be bending over and looking at you! In the bench work, sometimes, if someone was doing something with the upper body, you?d look down and the feet wouldn?t even be in contact with the floor.

RMcW: It sounds like there?s been a change in the overall idea of tracking and embodiment in Rolfing SI, then. It?s gone from looking at individual bits ? for example making sure the tibialis anterior tendon is allowing fold at the ankle in lower leg flexion ? to these more global ideas, such as re-mapping. It?s been an amazing development, it seems to me.

JH: Yes, and it?s ongoing. It?s been an evolution. Re-mapping is not a term I tend to use, but it?s a good term. It?s a lot about how we take new options, new potential and possibility, and bring it into functional reality for the client.

The work that is taught now in all phases of the Rolfing training has much more information about the awareness of the client, [his] responsibility for [his] own change and how it is for [him] to make use of that, than there was ten years ago. Certainly all the faculty members that teach basic classes are Rolf Movement-certified, now, and that was not always true. Big changes have happened in the work.


1. Gendlin, Eugene, Ph.D., Focusing. NY, NY: Everest House, 1978.

2. Erick Hawkins, 1909-1994, was a leading American Modern Dance choreographer. A former main performer for Martha Graham (and briefly, her husband as well), he went on to develop his own brand of somatically-informed training and choreography. He believed that each movement or gesture was initiated with the psoas. Merce Cunningham, 1919-2009, was another leading light of American modern dance who started off with Martha Graham only to diverge completely from her myth- and story-based approach to his own abstract, ballet-influenced and non-narrative style.Evolutions in Rolf Movement Integration[:]

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