Wed 14.06.2017    19:30    map

Prezentarea - humans embodying art Awareness Through Movement ® in Education

Presentation - - humans embodying art

Awareness Through Movement ® in Education

by Valentina De Piante Niculae

What is Education; does it pass through our body-senses-mind?

How do we process information? How can we be more present and creative?

Does education pass through the body? How do we direct our attention? In what way do disastrous positions and sitting on a chair for hours on end affect the students’ academic performance?

Can one attain academic excellence through listening to one’s own body? Does consciousness of self while we move coach our cognitive and emotional potential? Can we apply in this country, in Romanian academic environments, studies in neuroscience and somatics from whose perspective the cerebral domains are interconnected (for example, for dr. Antonio Damasio, emotions and cognition are interrelated)? Do we, as teachers, know that the emotional areas reach peak excitation during adolescence?

All these questions guided the workshops with the adolescent groups from the Fine Arts Highschool Nicolae Tonitza, from the Choreography Highschool Floria Capsali, from the Gifted Education Association and from the Elementary School for the Visually Impaired. is a pilot project dedicated to the new generations of students and teachers, in which the scientific aspect of how the nervous system learns are combined with the physical and mental practices of the Feldenkrais® Method and with expressive ones from the art world.

This endeavour will be presented to the public, who will enter into a space of memory, of documenting the emotions felt by teenagers. The presentation will usher each spectator into a sonorous, visual and kinesthetic world, created within the workshops. It will be followed by an open workshop and a mini-conference about the results we obtained.

What is - humans embodying art? is the dream of a team that believes in a form of education integrated according to studies in neuroscience, neuroplasticity and embodied cognition. An education in which there is no more separation between mind and body, but where, on the contrary, the body helps us harness its true cognitive, neuromotory, perceptive and emotional potential. For three months, we visited four schools and we applied a methodology that combines various theories and practices, from the Awareness Through Movement – ATM lessons of the Feldenkrais® method, to art therapy practicesm from Interpersonal Neurobiology studies to Mindfulness, creating various forms of FeedbackLab: from sitting and observing one’s body, sensations and emotions to drawing and writing about them. We also added practices such filming and providing verbal feedback of this experience.

Each session was an intense experience that we followed breathlessly, as emotional as they were about what was starting to appear. After the short breaks, the teenagers were different persons altogether.

We noticed how these youngsters haven’t got any time to live in the moment and are thrown into the future, in a race which uses the old attack strategies, flight or freeze.
We suggested a fresh approach, a discipline of body and mind, breaks, the acceptance of what was coagulating with regard to sensations, emotions and thoughts. We let ourselves be led by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, until we learned how to integrate both during the Feldenkrais classes. We noticed how we feel when we’re led by the right hemisphere, the left one and then both of them. Through observing what they were doing, thinking and feeling, the students became more present, creative and sociable.

Together with the psychologist Simona Petreaca, we tested them before and after the classes and we achieved the results most important to us: the acknowledgement of one’s own worth and self-confidence.

Vision and Methodologic Strategies

This project gauged the adolescents, their families and their teachers’ interest in an innovative physical and mental methodology. I have been studying the neurological process of learning and awareness for 10 years, noticing that the two are perfectly connected. As a promoter of this project, I have witnessed in most cases an absent body, an apparent disconnect between information and senses and the whole sensory-motor system of the student.
Corporality was denied in the school’s classrooms: generally, I saw extremely faulty postures (the spine as part of the central nervous system was of no interest to anyone!).

The students’ attention was sometimes dependent on a faulty breathing style, which in turn was affected by the wrong posture (the alignment of the head – thorax – basin – feet). I used the Feldenkrais® methos as a gateway to feeding their consciousness and the clear links between the mind and the body of our students.

Not only the Feldenkrais® method, but also many other neuroscientific studies show that through training our attention towards various areas of the body we develop our cognitive capacities with regard to focusing our attention. We know the senses provide information about the surrounding space, but we must know that these are enhanced by the first sense developed in the course of our evolution, i.e. the kinesthetic one, the sense of movement.

A few group-specific themes:

The group from the
“Nicolae Tonitza” highschool: does perception of our own body help us be more creative? The final assignment was drawing a portrait through the sensations and emotions of the body.

The group from the “Floria Capsali” highschool: cultivating the internal observation of one’s own body through anatomic and physiologic principles. Final assignment: paying attention to our intention while we move, containing our emotions in the intentions of our movement.

The group from the “Gifted Education Association”: learning difficult movements aroused their curiosity and allowed for remarkable motor capacities.

The group from the “School for the Visually Impaired”: touching created a dialogue between the visually impaired student and the performer. It then developed the capacity to perceive the space of the body, to loosen up tense areas (generally speaking the extensor muscles on the back), to relate with the space (more confidence when walking), to relate openly with oneself and the others.


The presentation is a sonorous, visual, synesthetic documentation of a physical and mental work process with four heterogenous teenage groups coming from art schools (Nicolae Tonitza and Floria Capsali) and special schools/associations (the Gifted Education Association and the School for the Visually Impaired).

During the four-month project, the team (
Alexandra Bălăşoiu, Ioana Manciu, Alexandra Gîrbea, Mara Mărăcinescu) was extremely flexible and creative in trying different roles: from photographing to filming and writing. Thanks to them and the other artists that joined us (Alina Ușurelu, Bianca Pintea, Dorin Moldoveanu, Florin Ciocan) we can highlight aspects which are generally disregarded by current educational systems, leaving the auditory and visual traces to speak directly to your hearts.

P.S.: I confess having difficulties in documenting the entire process, which in each group and each individual student’s case was something unique.

The project’s team:

Valentina De Piante Niculae, Simona Petreaca, Alexandra Bălăşoiu, Ioana Manciu, Alexandra Gîrbea, Mara Mărăcinescu, Anca Ciofârla, Sofia Ovejan, Monica Gheorghiu, Alina Uşurelu, Bianca Pintea,  Dorin Moldoveanu, Florin Ciocan, Laura Rădulici (Liitius), Ştefan Schultz, Georgeta Corca, Beatrice Tudor, Alexandra Solomon, Eliza Trefaş, Catrinel Bejenariu, Catrinel Catană, Diana Cojocaru, Loredana Larionescu, Mădălina Marin, Mihai Badiceanu, Teodora Velescu, Simona Baciu.     

Thousands of thanks to my mentors: Mara delle Pergola, director of the “Istituto per la Formazione del Metodo Feldenkrais®”- IsFel-Della Pergola- Milano and dr. Dumitru Dulcan, neurologist, university professor and author in the fields of philosophy and metaphysics.

Thanks to all the partners, class masters and headmasters: Vava Ștefănescu, Carmen Coțofană and Laura Trocan, Anton Petre, Anca Ciofârla, Monica Gheorghiu, Andreea Bruckner, Lăcrimioara Petcu, Doina Georgescu, Nicoleta Cocea, Teodora Radu, Cazan Cosmina Irina, Carmen Avramescu.