The Octopus Principle in the Talawa Technique™

The octopus is a marvel of evolutionary biology, possessing a host of unique qualities that make it an exceptional model for the Talawa Technique™. These qualities include its multiple hearts, advanced sensory abilities, morphological adaptability, intelligence, and limb independence, all of which inform the principles and practices of this innovative dance technique.

Multiple Hearts: The octopus has three hearts—one pumps blood to its organs, while the other two pump blood to its extremities. This efficient circulatory system allows for sustained physical activity and rapid recovery. In the ritual dances of the African Diaspora, dancers learn to adapt their breathing and heart rate to match the rhythm of the music. The undulations characteristic of these dances help regulate breathing and ensure that oxygenated blood is pumped into the extremities, as well as prioritized for the large muscle groups. This principle mirrors the cardiovascular conditioning emphasized in the Talawa Technique™.

Advanced Sensory Abilities: The octopus has an enzyme in its skin that allows it to detect light and color, effectively enabling it to “see” with its entire body. This extraordinary ability inspires the Talawa Technique™’s body-sensing and vibro-sensing practices, which enhance dancers’ awareness of their movements and surroundings. The intelligence aspect of this sensory ability is also reflected in the Talawa Technique™, where the entire body is trained to be independently intelligent, yet capable of holistic collaboration with itself, embodying a self-multiplying, self-adapting entity.

Morphological Adaptability: The octopus can change its shape, texture, and color to blend into its environment, showcasing remarkable adaptability and camouflage. This ability to morph and adapt is central to the Talawa Technique™, where dancers learn to embody various forms and expressions, enhancing their versatility and responsiveness.

Intelligence and Adaptation: Known for its high intelligence, the octopus can solve complex problems and adapt to new situations with ease. This trait underscores the technique’s focus on intelligent body use and adaptive movement strategies, encouraging dancers to think critically and creatively about their movements.

Independent Limb Movement: With two-thirds of its neurons located in its arms, the octopus can control its limbs independently, performing multiple tasks simultaneously. This principle of independent yet coordinated movement is mirrored in the Talawa Technique™’s emphasis on polycentric movement, where different parts of the body move independently while maintaining overall harmony. The technique also focuses on the creation of neuromuscular coordination and neural recruitment, parallel processing, neural adaptation, automaticity, proprioceptive acumen, somatosensory acumen, engram building, habituation, rhythmic proprioception, and polycentric movement.

The Octopus Principle in Talawa Technique™

The Talawa Technique™, meticulously developed over the past 27 years by Thomas Talawa Prestø, represents a groundbreaking advancement in African and African Diaspora dance studies. Central to this innovative approach is the Octopus Principle, which draws inspiration from the unique physiological and neurological traits of the octopus. This principle underpins the technique’s emphasis on proprioception, polycentric movement, and dynamic training, fostering a holistic and sophisticated dance practice deeply rooted in cultural heritage and contemporary methodology.

Proprioception and Vibro-Sensing

Proprioception, the body’s ability to sense its position and movements, is a crucial element in the Talawa Technique™. The octopus’s ability to sense light and color through enzymes in its skin, enabling it to camouflage and mimic its surroundings, inspires the body-sensing and vibro-sensing techniques used in this dance form. These techniques enhance dancers’ spatial awareness, balance, and ability to mimic movement qualities through observation and body awareness.

Body-Sensing: This mode of sensing involves learning by observation through the body, allowing dancers to navigate space, balance, and mimic movement qualities. By understanding how their body moves and reacts in various situations, dancers can refine their movements and adapt quickly to new choreographic demands. This process involves exercises that train dancers to be acutely aware of their body’s position and movement in space, enhancing their ability to move fluidly and with precision.

Vibro-Sensing: Similar to how an octopus senses its environment, dancers use vibro-sensing to coordinate rhythm and maintain awareness of their own body in relation to others. This technique involves sensing and responding to vibrations, both from the floor and from other dancers. Training in vibro-sensing includes exercises that enhance the dancer’s ability to perceive and interpret these vibrations, improving their ability to synchronize with music and other dancers. This method is particularly useful for understanding and internalizing rhythm, as well as for developing a deeper connection to the physical and metaphysical aspects of dance.

Exercises in the technique train these skills, helping dancers understand rhythm and communicate with the drum, both physically and metaphysically. This training enhances neuromuscular coordination and proprioceptive skills, essential for executing complex and dynamic movements.

Intelligent Body and Polycentric Movement

An octopus’s body is independently intelligent, with two-thirds of its neurons located in its arms, allowing each arm to think and problem-solve independently. This principle is reflected in the Talawa Technique™ through the use of polycentric movement and poly-movement. Polycentrism involves multiple centers of the body being activated simultaneously or initiating movement independently, allowing for a coordinated yet autonomous execution of movements.

Polycentric Movement: Polycentric movement redefines traditional bodily movement by positioning the body as an intricate landscape of interrelated active centers. Each center, operating both independently and in harmony, contributes to a complex and layered kinetic expression. This approach bestows depth and richness upon the dance, distinguishing it from unilinear physical expressions. Key centers of movement in polycentric dance include the ankles, hips, wrists, neck, and scapulae/chest, each contributing uniquely to the dance’s complexity and richness.

