Legacy of the Itcush Method
‘Amelia Itcush, dancer, bodyworker, movement analyst passed away in 2011 and upon her passing, gifted her communities with an astonishing body of work and a rich library of information and pedagogy. Amelia’s workshops, which were always full, were sustained not only by returning students captivated by her teaching, but also by a continually expanding range of interested newcomers. Amelia certified the following four individuals as formal practitioners of the Itcush Method and Mitzvah Technique, all of whom are partners in the Remembering Amelia project: Kathy Morgan, Chihiro Tsubota, Ashley Johnson and Kana Nemoto.
Amelia’s ideas and methods must be documented in order to assure that future generations of artists and the general public have access to her important teachings: transformative training methodologies for the body, professional development insights, and a range of other unique resources which aid with musculo-orthopoedic dexterity and creative dance mastery.’
– New Dance Horizons Canada Council grant 2012
‘Amelia was one of Canada’s first modern dancers and foremost independent movement analyst. She grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan and moved to Toronto to become a founding member of Toronto Dance Theatre. It was during her distinguished career that Amelia developed physical pain problems. Amelia, while developing her own method to change these problems, was introduced to Nehemia Cohen.
Amelia was the first certified teacher of the Mitzvah Technique taught by Nehemia Cohen. During her years of training with Nehemia and afterwards, Amelia created and refined a series of exercises based in the Mitzvah Principle. Amelia developed her own understanding of the body’s potential to correct itself structurally bringing about a dynamic form of posture. As a result she developed new approaches to the hands -on table work, chair work, floor exercises and dance technique. Through in-depth analysis of the Mitzvah Principle she identified the BALANCING FORCES of the body which are essential to freedom of movement. Amelia named this work The Itcush Method.’
The Mitzvah Technique is a body of work developed by Nehemia Cohen that stems from the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method. Nehemia discovered the Mitzvah Mechanism after working with diverse populations of artists, children and those suffering from debilitating back pain. This mechanism, activated through practice of the Mitzvah Exercise, functions to ripple the spine, re-establishing the relationship between the head and pelvis and creating synchronization in movement. There is a re-balancing effect of the the whole body that allows the the student to experience a new sense of neutral alignment. Through everyday activities of sitting, standing and walking and regular Mitzvah Sessions the student can release tight muscles while re-patterning the neuromuscular system and correcting poor posture.
The Itcush Method is a series of exercises and theories based on the Mitzvah Technique and utilizing the practical aspects of the Mitzvah Principle. In her quest to teach students self care Amelia created and refined a body of work that helps to free the body from pain and physical restrictions through teaching self maintenance exercises. Her theories and practices of dynamic posture have aided people, from all walks of life, in creating a structure that is flexible, mobile and strong. Through a process of balancing muscle tissue and aligning the skeleton the body can move towards experiencing optimal physical functioning.
1. Hands on Table and Chair
This one-to-one practice re-patterns the neuromuscular system and realigns the skeletal system. The ‘teacher’s’ work rests on the premise that the ‘student’ moves in familiar patterns. When a habitual movement pattern prevents optimal physical functioning, an outside source is required to change this pattern. Changing such a pattern is achieved through a process of gentle hands-on manipulation and verbal cueing by the teacher as the student strives to ‘let go’ and ‘allow’ rather than ‘do.’ As the student releases pressure, tension and holding patterns they experience freedom of movement and recovery from pain.
Exercises on the floor, chair and standing assist the body in clearing pressure and tension while increasing mobility, flexibility and strength. These exercise were developed in response to the students’ need to maintain changes brought about by hands-on work. They are prescribed to people developing a ‘self-maintenance program.’ Activation of all the primary principles and theories in this work is important in assisting the student in developing both a physical and cognitive understanding of the manner in which change occurs in the body.
3. Theories and Patterns of Misuse
4. Itcush into Dance
This series of ‘small chair’ exercises was developed when Amelia trained dancers in Toronto and sought a means to activate Mitzvah Technique principle in technical dance training. Many sequences derive from traditional Graham technique.
This work is governed by the principle of ‘direction of energy.’ The exercises are based on the notion that when the body aligns with the direction of energy, the bones act as the creative force and the muscle take a supportive role. Her iconic quote ‘Dance was made for the body, not the body for dance’ speaks to her constant quest to reduce injury and detriment to the body during the practice of dance and instead have the body be fed by movement.