I was out of town for much of May and the beginning of June, but I made it back for the last two days of the course before summer break. On one of these days, Joan talked about flopping arms and finding support for them. I think what she is getting at is that the arms support the torso and the shoulders support the arms, so when she sees someone collapsing their shoulders from the supposed weight of the arms, she finds that it is not a very directed, free use of them.
From my own background in dance, I find that what many would think of as “released” arms are often collapsed, overly burdensome arms that aren’t connected into the back. Of course people look for released arms because they see the opposite – overly held arms. And Joan is not looking for this either. It’s just that people collapse and lose support of the arms/shoulders by trying to release them.
There is also the problem in music of an over-emphasis on the weight of the arm – the bowing arm for example or hands at the piano. It’s not that we would want the opposite of that with holding tension or not allowing freedom of the arm, but often it can interfere with patterns of support through the spiral musculature that allows a lot of strength, support, and freedom of the arms and hands. And we get this support through our direction.
For me, when sitting on a chair in a turn, I love getting tactile feedback from the hands on the legs so that I have something concrete to come up and way from. That way, I’m not pulling myself up or going down and into my hands, but poised so that I can do what I want with my arms and hands easily.
Joan showed an example of what to do if a student overly flops their arms when getting out of the chair. She ratchets people up from the “scruff of the their neck,” and finds that it helps their shoulders to be more supported rather than dragged down. Here’s a video of Sally doing it to me (with me over-exaggerating the floppiness as I get out of the chair:
To all of us finding free and supported arms. 🙂