Kinetic Selfpolyfication: A key principle of polycentric movement, emphasizes the harmonious coexistence of multiple kinetic centers within the body. It mirrors societal concepts of polycentricity, where multiple centers of power coexist within a single entity. As the Talawa Technique™ posits, “Kinetic Selfpolyfication is the ability to multiply yourself through movement without ever canceling yourself out,” highlighting the infinite potential for dynamic expression and interconnectedness within the dancer’s body.

Each of these centers operates both independently and in harmony with others, contributing to the overall complexity and richness of the dance. This approach allows dancers to achieve a level of depth and sophistication in their movements that distinguishes the Talawa Technique™ from other dance forms.

Training Proprioception and Neuromuscular Coordination

The Talawa Technique™ employs a variety of training methods to enhance proprioception and neuromuscular coordination, addressing proprioceptive deficits and compensatory mechanisms. These methods are designed to ensure that dancers develop advanced kinesthetic intelligence and bodily awareness, crucial for performing complex and dynamic movements with precision and fluidity.

Technical Drills: Foundational exercises focus on alignment, conditioning, and the development of endurance, suppleness, awareness, and precision. These drills prepare the body for complex movements, reduce injuries, and promote effective neuromuscular recruitment by activating lower body muscles efficiently. These drills are meticulously structured to enhance the dancer’s ability to perform with both power and grace, ensuring a well-rounded physical preparation.

Dynamic Transitions: Exercises requiring shifting weight and transitioning between movements dynamically engage different motor units, preventing over-reliance on any single muscle group and promoting balanced motor unit recruitment. This method ensures that dancers develop a versatile and resilient body capable of adapting to various choreographic demands.

Complex Rhythmic Patterns: Incorporating polyrhythms and complex timing ensures varied and comprehensive motor unit engagement, enhancing muscle synergy and overall neuromuscular coordination. By training with complex rhythms, dancers improve their ability to internalize and express intricate musical patterns, leading to a more profound and nuanced performance.

Isolations and Integrations: Training that includes isolated movements and integrates them into larger sequences develops muscle synergies effectively, promoting coordinated muscle actions. These exercises help dancers achieve a seamless blend of precision and fluidity in their movements, enhancing their overall performance quality.

Vibro-Sensing and Body-Sensing: Techniques that train dancers to sense and respond to their body’s vibrations and movements enhance proprioception and neuromuscular coordination. These methods are integral to developing a keen awareness of one’s own body and its relation to the surrounding space and other dancers.

Water Walks: A unique aspect of the Talawa Technique™ is the concept of Water Walks. This exercise involves balancing a water bottle on the head while executing rhythmic steps with dynamic alterations. The Water Walks practice transcends mere physicality to embody the metaphor of water—a symbol of unceasing transformation and boundless adaptability. This exercise requires dancers to focus on multiple elements simultaneously, enhancing balance, stability, rhythmic integration, and full-body engagement.

Benefits of Water Walks:

  • Balance and Stability: The challenge of maintaining balance while performing complex movements enhances the dancer’s stability and proprioceptive awareness.
  • Rhythmic Integration: Coordinating rhythmic steps with the balance of the water bottle promotes neuromuscular coordination and rhythmic timing.
  • Full-Body Engagement: Engaging multiple body parts to maintain balance and rhythm improves overall muscle synergy and neuromuscular recruitment.

Full Corposensoric Rhythmokinetic Computation (FCRC)

An advanced result of T.A.P.A. (Technical Adaptive Proprioceptic Acumen) within the Talawa Technique™ is Full Corposensoric Rhythmokinetic Computation (FCRC). FCRC describes a heightened state wherein the entire body becomes an advanced processor of rhythmic and kinetic stimuli. During this state, the body does not merely respond to sensory input sequentially; it anticipates, integrates, and expresses in a real-time dance dialogue.

Pre-emptive Cognition: FCRC embodies a form of pre-emptive cognition, where dancers predict and align their movements with upcoming rhythmic patterns and the forces at play around the body as a result of rhythmic or rhythmically timed propulsion, even before their tangible onset. This advanced state of awareness and responsiveness allows dancers to perform with a level of precision and fluidity that appears almost instinctual.

Application in Performance: The concept of FCRC highlights the advanced outcomes of T.A.P.A., where the body becomes an anticipatory and integrative processor of rhythmic and kinetic stimuli. This concept, rooted in the rich traditions of Africana dance, underscores the innovative fusion of ancient wisdom and modern methodology that defines the Talawa Technique™. Dancers trained in this technique can seamlessly integrate complex movements and rhythms, embodying the principles of adaptability, intelligence, and transformation in their performances.


The Octopus Principle in the Talawa Technique™ highlights the intelligence, adaptability, and intricate sensory capabilities of the octopus as a metaphor for movement and training. By embodying these principles, dancers can achieve a profound level of skill, awareness, and expressive potential. The Talawa Technique™ fosters a deep connection between ancient wisdom and contemporary practice, guiding dancers towards mastery through the emulation of the octopus’s unique attributes. This sophisticated approach to dance training, rooted in Africana movement practices, ensures that dancers can seamlessly integrate complex movements and rhythms, embodying the principles of adaptability, intelligence, and transformation.

The Talawa Technique™ stands as a testament to the power of integrating cultural heritage with innovative training methods, offering dancers a comprehensive framework to develop their skills and express their artistry. Through its focus on proprioception, polycentric movement, and dynamic training, the Talawa Technique™ provides a rich and dynamic approach to dance that resonates with practitioners from diverse backgrounds, fostering a deeper engagement with the art form and its philosophical underpinnings.