I trained in Bartenieff Fundamentals in college and taught it to my contemporary dance classes, beginner through adult. When I decided to try it with my FSDC dancers, I felt a little embarrassed that I had waited so long to try it. It was the perfect fit for the dancers because the technique encourages the re-training of movement patterns learned as a baby.
Since many children with Down syndrome do not engage in natural play as babies, they may miss the development of certain movements patterns. The lack of this development can lead to difficulty in other movements later in life. Bartenieff Fundamentals breaks down the patterns into movements that the dancers can practice and perfect to create efficiency in movement.
Core/Distal: The Core/distal pattern explores the relationship of our core to our extremities. Our floor warm-up exercise involves pulling your arms and legs into the center body with your core and then expanding from your core back into an X (see video below). Ideally arms and legs should finish in the ball or X at the same time. It begins to teach engaging your core at a very basic level and synchronizing your arms and legs. As a baby, this pattern would be seen when a baby is reaching up at a parent or guardian.
Body Half: Body Half means moving one side of your body while maintaining stillness in the other side. In our intro exercise, dancers slide their same-side elbow and knee together and then expand it back out to their X, much like a starfish might. The idea of sliding on the ground is new to many students and is important to encourage to reduce muscle overload.
Our next warm-up exercise for body half involves bring our same side elbow and knee together and then rolling onto that side. We then reach out the same side arm and leg to roll back to our X. Again, I make sure to encourage the dancers to slide on the ground, rather than lift their arms and legs over their body. Additionally, it is important that the dancers keep their head on the ground and their necks relaxed.
The body half pattern can be seen in babies when they roll over onto their stomachs. It teaches stability in the still side and isolation in the moving side. The sliding on the floor encourages the engagement of the core even further.
I hope you will consider trying these movements with your dancers. It’s a great way to build movement patterns, muscle efficiency, and plus, it’s fun!
For more information regarding Bartenieff Fundamentals: