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Moving Consciously

Moving Consciously: Somatic Transformations through Dance, Yoga, and Touch

Edited with Essays by Sondra Fraleigh
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Moving Consciously
    Book Description:

    The popularity of yoga and Zen meditation has heightened awareness of somatic practices. Individuals develop the conscious embodiment central to somatics work via movement and dance, or through touch from a skilled teacher or therapist often called a somatic bodyworker. Methods of touch and movement foster generative processes of consciousness in order to create a fluid interconnection between sensation, thought, movement, and expression. In Moving Consciously , Sondra Fraleigh gathers essays that probe ideas surrounding embodied knowledge and the conscious embodiment of movement and dance. Using a variety of perspectives on movement and dance somatics, Fraleigh and other contributors draw on scholarship and personal practice to participate in a multifaceted investigation of a thriving worldwide phenomenon. Their goal: to present the mental and physical health benefits of experiencing one's inner world through sensory awareness and movement integration. A stimulating addition to a burgeoning field, Moving Consciously incorporates concepts from East and West into a timely look at life-changing, intertwined practices that involve dance, movement, performance studies, and education. Contributors: Richard Biehl, Robert Bingham, Hillel Braude, Alison East, Sondra Fraleigh, Kelly Ferris Lester, Karin Rugman, Catherine Schaeffer, Jeanne Schul, and Ruth Way.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09749-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Public Health, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    Somatic movement experiences have the potential to extend consciousness and transform lives; this is the core of our teaching through Eastwest Somatics Institute and the theme of this book.

    As editor, I have asked the coauthors and myself what we want to achieve in this anthology. In retrospect, I see that we study the termsomaticsand explain our discoveries in applying it to movement through dance, yoga, and touch. We hope to share our findings with a wide audience of somatic practitioners, dancers, yoginis, hands-on educators, and bodywork therapists. The text will also be of interest to those who...

  6. Prologue on Somatic Contexts
    (pp. xix-xxxii)
    Sondra Fraleigh

    The uses of moving consciously in somatic contexts may have more applications than we have yet been able to see. As Heidegger said, “Greater than actuality stands possibility.”¹ The authors of this book hope to inspire others in somatic studies to a large vision of its possibilities. There has been much that seeks to revision the way we think about movement and the arts. Dance somatics had unsung beginnings in the Judson dance activities that ushered in the American postmodern dance. The idea that everyone can dance was expressed at Judson, where they also decelerated extant techniques. New dance techniques...


    • CHAPTER 1 Why Consciousness Matters
      (pp. 3-23)
      Sondra Fraleigh

      In 2006, on one of my trips to Japan, butoh teacher Nobuo Harada-sensei saw my somatics students practicing teaching through touch, our developmental and therapeutic technique that involves what we refer to as matching in pairs. One partner in the role of the teacher finds and guides the lines of least resistance in the other partner’s movement, matching emergent movement patterns with slow, gentle, somatically attuned touch—as in lifting an arm and holding it a few moments to feel the weight of flesh and bone, then waiting for release of held tension before letting the arm rest. This is...

    • CHAPTER 2 Somatic Movement Arts
      (pp. 24-49)
      Sondra Fraleigh

      In the prologue and the previous chapter, I definedsomaticsas a word and as a phenomenon. Here, I widen my inquiry to speak of somatics as a kinesthetic field for study and cultivation of movement arts, including my experiences and conceptualizations of somatic methods in dance performance. In figure 6, we see Christina Sears Etter performing at the Eastwest Somatics Tuscan Sun Retreat in Italy in 2012. Her blithe performance will lead out into the environment and involve others in a dance with the Tuscan landscape.

      When I became acquainted with somatic methods to cultivate performance and awareness, I...

    • CHAPTER 3 Dancing Becomes Walking
      (pp. 50-72)
      Sondra Fraleigh

      I began my career as a dancer doing what I love, lucky me. I performed in theater settings and taught dance in university systems for more than forty years. I began teaching in universities in 1962 when dance had few specialized areas of study. I taught it all. Eventually I settled into those areas that suited me best—composition, improvisation, modern dance technique (until my late fifties)—and I gradually added academic studies in dance with philosophy and aesthetics at the top of the list in terms of publication. I studied philosophy in graduate school along with dance, and also...


    • CHAPTER 4 Living Shin
      (pp. 75-92)
      Catherine A. Schaeffer

      Shin is alive for me in several ways that I explore in this chapter. Living Shin has enriched my work as a university professor, professional dancer, choreographer, and human being. I first reflect on my history in somatic modalities, their relation to Shin Somatics, and how this work has benefitted me professionally and personally. Second, I consider my applications of somatic knowledge to dance pedagogy, creating choreography, and the teaching and practice of yoga, healing, and wellness. In the final section, I discuss personal transformative somatic experiences and share key findings and insights that ground me in living Shin.


