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Mindful Movement: The Evolution of the Somatic Arts and Conscious Action.

Mindful Movement: The Evolution of the Somatic Arts and Conscious Action

Martha Eddy

Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2016 $57.00, cloth, 370 pages

Reviewed by Nancy Romita

Mindful Movement: The Evolution of the Somatic Arts and Conscious Action by Martha Eddy, Ph.D., is an examination of somatic practices of the 20th and early 21st Century. Eddy's considerable expertise in both movement science and varied somatic practices, along with 15 years of case study, practice-oriented research, and personal interviews research, results in a rich investigation of the somatic arts. Eddy is also responsible for the development of the somatic program entitled "Body/Mind Dancing," which provides additional depth of expertise and context throughout the book.

Eddy's book opens with a discussion and visual representation of the myriad approaches to embodied practices that have unfolded throughout the past 150 years. She includes some of the philosophical underpinnings of integrated body/mind practices. Examples of early pioneers are Francois Delsarte and Ilse Middendorf. In what was to become a hallmark of somatic therapies, Delsarte and Middendorf's work focused less on external outcomes, such as increased performance skills, and more on personal process and growth in body awareness. Eddy traces the history of somatic practices to help the reader understand the lineage of current body/mind practices in operation today, for example that of the Franklin Method. One example of such lineage begins with Ideokinesis founder Mabel Todd, author of the pioneering book The Thinking Body, who then mentored Lulu Sweigard in her research on guided imagery, who in turn mentored another somatics icon, Irene Dowd.

Mindful Movement is divided into 14 chapters (some written by contributing authors) and three sections. Part 1 presents the etymology of the term "somatic/s practice," and discusses its development and evolution. "Somatics" was a term popularized by philosopher and Feldenkrais practitioner Thomas Hanna in the 1970s. Eddy provides descriptions of "first generation" models in somatic education (for example, Alexander Technique, The Feldenkrais Method", Eutony, Bartenieff Fundamentals, and Laban Movement Analysis), as well as more recent "second generation" developments in somatic teaching and therapy, such as Body/Mind Centering. Eddy beautifully describes this vast array of practices under a common descriptive umbrella: "a mindfulness that emerges from the body itself." Although Eddy predominantly focuses on the Eurocentric aspects of somatics, this reviewer most appreciates the final chapter in Part 1, which briefly investigates some of the historically older forms of body/mind integration, such as various yoga practices in India, Tai Chi Chuan in China, and forms of Afro-Haitian dance.

Part 2 is a compilation of "second generation" and "third generation" somatics, complete with examples of research and applications in education, from research with graduate students to young children with neurological imbalances. Eddy skillfully presents a wide survey and history of somatics with images, illustrations, and examples. The plethora of examples well illustrates the influence of somatic training on education.

Of particular note is Chapter 9, which examines dance, somatics, and dance science in higher education over the past 100 years at the University of Illinois, Urbana. Contributing author Rebecca Nettl-Fiol discusses the historical progression of somatic research at the university, from the neuro-anatomist and anthropologist Raymond Dart to her personal introduction to somatics as an undergraduate, leading to her ongoing research and course development in somatic education.

Part 3 addresses far-reaching applications of somatic practice. These include neuroscience, feminist studies, and environmental studies, practice, and activism. Noteworthy social action- and participation-applications include Rudolf Laban's movement choirs and Anna Halprin's "planetary" dances.

In the final chapter Eddy offers a convincing rationale for further exploration of the term "somatics" in all its suppositions and implications. She implores the somatics practice community to define, refine, and discuss the term so as to promote the importance of embodied learning and somatic therapies. Eddy's extensively-researched book on approaches to kinesthetic intelligence and embodied understanding, together with its comprehensive bibliography, serves to greatly inform and enrich the literature in this multi-faceted field.
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Author:Berardi, Gigi
Publication:Journal of Dance Medicine & Science
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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