4.2.1. The Chicago School (Environmental Awareness)

18 June 2021

The Chicago School theory of subcultures states that a person’s behaviours are a product of their environment. I believe it is in tune with this research and important to note that this theory is how academics came to understand criminal action, the gathering and the existence of gang groups. Therefore, the reader must understand this theory as a theory created by academics, which cannot be underestimated as it improved many people's lives. However, what can be deduced from this theory? Suppose subcultural behaviour is a product of an environment. In that case, this is true for non-criminal activities, as well. Therefore, it would be valid for all individuals, even those who do not identify with a subculture, as each human is part of an environment. One has no choice of who their parents will be, and one has no choice about where one is born and the environment in which one is born and brought up. 

Considering that all humans are born from the female body and the ontogenetic factor that shape who we or will become is related to the environmental condition in which we are born and grow up, it sheds light on the importance of the environment. Even before a child is born, it lives in the warm environment of its mother’s womb in synchrony with her heartbeat. While the baby grows in the mother's womb, the mother moves, and as she carries on in the world, the baby rolls and turns with the mother’s movement. The baby is always changing. As the baby grows, every cell is nourished from the mother’s diet and wellness. When the baby is born, it must breathe oxygen for the first time, and the body action to obtain this new nourishment of air becomes a pattern of breathing. That begins from the first inhale and carries on developing, playing a part in shaping the body of the growing baby relative to its environment. Through breathing, the baby finds its synchronous way of being with itself, an undifferentiated unity. The movement carries on from the womb into the world, and as the baby explores its movement self, it sometimes thrusts out from its core and pulls back into its core. This action of pushing away from its navel area and pulling everything back into its navel area like a starfish becomes internalised patterned phrases of freeing and binding its flow and growing and shrinking its shape. In these flexion and extension activities, internal connective relationships are created within the baby's body and enable the baby to explore the space outside of itself. Therefore, these flexion and extension movements gain symbolic meaning to the baby in the emotive way the mother or the others relates to the baby’s actions. As well as this playful interactive communication between the baby and mother, the baby is preparing to move in the world. Peggy Hackney, movement analyst and dance artist, describes this as: 

If I am extended, and you scratch my foot, I withdraw it. If I am flexed into my core, and you do the same thing, I thrust out. If I am lying with one leg out and one leg in and you scratch one foot, I will reverse the leg relationship.

(2004, p. 11).

The stimulation of the body from an external source — the mother through tickling — is preparing the baby for walking when the legs are separately stretched out and in. By separating the leg movements in a climbing fashion, the baby moves away from a whole to a differentiated perspective of the limbs, which brings new physical possibilities to how the baby can interact in the world. The limbs relationships to the core are developed, and as the baby radiates its limbs away from the core and brings its limbs back, relationships of pushing and pulling are developed. As a result, the baby is moved or moves into space. The postural reflexes coordinate the flexor and extensor tone, which facilitates the baby's progression towards movement through space. 

