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Ida’s Diaspora of Thought and Practice: structural integration out there where the air is rare

Ida Rolf managed to put some people off and inspire a lot more. Some of those folks she put off have gone off and interpreted their thoughts and dreams on and in her work, and developed followings, a diaspora which has fanned out and created its own life.

Now we have an organization in which some of the diaspora who didn’t graduate from her original school can find a home. Interestingly, the organization IASI (International Association of Structural Integration) is composed of 60 percent Rolfers™ who although authorised to use the Rolfing®Structural Integration name from RISI (Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration), have chosen also to make common cause with structural integration practitioners.

I suppose those Rolfers may think it would be good to have our general field recognized; I at least am certainly weary of all the “massage” labels. I do know that some of the non-Rolfer™ IASI practitioners have been able to create work and practices for themselves, while others in their efforts have little scruples in saying they are something they are not, which is a RISI grad who can use the trademarks.

One of the parts of the diaspora was founded by Janie French and Annie Duggan. Their students have never to my knowledge failed in their saying of who they are and don’t need to use the trademarks in vain.

Women have played a prominent part in the diaspora as not many women made it through the first calling to the grail with Ida, and for one reason and another in a very brief time most were gone. None of these women had much of an idea of forcing anything on Ida, the force of nature, or anyone else for that matter. They just wanted to live and breath and dance in gravity and enjoin others to dance with them. They did get kind of grouchy in the way of most of us who are kind of ignored and belittled.

Two who hung out for longer than some were Janie and Annie, who began to use some of what are now called indirect techniques before anybody else at RISI was even ready to think about it in any of the male-dominated, often egotistical versions of Ida’s work. Annie’s resignation letter to RISI actually said she was leaving for lack of interest in the process at RISI.

I loved Janie and Annie’s work, though I wasn’t that crazy about their Ron Kurtz-influenced body reading. I’ve always hated the calling/naming of names, though they certainly didn’t use that old stupidity from Fritz Perls, “You have the weight of the world on your shoulders”. (Now what are we supposed to do with that!?)

Well, what we are supposed to do is manage to get the breathing going so that it is not stuck in inhale or exhale and learn to accept the belly’s still and small reflexive hint that the breath is coming back in. Although Janie died in 2001, Annie is still working.

In this video, which was done for IASI’s Ida Rolf’s birthday competition, this Spanish former student (Brigitte Hansmann) of Janie and Annie’s has created a place for the teaching of Ida Rolf’s way of the breath. I love it, and wish I were this good at conveying this meditative state to some of my hypervigilant clients.                                                                          

Here it is in the original Spanish:



This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Dear Linda,

    Thank you very much for writing about my clip “Structural Integration – Starting from within” on your blog! I am glad you like it. And I am glad you love Annie’s and Janie’s work. So do I. After 25 years of fulltime dedication to it, I still give thanks every day for the privilege of being able to assist people in the way they taught me. And I am happy for the chance to acknowledge and celebrate Ida Rolf’s contribution to it with this little clip.

    What you wrote about Annie’s and Janie’s Ron Kurtz-influenced body reading got my attention. As I became an instructor, we talked about Ron’s body types being the one part of his work that did not resonate with our way of working. I thought I’d mention this because you also wrote about the “male-dominated” way of working. From my point of view, typologies and classifications belong into this field. You look at the behavior, the movement or body shape in terms of what category it fits into and then you decide on a course of action based on that. I believe this must be what you are “not crazy about”, apart maybe from the pathologizing names they give each type.

    What I have learnt from Annie and Janie is quite different, though, and clearly comes from a feminine approach: they taught me to look at relationships: between parts, between parts and the whole, between the whole and the field around it, between client and practitioner, between each one of them and the therapeutic field, as well as other fields they each may be in individually or as the therapeutic diade… relationships on all accounts. It allows for very specific interventions and there is no need for any typology. As a matter of fact, that type of reading would only interfere with the direct experience of relationship. But maybe you were referring to something else which I have no knowledge of. I just wanted to get this off my chest.

    Thanks again for your kind words about the work I love.

    Best wishes,
    Brigitte Hansmann

    1. Brigitte, so good to hear from you.

      I’m so glad Janie and Annie moved on from the Kurtz naming and pontificating. My experience with them in a couple of classes (and separately briefly with Ron Kurtz) is left over from the 1980s, except for a lot of work with another of their students, Rebecca Carli-Mills, and at that time there was plenty there with Janie and Annie besides the body typology. Who knows, perhaps Kurtz is not there anymore either.

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