Countertechnique: A Practice, a Process, a Pleasure

By Charles Slender

About a month ago, Emmaly Wiederholt asked if I would be interested in contributing something to Stance on Dance about my recent experiences studying, practicing, and becoming certified to teach Anouk van Dijk’s Countertechnique.  What an opportunity – I said yes!

I shortly realized though…that I had no idea what to write.  I couldn’t say how truly amazing Countertechnique has been for my own dancing without sounding like I was evangelizing (like a crazy person), I couldn’t highlight its significance as a great alternative to other forms of training without criticizing some of my greatest teachers (I don’t value irreverence), and I was worried that it would sound only like I was pimping my class, preaching my gospel, and impossibly promising all dancers the holy grail of dancing: ever-lasting motion with no more gripping!

Alas, I was doomed from the start.  I suppose, then, that I have nothing to lose!  I will begin with the most important bit of information: I encourage you to come take class.  It is the best way to do/learn/see/hear what Countertechnique really is – a practice, an activity.  It’s also a smiling good time.  More information is located below.

In the meantime, you’re here already, right?  You’re generously reading along, and you want to know more!


I first met Anouk and learned about Countertechnique in 2005 at the American Dance Festival.  I took one Countertechnique class then and a few more in the winter of 2006.  In the following four years I finished university, had a short career in Russia, and started my own little dance company here in San Francisco, FACT/SF.  In 2010, I was able to attend Anouk’s One Body, One Career workshop.  It was amazing.  I spent the following eighteen months experimenting with Countertechnique and, in late 2011, I applied for the Countertechnique Teacher Training Program (CTTT) that Anouk would be hosting in summer 2012.  I applied; I was accepted.  WHAT!?  Yes, indeed – I was thrilled, flattered, and anxious.  So, back to Amsterdam I went to learn more about Countertechnique.  After an intense month, Anouk granted me the privilege of teaching.  We will reconvene in 2014 to learn more, share our experiences, and contribute to the ongoing development of the technique.  Currently, the FACT/SF company members are being trained in Countertechnique, I taught classes at Project Bandaloop in September (thanks to Bianca Cabrera), and I will be teaching open classes Monday mornings in November at the SF Conservatory of Dance.

Countertechnique has changed my dancing.  Dancing has become fun again.  Dancing has become a pleasurable thrill.  I
have more confidence and I am no longer afraid of failure.  Dancing now feels more honest, more risky, and more manageable.  Dancing has become a new and exuberant challenge.  It feels great to be focused without being obsessed, and to make observations without making severe judgments.  It sounds like some hippy-dippy nonsense (and I think that’s why I was so suspicious at first), but it actually does relieve so much tension while promoting productivity, legibility, strengthening, stretching, and stamina-building.  It’s not about aesthetics, shape, or style, and we dance without mirrors when possible.  Countertechnique disrupts the shame spiral, and clears the way for fun.  It helps brainy dancers get out of their heads, and physical dancers gain more mental awareness.  I always look forward to sharing Countertechnique with my company, students, and community-at-large.  It is a deep passion, and a smart, healthy, dynamic way forward.

There is a framework, methodology, and disposition within Countertechnique that provokes and satisfies both the mind and body.  It accounts for, develops, and encourages both the physical and mental acts of dancing, and allows dancers to be aware of their thoughts, movements, and feelings all at the same time.  For me, it is a post-postmodern technique for a post-postmodern world in which information is amalgamated and distilled, and where humans are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.  Whereas the postmodern might be similarly de-centered and referential, Countertechnique takes an important step past simple pastiche and towards new discoveries by providing useful tools within a practical structure.  In order to make sense of an increasingly dizzying amount of information and possibilities, it provides a method and system for organizing that information and informing choices.

In many ways, Countertechnique exists within a series of logical paradoxes, revealing itself to be simple through complication and practical through theory.  In its specificity it provides liberation, and with its nuance, a general usability.  It standardizes by providing tools instead of archetypes and paradigms.  It utilizes concrete elements in the often-abstract realm of dance.  It is a serious endeavor that requires the dancer to not take themselves too seriously.  It proposes that hard work doesn’t have to be painful, stressful, or damaging, and it helps the dancer accomplish a lot while encouraging them to not worry about accomplishing anything at all.  In these ways (and many more), Countertechnique provides something actually new and relevant for the current and future generations of dancers.  Also, it feels great and is like, super tons of fun.

Learn more:

‘Like’ the Countertechnique Page on Facebook

Read about the History of Countertechnique

Check out an awesome Countertechnique explanation video!

Photos by Sporadic Assembly