News & Politics

Mind Body Spirit: Chassis Lubrication


We are all born dancers, with innate coordination and animal grace. As time goes by, we tend to lose touch with this natural ease. Muscles tense unnecessarily, and our alignment goes askew. The Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT) lets you practice letting go—of stress, of unnecessary holding in your body, of preconceptions about what is supposed to happen, of fear of awkwardness, of the belief that you don’t have the right body for dancing. You rediscover your natural alignment, improve strength and flexibility, and—most unusually, considering that this is body work—awaken creativity and spontaneity. It’s a dance class for professionals as well as everybody else.

You let go of habitual holding patterns and ways of thinking in order to let something new happen. Eventually, you find energy and power. SRT can enhance any movement style, even ballet and jazz, and any activity. For many, it’s catalytic in their lives and helps whatever they do, both the mundane and the profound. Part of the class involves hands-on partner studies, where you can feel yourself letting go of tension, maybe for the first time. The teacher’s guided imagery quiets the mind and coaxes you into a deeper state of connectedness and wholeness, allowing you to tap into the imagination while working on technical aspects of dancing. Movement then unfolds, sometimes quietly and gently, sometimes in surprising and inventive ways. The integration of the technical with the creative is the unique brilliance of the Skinner approach. Connecting our physicality with our imagination, we end up with an empowered self.

Some parts of an SRT class involve “deep states,” where our brain waves slow down and we journey just below the conscious level. This mode is similar to meditation: The senses are heightened and we’re open to learning. Moving from this state, or even just visualizing movement, can lead to astonishing transformations. People find themselves moving in ways entirely new for them, that they didn’t think themselves capable of, often with an ease they didn’t think possible.

The class atmosphere is gentle, interweaving guided imagery with a variety of musical environments that support and propel you in a comfortable, safe atmosphere. You proceed at your own pace and in your own way. Balance is found by expanding rather than holding. You experience many centers rather than one, align with the forces of the universe rather than strictly in relation to your own body. It’s an experiential, intuitive approach, taking into account not just the physical body, but the energies that move through and around us. I’ve always found that by experiencing my body as part of my whole self, rather than as a separate physical thing, I’m able to take care of it more effectively.

In SRT I was grateful to find a class atmosphere that included all parts of me. Although the work is specific, it’s broad enough and deep enough to include my own thoughts and feelings as they come and go. No matter how much or little I move in class, I always seem to leave with more energy than I had when I came. And with ideas flowing.

The Skinner Releasing Technique is taught in the New York area by DD Dorvillier (718-384-0568), Lucy Mahler (718-625-3293), Andrea Mills (718-383-0297), and Movement Research (212-539-2611). Workshops in SRT, taught by its creator Joan Skinner, Robert Davidson, and Stephanie Skura, are offered every summer at the University of Washington in Seattle. Call 206-264-5515 for registration information, or e-mail

Archive Highlights