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Restructuring the classroom

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

Blog N° 17

Communicate space

In the first phase of my research, Blog (3 - 6) I tried to study the communication medium I was working with: its history, its functioning characteristics, the possibilities of its software, its potential and possible limits.

In order to better face the restructuring phase of the training, it will be important to deepen the spaces, the times and the language used by this system.

It is therefore essential to define the terms of the space in which we act and in which we communicate with our interlocutors.

In order to be as precise as possible in my descriptions and to avoid possible misunderstandings I have used medical terminology for what describes body movements and cinematographic terminology for what concerns the images produced and perceived by the participants.

Rudolf Von Laban’s Gammes Dynamosphériques, séquence de mouvement “A” et “B” From: Danse et architecture. Nouvelle de danse 42/43. Editions Contredanse

Directional terms and body planes

If we want to analyse and describe a movement precisely, especially if we describe the exercise without showing it in presence. Since dance does not use a single terminology, it is necessary to rely on other more precise disciplines such as medicine.

In this Blog we will briefly define the terminology used to describe the position of the body parts or the possible directions of movement, in order to facilitate the understanding of the exercises.

Medicine uses certain terms to accurately describe the position of structures in the human body. To do this, they use directional terms, as well as terms related to regions and planes of the body.

Directional terms and body locations allow us to describe the positional relationships between anatomical structures.

Body plane

An anatomical plane is a hypothetical plane that intersects the body to help describe the direction of movement. The sagittal plane divides the body into left and right (Fig.1). The coronal plane divides the body into front and back (Fig.2). The transverse plane divides the body into an upper and a lower part (Fig.3). All three planes intersect at an angle of 90°.

Directional terms
Picture from

Superior (or cranial) - above; towards the head end of the body.

Inferior (or caudal) - downwards; away from the head

Anterior (or ventral) - towards the front; in front

Posterior (or dorsal) - backwards; behind

Medial - towards the midline of the body

Lateral - away from the midline of the body

Proximal - towards or closest to the trunk or the point of origin of a part

Distal - away from or furthest from the torso or the point of origin of a part

Central - near the centre

Peripheral - away from the centre

External - outside; towards the surface; superficial

Internal - inside; away from the surface; deep

Now that we have described the planes and axes of the body and the directions in which it can make its movements, let us briefly illustrate which movements the body can make.

What is Movement

Without going into complicated physics explanations and equations, movement involves an entity moving from point A to point B. The movement is carried out around a fixed axis or fulcrum and has a direction.

Anatomical movements are no different. They usually involve bones or body parts moving around fixed joints relative to the main anatomical axes (sagittal, coronal, frontal, etc.) or planes parallel to them.

Therefore, the template of anatomical movements consists of the following (not all of them are required for every movement):

  • Anatomical structures involved in the movement.

  • Reference axes around which the movement happens.

  • Direction, which in anatomy is usually related to a standard plane, such as the median, medial, sagittal, frontal, etc.


The opposing movements of flexion and extension take place in sagittal directions around a frontal/coronal axis. Flexion, or bending, involves decreasing the angle between the two entities taking part in the movement (bones or body parts). In contrast, extension, or straightening, involves increasing the respective angle.

Flexion of leg and Extension of leg
Flexion of arm and Extension of arm

Flexion of neck and Extension of neck
Flexion of vertebral column and Flexion of vertebral column

Dorsiflexion of foot and Plantar flexion of foot


The movements of abduction and adduction are intimately related to the median plane. They both generally occur in the frontal plane and are happening around an anteroposterior axis.

Arms & Legs

Abduction of thigh and Adduction of thigh
Abduction of arm and Adduction of arm


Adduction of fingers and Abduction of fingers


Protraction of mandible and Retraction of mandible

The movements of protrusion and retrusion take place in the sagittal plane. Since they are also related to the frontal/coronal axis, but instead of only moving around it, these movements are also taking place parallel to it. Protrusion involves a movement going straight ahead or forward. Retrusion is the opposite and involves going backwards. Anatomical structures capable of such actions are the tongue, chin (mandible) and lips.


Elevation of mandible and Depression of mandible

While protrusion and retrusion move anatomical structures forward and backwards, depression and elevation move them down (inferiorly) and up (superiorly), respectively.

Lateral/medial rotation

Rotation happens in the transverse plane around a vertical (longitudinal) axis that happens relative to the median plane. Medial rotation involves bringing the anatomical structure closer to the median plane, while lateral rotation involves moving it further away.

Although very similar, rotations are distinct from abductions/adductions, due to the planes the movements are happening in.

Rotation of head and Rotation of vertebral column

Internal rotation of arm and External rotation of arm

Internal rotation of thigh and External rotation of thigh


Pronation of forearm and Supination of forearm

Strictly speaking, pronation and supination are considered as two special types of rotation. They are restricted to the forearm and involve the radius twisting over the ulna.


Circumduction of upper limb (ventral view)

Circumduction is a special type of movement that is actually a combination of many other ones. The overall movement starts with flexion, followed by abduction, extension and finally adduction. The order must be sequential, but it can start from either flexion or adduction. The result is a circular movement. Due to the multitude of movements, circumduction is restricted to ball-and-socket type joints, such as the shoulder and the hip.


Ulnar flexion of hand and Radial flexion of hand

Deviation is a special type of movement that is restricted to the wrist joint. The movement happens in a longitudinal plane through the wrist relative to an axis passing from palmar to dorsal through the wrist.


Opposition of thumb (ventral view)

These two movements are restricted to the digits of the hand. Essentially, they involve pinching, such as when sprinkling salt over food or snapping your fingers. Anatomically speaking, opposition involves touching the pad of any one of your fingers with the thumb of the same hand. Reposition is the reverse, which consists of separating them.


The antagonistic movements of inversion and eversion take place relative to the median place and are specific to the foot. In eversion, the plantar side of the foot is moved away from the median plane so that it is turned laterally. In inversion, the plantar side is moved towards the median plane, resulting in a medial turn.

Inversion of foot and Eversion of foot


Hyperflexion and hyperextension are exaggerated movements beyond the normal limit permitted by a joint. It can happen in limbs or the vertebral column and can result in ligament tear, damage, or dislocations.

Pictures from

Hyperextension of the vertebral column, which can happen during sudden acceleration and deceleration, is particularly dangerous. The overextension of the cervical part of the column can result in a whiplash injury and can be a potential threat to the integrity of the spinal cord.

A colleague of mine, Michael Loehr, dealt with these and other body movement topics in his DIS-TANZ DIARY #18 TYPES OF BODY MOVEMENTS in greater detail and directly addressed dance workers.

If you are interested in learning more, you will find many interesting insights and inspiration in his research work.


  • K. L. Moore, A. F. Dalley, A. M. R. Agur: Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 7th edition, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins


  • Circumduction of upper limb (ventral view) - Paul Kim

  • Opposition of thumb (ventral view) - Paul Kim

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