Challenging the pedagogical myth of the neutral pelvis

Presenter: Luc Vanier, School of Dance Director University of Utah; Elizabeth Johnson, Assistant Professor University of Florida


Perhaps due to the dance field’s adoption of physical therapy and athletic training language, many teachers ask students to strive for a “neutral” pelvis. This is often encouraged in postural training. Over years of teaching dance through somatic and developmental lenses (Alexander Technique and Laban Movement Analysis) our pedagogy has become diametrically opposed to the idea of neutrality. Our Framework for Integration joins patterned activity with intent; for the spine to be integrated, an active pelvis must constantly support the intent of the head–nearly always in antagonistic response. This is especially relevant to understanding épaulement. Rather than static models, dancers need ones that allow for the dynamic range the pelvis experiences in activity. As somatic practitioners we believe that integrated, whole body involvement is healthier and more functional than a compartmentalized one.

The Framework vocabulary provides a common anatomical and movement patterning ground through which conscious change is achievable. From our observations and positive feedback from students and teachers, we have evolved this work through collaborative conference presentations, published articles, and a co-authored book. The research initially involved working with wheelchair athletes from a VA Spinal Cord Injury Clinic to help them avoid overworking the spine. We now use a physioball to demonstrate how movers interfere with their spine/pelvis relationship.

We refer to the memory of the experience of working with the physioball for students to apply the concepts. A frequent question in class would be, “Where is the ball going?” 


Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth Johnson, BFA (George Mason University), MFA (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) is a performer, choreographer, educator, Laban Movement Analyst, Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique (M.AmSAT), and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT200). As an embodied academic, her research seeks to integrate somatic, developmental, and feminist perspectives into her dance teaching/pedagogies and creative work. Her written research is often spurred by her intense experience at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where she trained in classical ballet with Balanchine ballerina Melissa Hayden as well as former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and American Ballet Theatre dancers. Her contemporary dance company, Your Mother Dances, has featured her choreography as well as produced national and regional guest artists; her choreography has been seen in New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and beyond. Also as a professional performer, she has danced with David Parker and The Bang Group (NYC), Sara Hook Dances (NYC), and Molly Rabinowitz Liquid Grip (NYC). Johnson teaches and presents workshops nationally and internationally and continues to invest in her ongoing studies, currently in Dr. Martha Eddy’s Dynamic Embodiment-Somatic Movement Therapy Training. She has served on Dance faculties at the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University North Carolina-Greensboro, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Texas Tech University. She is an Assistant Professor in the School of Theatre and Dance at the University of Florida.

Luc Vanier

Luc Vanier (MFA, MAMSAT) is the Founding Director of the School of Dance at the University of Utah. He received his MFA from the University of Illinois and certified as an Alexander technique teacher in 2001 and became a training course Director in 2011. A Principal Dancer and company choreographer with Ohio Ballet, he danced pivotal roles in the works of company founder Heinz Poll, Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Kurt Jooss, Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Laura Dean among others. His choreography has been produced at the Joyce Theater in New York City and toured nationally. Vanier has lectured and presented his research extensively nationally and internationally and his co-authored book “Dance and the Alexander Technique” was published by University of Illinois Press. He founded the Integral Movement Lab, which combines the Alexander Technique within product and curriculum designs and his collaborative research with neuroscientist and physical therapist Dr. Wendy Huddleston was recognized with a two-year $50,000 multidisciplinary grant. He co-created Framework for Integration, a movement analysis system anchored in the way babies and animals move that helps all movers make new, healthier movement decisions and encourages more coordinated and integrated bodily use.