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4 Ways of Relating

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

In my last post I talked about the way in which we should think about a movement practice, about the idea of each discipline being a container but not being the practice itself.

Today, I would like to talk about four specific containers that may be useful in approaching your movement practice. The disciplines that you practice already may fall more particularly in one of these four containers. In this way, we have a case of containers within containers.

The four containers I am proposing today are:

  1. Body form

  2. Inter-relational

  3. Environmental

  4. Manipulation

Body form practices originate from inside, from an internal intention to create shapes and movements and patterns. These may be learned copies, imitations of patterns performed by others before, or explorations derived from an internal interoceptive desire for movement of the body but these forms should be relatively independent from outside influence in the moment. In other words they would look roughly the same in any context. These practices do not use or rely on a specific object or environment and are performed alone. They require only the body (and perhaps the power of gravity). Examples of body form practices might include yoga, Pilates, gymnastics, dance solos, floor work, modelling, locomotion, etc.

Inter-relational practices involve people, and specifically interactions between people. They require us to adapt and be spontaneous, to react to the actions of another (or others) and to communicate through movement in dynamic relationship to others. Examples of this kind of practice could include roughhousing, all martial arts, tag, rugby and other team sports, contact improvisation and other partner dances, conversations and sex.

Environmental practices are reliant on your surroundings. They require specific surroundings to act and move in a certain way, and our movement is defined by the surroundings: the forms would look very different depending on the context. We adapt the movement to the surroundings: we move on, up, around, across, under or over the shapes and landscape that form our environment. Examples of environmental practices include hiking, swimming, parkour, rail dancing, slack lining, site-specific dance, climbing and bouldering.

Manipulation practices involve objects. In some ways they are similar to environmental practices but rather than adapting our movement to the surroundings we use movement to shape the environment, moving the objects and materials in various ways. Manipulation practices change the environment. Examples of manipulation practices involve cooking, crafting, building, moving furniture, juggling, throwing a ball, frisbee, javelin, weightlifting, drawing, etc.


With these 4 containers in mind, think: how do the disciplines I practice exist within this framework? Do they fall mostly in one Category? Is it quite balanced and spread out? Do some categories feel very unfamiliar, or out of my comfort zone? Do any of them call out to you, make you feel excited or curious?

It is also worth noting that of course, like any system for breaking down reality onto paper, this system has its flaws. Some practices don’t fit neatly into one category. For example, is skateboarding an environmental practice or a manipulation practice? It must be said that it is both. Can any body form practice truly be a body form practice if there is an audience? Can any practice truly not be environmental as it will always set to some extent within a space and a culture that affects the mover? And in the same way, can any practice be free of relational influence? Probably not. And of course perhaps there are some practices don’t fit into any of these containers.

Again, there’s no one right way to approach your movement practice. I hope however that understanding these different entry points might give you a fresh idea, a novel experience. It might open up new possibilities and generate a new way of thinking that allows you to find more depth, connection and meaning in a practice. Each approach has something different to offer, depending on what you are looking for.


Body Form Classes:

  • Handstands (6pm Tuesday & Thursday, 2pm Saturday)

Inter-Relational Classes:

  • Flow Acrobatics (7pm Tuesday & Thursday, 3pm Saturday)

Environmental Classes:

  • Outdoor Movement (6pm Monday & Wednesday)

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