Say hello to my little friend

In Awareness Through Movement, Moshe used a wooden artist’s model to illustrate the student’s positions in the lessons that make up the second part of the book. What with a picture being worth a thousand words, this was a commonsense way to make the written descriptions unambiguous and understandable. Using the wooden model rather than an actual person to demonstrate the positions allowed Moshe to respect his self-imposed prohibition against having the teacher — and, by extension, any person — demonstrate the lesson. 

In keeping with this approach, I’d hoped to use a wooden artist’s model in my Awareness Through Movement® classes and to illuminate the Back into Action handbook. I thought that it would give me a way to clarify the instructions while allowing me to abide by Moshe’s prohibition against showing folks how to do something. (Not that he followed his own rules a hundred percent of the time but that’s a topic for another time.) I respected the rule because I knew it was part of creating situations where, instead of telling students the answer, they could figure things out for themselves. 

My decision not to use photos of people to illustrate lessons was also made because I knew how easy it was for us to dismiss the possibility of being able to do something because the person in the picture was younger, fitter, more flexible or athletic or whatever. 

It didn’t take me long to realize that the standard model I’d found at the art supply store was too small to be much good for a class of more than five or six students. I was elated to find the jumbo model that was big enough to be seen.

As easy as the size issue was to solve, the other major difficulty with this figure proved intractable. In this illustration, I wanted to show the student lying on their front side, their hands on the sides of the head, head and elbows on the floor, and both legs tilting together in the direction opposite the face. Not only, can’t I bend and twist it into the positions I wanted to show, but it lacks any of the nuance needed to illustrate the decisive details. The model is stiff; not just because it’s made from wood, but because it doesn’t have enough joints to simulate the amazing movability of our human frame. 

This is an endemic and long-standing problem. Consider, for instance, Poser software for easily creating 3D human figures for graphic design, illustration, animation, multimedia, and more. After a valiant effort, NYC-based Feldenkrais® teacher, Kevin Creedon (1960 – 2013), abandoned the dream of using this software to illustrate an ATM® lesson collection because the digital form simply could not portray the positions and actions in the lessons. 

And what about the rigid spine and ribcage of the common classroom skeleton made of plastic? Its bones are wired together, the ribs are pinned to vertebrae, and a metal rod goes from the spine to the breastbone, all so that it’ll keep its shape? What does it say that these representations of the body, the ones that are most readily available and have a kind of iconic stature, are incapable of showing the movements that make up Moshe’s lessons? 

That’s why I was so excited to fund an Indiegogo project back in 2016 called Stickybones, a “highly-articulated, precision-poseable animation puppet.” The snap-together plastic figure features a finely engineered joint system that, as the promotional materials say, creates infinite pose-abilities. The current Indiegogo campaign is open; shipment is planned for August of this year. Whether you’re interested in purchasing or not, it’s worth visiting the page to check out the magical stop motion animation. 

I wasn’t sure when I first opened the box — only a couple of months ago — if I’d finally found the 3D figure I’d been searching for but by the time Stickybones was assembled, I was all but certain that it was going to be equal to the task. 

Well, almost. SB’s feet are not articulated like its hands; they’re pretty much shaped like shoes. Forget hooking the big toe with the index finger and a few other favorites lessons, but, hey, no puppet’s perfect, right? As you can tell from the accompanying image, SB succeeds where the wooden artist’s model failed. If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you know I’ve been putting dem’ Stickybones to work already. 

It’s been years but, what can I say, Stickybones you were well worth the wait!

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