Lizzy Le Quesne teaching Skinner Releasing Technique in Athens, Greece (courtesy Le Quesne)
"Imagine your bones spilling across the floor like water."
"Your body is buoyant, afloat atop an airy cushion."
"Think of the skull and torso as two vast spaces filled with soft light."
Imagery and metaphors like these are staples in a collection of styles generally called release technique. They help dancers find new ways to initiate movement, leading to endless possibilities in choreography, improvisation, and improving technique. There's no one way to release, nor is there one person to credit for this approach to movement. Rather, a whole range of 20th-century modern dance techniques and somatic practices have brought release into relief.
Leah Morrison in Trisha Brown's If You Couldn't See Me, in which the soloist never faces the audience (photo by Julia Cervantes, courtesy Trisha Brown Dance Company)
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.