Roots of Itcush Technique

Roots of Itcush Technique

An excerpt from on-going conversation about the development of Itcush technique; Ashley Johnson, Elaine Hanson, Kana Nemoto, Robin Poitras, Jennifer Mascall, Susan McKenzie.

 ng Amelia

Ashley   We often talk about how the Itcush work evolved from Mitzvah to Itcush.  In the Itcush teaching community, we sometimes consider whether or not the Itcush Technique has evolved to the extent that we might no longer need to use the word Mitzvah and could just refer to our work as Itcush.  

What are your thoughts on this? Part of the dilemma is that it’s confusing to always be saying Itcush and Mitzvah together.  Though we use the Mitzvah principle, we have a stronger focus on the Itcush concept of balancing forces.  Has  it has evolved to the point that we can refer to it as Itcush and without including Mitzvah?

Susan    I’m not really qualified. I assumed Amelia referred to both techniques to honour the elder, and distinguish between the two trainings – a practical choice, as some, including her, were/are certified in both methods.


                                                                                                Robin, Kana, Ashley


Ashley   What are the similiarities and differences?

Susan    I browsed his website.  Cohen’s work stands firmly on the shoulders of his predecessors Alexander and Feldonkrais.  He refers to himself as a registered Alexander Technique teacher and specifies a development from this technique that he himself discovered, which he calls The Mitzvah Principle

corrective mechanism that works with the entire neuromuscular and skeletal system in every move and each step. When activated, the mechanism triggers an upward motion that lengthens the spine, expands the chest, widens the back and results in the free balancing of the head on the spine.  As the principle is restored, the body begins to create only the minimal muscular tension necessary to support itself in relation to gravity, and the body is released from (detrimental) habits as it freely rediscovers its’ own balance, elasticity and spring.”  

A Johnson  itcush into dance


Elaine  Here’s my understanding:  Mitzvah Technique –  as practised by Nehemia (Cohen) – had 3 basic components.  1) slumping, sitting, standing process of chair  2) walking  3) table work  in order to release body.
I visited Nehemia’s studio just once, years ago – in the early to mid eighties –  and I dimly recall people doing just chair exercises interspersed with walking and with jumping on and off table.   I spent a morning there with Amelia and was one of a handful of students doing just that – chair exercise and table work with Nehemia.

Susan:   Remember the environment at Nehemia’s?  The intensity of focus, concentration in that (not large) room  – concentrated flow, repetition, internal focus on sensation.  It was interesting how the movers were using space as they practiced…very different environment from dance classes or Zena Rommett floor work (then popular with modern dancers) contact improvisation practice or martial arts.  Dancers who studied this work during the time-Claudia Moore,  Grace Myagawa and others will have evolved  their use of that work, but likely they have a clear sense what Mitzvah was bringing to his approach  at the point in its’ gestation when Itcush (first certified teacher of Mitzvah) transected with it.


Amelia fed The Mitzvah Principle into her ongoing study of motion, gravity release of tension and simplicity of form – developing her notion of balancing forces.  We don’t know much about whether learning it was a step forward in her physical knowledge or if it was the organization of this knowledge into a system and set of ideas that was significant for her – likely both, and likely the work gave her relief from physical pain she herself contended with.   Can any of you speak more to this?   Amelia researched the application of The Mitzvah Principle to the modern dance lexicon which had been her idiom as a dancer,  as well as to a pedestrian range and table practice rooted in the chair and table practice model of Cohen,  Alexander and Feldonkrais.   

Elaine:   Amelia devised ways for individuals to simulate hands-on-the-body with series of exercises. In other words, she created ways for individuals to self-maintain in between table work sessions. All the mat work, sliding down the wall, etc. etc. came from her ingenuity, from her belief that individuals could simulate the hands-on-effect of a table work practitioner. 

What do you think?

485101_1xx0151300201802212_753360892_n                                                                                                                  Kana, Ashley

Jennifer As a point of clarification, I learned sliding down the wall from Nehemia. When I went to him we also learned angel wings  – individually and with both arms and legs.

Susan What Elaine refers to sounds like democratizing the work, not making it dependent on the hands of the master – and releasing the student’s practice from one-on-one dependency on the teacher.   That tricky thing we speak of in body work – the blind spot which is our habit, and requires the guidance of an outside eye to repattern.  When Amelia was getting into this stuff, we were being told it was either / or – a dancer had to stop dancing to get Mitzvah’s benefits.   if you were dancing, a lot of people thought doing Mitzvah would ruin your dancing. Physio yes,  Mitzvah no…  Amelia took it the other way round, and worked on a way of using dance technique that was not harmful and employed Mitzvah principles…  

Photos from the Facebook Collection of Ashley Johnson