As play continues in the new world, the baby is getting stronger. It begins to yield into the earth by pushing down through its forearms. The basic righting reactions orient the baby in its relationship with gravity. Eventually, with its stomach facing the ground, it starts to lift its head from the ground, and the vertical world takes on a whole new meaning. The vertical world starts to be explored, and the baby starts to look around in this new world, the motion of the head-turning consequently turns the whole body over, and all body parts move with the spinal axis. The finding of the spinal axis in the body is then explored through wriggling tail-wards and head-wards. In the next step, once the spine has stabilised and the enormous head becomes a little bit more under control, the baby starts to sit up through the investigation using the internal relational body patterns it has formed. From changing from sitting to lying on its stomach, the baby starts to realise its upper limbs are useful for other things. When desired objects come close to the baby on its stomach, it yields into the earth, but this action responds in the opposite outcome; it pushes the baby away from the object. The sheer excitement of being able to travel even in the wrong direction carries the investigation on. Eventually, it finds its legs underneath itself and pushes from the balls of its feet, and it moves forward with great excitement. Through this new, fascinating discovery of pushing itself forward, the body deepens its differentiation from a whole to two halves. Through moving from side to side on its belly, the baby coordinates its body into two halves bisecting the length of the spine, creating further connective relational patterning within its development. The young infant is becoming more curious in the world. It has more possibilities to move, explore and find out what is out there. As it reaches an object in space and pulls towards it, the opposite leg engages, creating a cross-lateral movement. Cross lateral movement is now available to the baby to engage with its environment more intentionally. Through the next stages, the baby's development takes on expressive and emotional connections within the patterning of the baby's internal relational connections to its family and environment. As the baby starts to find out its hands and knees are a means to move, it is not long before it crawls and investigates what its brother or sister is playing with or what its mum’s hot cup of tea. This playful interaction with the family generates a myriad of different emotional responses woven complexities of tonal and physical expressions towards the infant in accordance to its actions: for its safety, for joy, from frustration and from anger that is not always directly related to the baby's actions. All of these different responses are forming the environment in which the baby is developing its body relationships. Connective relationships that correlate with and become related to how to further connections are made in the body. That become patterns that stay with the baby throughout its life, which influence how the baby develops. As the baby becomes more solidly vertical through sitting, which frequently happens in the transition from crawling, the right and left sides are developed. The right and left dimensions and the full use of three-dimensional space start to be possible. As the baby travels between sitting, crawling and pushing back to sitting, what is taking place is a transverse spiral that shifts through three-dimensional space-changing between the sagittal, vertical and horizontal. With this new possibility of mobility and stability through sitting and crawling, the baby develops its way of self-expression that has developed through physical developmental functioning(Hackney. 2002, p. 13).  The baby can move to a space it wants and express itself in that space; this choice that the baby now correlates to the environment. Through this process, the baby becomes both a functional and expressive individual interlaced by the different factors of its environment (Hackney, 2004, 11-13). I have just described the ontological movement patterns that every human being progresses through to develop the neurological connectivity that enables one to move freely and independently through one’s world. This ontogenetic development of a baby becomes the basis on which it will grow as it moves through new complex body actions. The patterning in which the first relationships within the bodies are formed become the patterns from which the baby will develop. Those first patterns will influence and model the physical, emotional and spatial actions that bring it to the point of new development. 

It is then understandable how an environment can cause such a difference in a child's development. Understanding or becoming more aware of our physical patterns is a way to come to terms with or accept the way one behaves in the present. It can be a way to move past physical and emotional difficulties that one may not fully understand rationally. Through the internal awareness of the patterns that are developed in us from conception to the present with the external awareness to all that is part of the environment that one is in presently, the Chicago school theory can be a practical tool in dance.

The aim here is not to ask why one has this body pattern but rather to be aware of the patterns. The reason for this is, in considering Derrida’s deconstruction theory, then one cannot understand why patterns are the way they are. Any analytical information one receives from another person whose observation is influenced by their own experience prevents a universal understanding of why the person's body pattern is the way it is. The pattern is the way it will only ever be a signified reality of the pattern (the signifier). In the opening sentence of Creative Evolutions, Bergson states; 

The existence of which we are most assured and which we know best is unquestionably our own, for every other object we have notions which may be considered external and superficial, whereas, of ourselves, our perception is internal and profound.

(Bergson & Cunningham, 1914, p. 525)

For one to then be aware of the pattern is to not add to the information of the pattern, but to engage or produce knowledge of what the pattern is as an incorporated embodiment gives it a non-conventional ‘meaning’ that modernity would by nature structurally narrow and rationalise. Therefore, as the one who is being self-aware of the pattern in question, is being self-aware with an awareness developed from those very same initial founding patterns that developed the pattern in question and the environments in which the pattern in question developed. Then is it not possible to say that in being self-aware, one understands oneself better in a way that is not conceptualised but understood in the tacit sense of integrated embodiment. Is that not the most honest state that one can be in, to become phenomenologically involved with our internal and external environment? Integrating this notion into practice-led research enriches the epistemic findings of the environment, creates a feedback loop of embodiment between the external environment and the internal environment that influences a ‘style’ of movement, that is, the sum of one’s life. 

As a techniques Environmental Awareness

4.2.2. The Birmingham School (as a technique)