    • CHAPTER 5 Environments for Self-Learning
      (pp. 93-108)
      Kelly Ferris Lester

      This chapter contributes to the definition of somatic pedagogy as a means to ignite self-learning in students in diverse learning environments, including somatic movement lessons, dance technique, and online dance appreciation. I encountered the somatic movement field through dance, as my undergraduate dance education included brief moments of somatic experiences that spawned my interest in its application to performance. In 2004 I enrolled in a somatics course as part of the master of fine arts curriculum at the College at Brockport (SUNY). This initial encounter and continued studies with Sondra Fraleigh define the majority of my work as dance professor,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Trauma in the Theater of the Body
      (pp. 109-123)
      Richard Biehl

      I was spellbound as I listened to Buddhist teacher Tara Brach tell a story about a man named Jacob. Although in the “midstages” of Alzheimer’s disease, Jacob, a meditator of many years, had agreed to present Buddhist teachings to some meditation students. He arrived at a large hall, and as he was about to address the students, as he had in the past, something abruptly changed in his conscious orientation: “He didn’t know what he was supposed to say or do. He didn’t know where he was or why he was there.” Brach described Jacob’s racing heart and his mind...

    • CHAPTER 7 Radical Somatics
      (pp. 124-134)
      Hillel Braude

      Somatics is a radical practice. It is radical in transforming set norms or habits in the body of individuals, and thereby it has the largely untapped potential to transform the social body politic. The positive transformative power of somatics contrasts with the great twentieth-century political movements of communism and fascism, whose numbing ideologies inflicted grave terror on countless individuals. Don Hanlon Johnson has written articulately about how the “simplicity of perception” and “modesty of goal” espoused by leading somatic pioneers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as Moshe Feldenkrais, Elsa Gindler, and Charlotte Selver, stand against the mass manipulation...

    • CHAPTER 8 Somatic Awakenings
      (pp. 135-150)
      Ruth Way

      In this moment, I reflect on my own passion for moving and how as a child this embodied language formed its own expression and confirmed my sense of self. When I dance, I feel alive in the world and part of it.

      This chapter reflects on my own somatic journey informed by the Eastwest Somatics program and my experiential learning and research into somatic movement education. Drawing on influential practitioners, performers, and scholars such as Sondra Fraleigh, Pina Bausch, Thomas Hanna, and Anna Cooper Albright, the chapter also pursues connections between creativity in performance practice and guiding principles in somatic...


    • CHAPTER 9 Like Drifting Snow My Head Falls
      (pp. 153-163)
      Robert Bingham

      In 2009 I performed a forty- five- minute solo, “Feeding the Ghosts,” in a large theater lobby in Alfred, New York.¹ In the piece, I appeared on a 4’ × 6’ platform, shirtless and blindfolded, and entered into an improvisation whose sole structure was to remain openly receptive to, and inviting of, my personal demons and ghosts. I responded in movement to whatever feeling, thought, and/or image emerged within this structure. While I had rehearsed the dance a few times without an audience or witness, what happened in performance surprised me. Behind my blindfold, an ongoing stream of images unfolded...

    • CHAPTER 10 Performing Body as Nature
      (pp. 164-179)
      Alison East

      Somatic memories impel my chapter, especially the unification of self and world I experience through dance performance.¹ Ideas regarding the “nature” of choreographic expression and the choreographic expression of “nature” are still evolving in me as I redefine my own “dancerly” behavior and come to terms with what is still physically possible to achieve. My body is packed with memories of somatic engagement with the landscape, studio, and stage over many years. These memories begin from my earliest childhood: running through grassy paddocks, herding sheep, tumbling and sliding down rutted hillsides, climbing tall trees, and riding on the horse-drawn hay...

    • CHAPTER 11 Embodied Dreams
      (pp. 180-194)
      Jeanne Schul

      Whether or not we remember our dreams upon waking, it is part of the human condition to dream when we sleep. For some of us, this natural brain function brings powerful somatic experiences that demand our immediate attention. Those images that haunt us long after the visual stimulus has disappeared are often very vivid somatic sensations that rush through our bodies and shock us into an awareness of a highly significant psychic process at work within us. In dreamtime, an embodied image can be experienced on a somatic level with a wide variety of possible manifestations. These physical responses of...

    • CHAPTER 12 Contact Unwinding
      (pp. 195-212)
      Karin Rugman

      The study of somatics offers many layers of learning, from the simplest focusing of attention to the cultivation of a deeper sense of self. Somatic study is concerned with experiencing the self from an internal perspective, inviting students to feel, acknowledge, and respond to inner and outer sensations and to consciously participate in attending to, and taking responsibility for, themselves. Developing self-awareness and self-knowledge through somatic processes can allow us to find release, ease, and clarity both physically and emotionally, and can give us choice and freedom to explore new possibilities in our approach to life.

      Somatic learning often begins...

  10. Dance Maps: A Guide for Dance Experiences
    (pp. 213-226)

    Submerged in the marvel of breath and movement, soma is our tacit body of nature and primordial dance. Soma is not the body we see, but the body we experience. Thus to test experience, we can trace our somatic tendencies through dance. We become the dance and its record, viable in psychology of form and perception. We cultivate consciousness and memory in the ways we move, registering correlative emotional attunements. We absolutely cannot escape theaffectationof our movements and emotional life. Like all organisms in nature, we are somatically alive in the mind of our motion. Dance is special...

  11. Glossary: Key Terms, Methods, and Narratives of Somatics
    (pp. 227-230)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-240)
  13. Contributors
    (pp. 241-244)
  14. Index
    (pp. 245-253)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 254-256)