Movement - Works | Backgound and training

Sophie Dingemans

I was born and raised in New Zealand and am also a British citizen. I have many ancestral roots in Britain and Europe and am proud to have experienced the unique freedoms of my upbringing in a progressive new world country.

I have grown my Feldenkrais practice in Europe since 2011, from a base in Paris, France, where I continue to work every six to eight weeks with a team of colleagues. The rest of the time I can be found travelling around Europe for work and family reasons, and also on return visits to New Zealand.

I discovered the transformative potential of the Feldenkrais MethodⓇ when seeking to address chronic pain and tension problems. In part I attributed these difficulties to limiting habits of movement developed during extensive dance training, something that gave me many skills and opportunities and also many problems. I also had many experiences that showed me how my physical problems were affecting, and affected by, my emotional and psychological life. I felt subject to dysfunctional patterns of movement and behavior, and increasingly trapped and frustrated.

I explored a range of methods to move my way out of these difficulties, many of which helped me, but none of which seemed to create long term change. From my first experience I knew Feldenkrais would help me in a way nothing else had to date: I began to learn, with surprising ease, new foundations for moving through life. I quickly made the decision to take it further and train as a practitioner. I now live free from these chronic pain problems and feel empowered emotionally and psychologically to meet and recover more quickly from life’s challenges, and to better enjoy its peace and joys.   

Prior to my Feldenkrais training and career I studied, as a teenager, classical ballet at the New Zealand School of Dance (1995), contemporary dance at the UNITEC Performing Arts School (1996), and relocated to London (1999) for several years where I danced, studied massage therapy, and traveled widely throughout Europe and around the world. I returned to New Zealand in 2002 to attend university and gained a Master of Arts (First Class Honours) in Theatre Studies. My Masters degree study coincided with the start of my Feldenkrais training and I wrote my academic dissertation on the correlations between the Feldenkrais Method and actor training and processes.

The details of my Feldenkrais training, and specialist training in working with children, can be found on the page: How I Learnt to do This.

From a young age my love of dancing was equaled by my love of creating performances, and making work was a guiding force in my studies in dance and theatre. During my dance studies I also developed an interest in somatic movements practices that supported and complimented my dance training, and helped to prevent and recover from injury. I began to imagine a future that could combine creating work for the stage and teaching a somatic movement practice.

As I pursued this idea, I was also driven by a childhood dream: to tell on the stage the extraordinary story of my English great grandmother, Grace Oakeshott. In 1907 Grace faked her death by drowning, in the name of love, to create a new life and identity in New Zealand. My subsequent play Grace made its professional debuts in Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand in 2008, for which I was nominated for Most Promising New Director and Outstanding New Playwright at the Wellington Theatre Awards. Subsequently a biography was published about Grace, a pioneer in educational reform for working class girls and women, by London based writer Jocelyn Robson, titled: Radical Reformers and Respectable Rebels: How the Two Lives of Grace Oakeshott Defined an Era. You can read a review of the play here.

Following this period I chose to focus on Feldenkrais. As I began work as a Feldenkrais practitioner I felt as though all my previous study and experience converged to a logical, and quite beautiful conclusion. My studies and work in dance and theatre enable me to incorporate sophisticated creative and intelligent play to help people learn, something that is especially effective working with children. Dr Moshe Feldenkrais famously described individual Functional Integration sessions as a dance of two nervous systems, and each session is a creation in its own right, as the individual’s needs are met in the present moment. These processes are supported by a high degree of technical skill on the part of the practitioner, just as a skilled performer must be technically precise and ready to adapt at any moment. The future I imagined, of creating and teaching has, through Feldenkrais, become a rewarding reality.

Another long held dream, of a life and career in Europe, lead me to return to Europe in 2011 where, after meeting many challenges, I have created the life and career I dreamed of.