Article five part three…
Many non dancers are in fact unaware of their bodies, only noticing the living, breathing, constantly cell dividing structure that they inhabit 24 hours a day, when a strong signal of pain, excitement or pleasure is sent from the body to the brain. The headache that says drink more water, the stomach churning at the realisation the wallet is gone from the handbag where it was left, and (no giggling) during sexual relations.
Some of the socio-cultural implications of these contexts for body awareness can be so polemic that they tend to overpower discussions about the subtler lived experience of movement in a body that Siobhan has devoted her artistic explorations to. The sexual context of the body in society brings up a whole raft of perspectives that distract us from the subject of embodied movement. Women have been discussing these, campaigning around them, making art and writing complex philosophical theories about them as they have climbed the mountain of equality. In the 1970s French linguistic philosopher Julia Kristeva wrote many theories about femininity, the body being labelled the feminine domain by patriarchal culture, with men getting the (ever more important) cerebral things such as language. Kristeva traced ideas about the body being abject back to the story of Adam and Eve, when childbirth (arguably a woman’s most important spiritual and emotional journey) was rebranded as a punishment for succumbing to the pleasures of the flesh.
In daily life our perception is also often somewhat reduced by the way that we live and the modes we that choose to engage with the world, and I am passionate that we should not lose the intelligence of the body. Recently though a shift does seem to be afoot. The recent discoveries of neuroscience and collaborations between dancers and scientists, philosophers and artists are beginning to create some space around this concept of the body in motion and opportunities to talk about it without other agendas creeping in. In fact collaborator and dance artist Gill Clarke has recently led the PAL Movement and Meaning Lab, which is described on the PAL website as ‘a cross-disciplinary enquiry into our embodied nature, bringing together the physical and sensory curiosity and intelligence of dance artists, with scientists, social scientists, and influential policymakers and opinion-formers across culture and education. A project that places movement and movement based thinking in the centre.’
Dance artists put me in mind of gazelles, perfectly toned collections of intelligence and muscles communicating, with the eyes and ears twitching, in a constant state of signal and response, perception and adjustment to their surroundings. They carry with them vast knowledge about movement and embodied perception that is only just starting to be tapped, as Siobhan puts it:
‘We bring with us a vitality of knowledge and an ability to do which is unique. The ability to be in the world and to have feedback loops with the various relationships that we have. It is a skill, one that has been observed by others and I think visual artists have in fact been observing this skill for a very, very different perspective for quite some time and that gives me energy.
Dance has within itself an intelligence that highlights human thinking and activity in a particular form. The more I see dance and the dancers exploring the complexities, the more exited I get by this form of communication.’
Alexis has a website www.alexiszeldastevens.com and a blog www.encounterproject.blogspot.com
She has written four previous articles about art and dance coming together which can be read here: