The Ilan Lev Method Comes to New York City
This September, Israeli body work guru Ilan Lev comes to New York for the first time ever to share his revolutionary work.
The Ilan Lev Method is a playful and innovative practice that teaches bodies to work more efficiently, combatting pain and helping students discover maximum mobility and strength using minimal effort.
I had the opportunity to experience a session with Ilan Lev certified practitioner Annie Rigney. Annie studied in Israel with Lev while she was apprenticing with Bat Sheva- Bat Sheva dancers swear by the practice to help them keep their bodies healthy when performing the company's demanding repertoire.
During a one-on-one Ilan Lev session, the practitioner uses gentle movement to create a dialogue with the patient. I felt like I was engaged in a physical conversation with Annie- like a partner dance in which she was the leader, she used my body and energy to dictate what she did next. In this way, our bodies worked together as an energy circuit, feeding off of one another; she exerted minimal effort, treating herself while treating me.
The method aims to send movement into places that feel stunted or cut off. At the beginning of the session, Annie gently shook my leg- the movement stopped at the hip. By the end of the session, the same shaking gesture initiated movement that traveled all the way through my body and out the crown of my head.
The Ilan Lev Method evolved from the Feldenkrais Method- Lev was a long-time student of Feldenkrais. Like Feldenkrais, the method works on the nervous system, gently coaxing the body out of habitual patterns of tension and stress and opening up energy pathways so that we can move with more ease. The Method draws from the Feldenkrais idea of two-way equal relationship between body and mind, so rather than the mind controlling the body, the exchange of information goes both ways- mind can receive information from body as well.
Although Ilan Lev has serious potential to change the way we use our bodies, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, one of the main premises of the method is play- encouraging practitioners to stay playful and open-minded in order to access new possibilities. Throughout the session, Annie kept reminding me to smile- both to keep the jaw relaxed, and also to encourage an ease of spirit with which new ideas can more easily integrate themselves.
Another important principle of Ilan Lev is the idea that new connections can emerge from chaos. Instead of explicitly telling our bodies what to do, waves of movement create chaos inside of body from which new possibilities can arise on their own. The method perceives pain not as an enemy, but instead as a way that our body communicates with us; it relies on the knowledge that the nervous system is really smart and will adjust and realign as needed if given the opportunity.
One of the more unusual aspects of the method is the practitioner’s vocalizations. The practitioner will uses sounds to provide the brain with another mechanism to latch on to (besides touch) when interpreting which direction to move.
Especially for those of us who came into dance from a ballet or classical background, the idea of embracing passivity is difficult to wrap the mind around. While many dancers find it challenging to relax, the Ilan Lev method actually encourages laziness- not with the negative connotation we usually associate, but instead as a pathway to increased efficiency.
The Ilan Lev Method is highly popular in Israel- world renowned choreographer Ohad Naharin is a strong believer in the Lev’s work:
"I find Ilan's work an amazing gift to dancers and people alike. His work helps the body's own regeneration. It brings movement to blocked areas in the body, it comes with positive energy and sense of joy, it can help quicker recovery from "fresh injuries" as well as heal old ones... It helped me to become more efficient with my movement and gave me a more balanced body... His work is intelligent, thoughtful, considerate, and is a constant research of growth for Ilan himself as well as for those he works with.”
~ Maestro Ohad Naharin, Choreographer -Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company
We can see the method’s influences in Naharin’s Gaga technique, which has helped dancers all over the world discover new pathways of movement and bring awareness to new places inside of the body.
The Ilan Lev Method has not yet planted strong roots in the United States, but it offers huge potential to change the way we approach bodywork and healing, particularly in the dance world. For a rare chance to explore this revolutionary technique more deeply, Ilan Lev offers a one-day workshop intensive on Saturday, September 10th at Gallim Studios AND a more in-depth week long intensive from September 6th-11th at the Kaufman Music Center. Click HERE for more information.