Disclosure: Dance Dispatches received complimentary admission to provide an open and honest review on the Klein Technique™ Stretch and Placement Class.
During modern dance classes, teachers often drop the names of the educators and movement practices that influence their warm up exercises, so you already may have heard of Klein Technique™. Many dancers adopt this practice to enhance their physicality and increase their kinesthetic awareness. Famous dance students of Klein Technique™ include Trisha Brown, Bebe Miller and Stephen Petronio. However, the mixed-level classes are open to all.
Susan Klein School of Movement and Dance
Interestingly, an injury led to the creation of Susan Klein’s movement technique. While studying German modern dance and Graham modern dance, Klein injured – and re-injured – her knee. So she developed Klein Technique™ to aid her recovery, and the entire method is “a corrective approach to movement and dance techniques [that helps] people physically re-educate themselves, teaching them to move from muscles of deep skeletal support,” according to Introduction to Klein Technique™.
The Susan Klein School of Movement and Dance in New York City seeks to help students increase their movement efficiency, power, range of motion and ease of movement. Their work focuses on the pelvis and establishes stability in the lower body before moving upward to the head, neck and torso. Klein Technique™ works to “guard [joints] against the resulting compensations in other body parts,” which is particularly useful for dancers who struggle with repetitive injuries.
In addition to a regular schedule of drop-in classes, Klein and other certified Klein Technique™ instructors also occasionally teach longer weekend or 5-day intensive workshops.
“I believe that the body can dance and express without being in constant pain, and that the life of a dancer does not have to be short and end in injury. The main thrust of the work is to teach people to use their bodies fully and totally – to properly initiate movement, and then allow it to sequence unobstructed through the body.”– Susan T. Klein, Introduction to Klein Technique™
Klein Technique: Stretch and Placement Class
I visited Susan Klein School of Movement and Dance in Manhattan, New York City, and was lucky to take one of Susan Klein’s own classes. This was my experience.
I’ve been out of the dance world for a while, so I’m quite self-conscious heading to a movement class with professional dancers, despite of the welcoming messages on the Klein Technique™ website. I sit on the worn wooden floor and eagerly stroke the dogs when they roam near enough. It slightly lessens my anxiety, as I observe my classmates in modern dance attire (flowing bottoms and form-fitting tops), easily straddling on the wooden floor.
Although keen internal observation is an essential element of the technique, Klein is adamant that her technique isn’t just about ‘feeling’ the body in its present state. During class, she’ll put your brain and body to the test, requiring intense concentration as you both listen to your body and direct it. As such, she doesn’t refer to Klein Technique™ as a somatic practice.
Even a simple ‘roll down’ of the spine extracts a great deal of thought and effort. It’s a common exercise during yoga, Pilates and dance classes. But directed by Klein, you become ultra-aware of the spinal articulation, how the movement is affected by breath, and where the weight is distributed upon your feet.
You realize how far each vertebral joint can flex to drop the head, as the spine slowly curls towards the tail. Then you’re asked to hold back as long as possible – waiting to find the tipping point – during which the pelvis must spill forward to continue rolling the spine towards the floor.
Once there, you let your body hinge forward. It should be relatively relaxing, but the hamstrings are taut, stretching – and releasing the shoulders ‘down’ towards the ears requires much more effort when your torso is dangling upside-down. Plus, you’re only half-way done. From here, you consciously unfurl the spine all the way back up to standing. Pressing into the feet raises the pelvis, which acts as a counterweight with the heavy head. You can feel your body working on a pulley system.
Throughout, Klein methodically instructs us to pause, notice connections within the body and set intentions. Sometimes she’ll place her hands on your body to draw attention to certain areas. Her guiding touch is gentle and reassuring, but these cues make your body work harder – or, perhaps it only feels harder because you need to experiment moving in a different way than your body naturally does in autopilot.
Short walking periods split up the class. It gives your brain a little bit of a break, but you are still meant to observe your body: How tall are you? How efficiently are you moving? Are your hips relaxed? Are you rolling through your foot on each step? As you can see, your mind is kept busy at all times.
Class feels like a laboratory. Klein stops to ask if you have questions and occasionally references her skeleton to answer. We have just done some exercises, similar to Irmgard Bartenieff’s ‘knee drop’ and ‘arm circle’ fundamentals – since Klein studied with her. And suddenly, the ninety minutes are up.
“That’s all for today,” says Klein – similar to a professor finishing a lecture. I suppose the life-long study must be cut into segments somehow. I leave the studio feeling well aware, well aligned and relaxed, all from a good afternoon’s work.
“The roots, stems, and leaves of Klein Technique™ come from the art of dance. Our mission, particularly aimed at dancers, is to minimize injuries and maximize movement potential.”– Susan T. Klein, Klein Technique™ Mission Statement
If You Take a Klein Technique Course in NYC
At the moment, Susan Klein is teaching Klein Technique™ over Zoom. The 90-minute classes take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3:30pm EST. The cost is $10 per class; and you can pay and register with [email protected]
You can refer to the regular class information below post-lockdown.
Class Times: Wednesday & Friday, 3:30 – 5:30pm
See their class schedule.
Studio: Susan Klein School of Movement and Dance
Address: 60 Beach Street 41 / New York, NY 10013
Nearest train station(s): Franklin Street, Canal Street
Price: $20/ session
All information accurate and up-to-date at time of posting.
Have you either taken a Klein Technique™ class, or been introduced to exercises inspired by Susan Klein’s work? We look forward to hearing about your experiences in the comments section below.