The Dart Procedures refer to a series of movements which parallel the evolution of human infant movement and, to a lesser extent, the evolution of vertebrate movement. (This section also contains material on developmental movement patterns not attributed to Dart.)
The initial series of movements rose out of experiments by Raymond Dart after a series of lessons in the Technique with Irene Tasker in 1943. Alex Murray, upon reading Dart’s papers in 1967, met Dart and formalised what is now known as the Dart Procedures. The procedures are not widespread in the Alexander Technique, but several teachers use them, notably Alex and Joan Murray, Jean Clark, and Robin Simmons. Some teachers training courses use parts of the procedures, e.g. crawling.
The movement retraces human infant movement, typically starting from fetal position or lying down on the back. The movements then progress to rolling over, moving arms and legs while lying flat, creeping (moving on the ground with arms and legs), crawling (on all fours), squatting, monkey with hands on a support, monkey (without hand support), fully upright standing, and sometimes standing on one leg, coming up on the toes, or jumping. These movements are done slowly, using the principles of the Alexander Technique where people are familiar with them.
The Dart procedures are somewhat influenced by an old theory that ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’ – that is, that the growth and development of the individual from conception to adult repeats in miniature the growth and development of the whole species through evolution. This theory is no longer generally accepted, although it may be partially true.
The procedures are said to parallel various transitions in evolutionary development from the ball shape of a jelly-fish, through fish, amphibian, reptile, mammal, primate and proto-human towards the fully erect and upright human. The Dart procedures might be considered a precursor to the recent investigations of evolutionary movements patterns, e.g. in fields such as primitive reflexes and ancestral movement.
Some teachers see the Procedures as an adjunct to the Alexander Technique, for both students and pupils, and others see them as stand-alone procedures, which can be used without knowledge of the Technique.
Dart is quoted for saying that he felt that the Alexander Technique had become too static.
Writings – Raymond Dart
Dart described his procedure in the section ‘How any intelligent individual can study his or her own self’ in his F. M. Alexander Memorial Lecture ‘An anatomist’s tribute to F. Matthias Alexander’ in 1970.
Writings – Articles
An illustrated description of the procedures was published by Alex Murray in a Direction magazine issue dedicated to ‘The life and work of Raymond Dart’. The same magazine contained the following articles: ‘Teaching with Dart’ by Alex Nicolson, Robin Simmons, Chris Raff; ‘A tribute to Emeritus Professor Raymond Dart’ by Phillip Tobias, and ‘Dart and Alexander’ by Frances Wheelhouse.
‘Blessed helicity – The implications of spiral musculature’ by Troup H. Mathews introduces the concept of Dart’s double spiral and its implication for breathing.
A slightly different version of the procedures was published by Alex Murray in Skill and Poise.
‘Dart, then (1967) and now (2010)’ is an illustrated account of a demonstration by Joan Murray at an AmSAT AGM on how she uses part of the Dart procedures in her teaching.
‘How did we get here? Developmental movement and the Alexander Technique’ by Robin Gilmore is not on Dart, but on other teachers who are using developmental movement patterns in their work.
‘How understanding your fish body can improve your teaching’ by Robin John Simmons provides a brief overview of the evolution of the body from fish to modern humans, and then replicating some equivalents movements, from supine to standing.
‘Developing a framework for integration’ by Luc Vanier and Rebecca Nettl-Fiol considers three different models based on Dart’s work: 1. the simple model (primary and secondary), 2. the sophisticated model (double spiral), 3. the integrated model (four phase, resilience).
‘Re-visiting ancestral movement’ by Robin John Simmons reports on two workshops which explored what can be learned from the Dart Procedures; and on how Simmons use the Procedures in teaching the Technique.
‘Using ‘Dart Flippering’ to unlock a path to more effective use of the hands’ by Daria T. Okugawa, Amy Foley provides instructions for the ‘Dart flippering’ (lying prone with moving hands, palm down, flat on the floor), including a warm-up sequence, and its application to hands-on teaching.
Writings – Books
Beginning from the Beginning is an interview with Joan and Alex Murray on the Dart procedures, together with illustrations of babies and toddlers showing a developmental sequence of movement.
Dance and the Alexander Technique by Rebecca Nettl-Fiol and Luc Vanier, contains a history of the Dart procedures, a short, illustrated version of the Dart procedures, and the Dart procedures and the Alexander Technique applied to dance.
The most detailed book on the Dart procedures is The Evolution of Movement by Robin Simmons.
‘The Diamond–Dart Meridian sequence’ by Judith Youett Muir is a brief introduction to the Diamond–Dart Meridian sequence which is a set of physical procedures designed to tonify and activate the acupuncture meridian system, much inspired by the Dart procedures.