The Ecological Body
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Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis examines an approach to movement education that I call Move into Life. This praxis is interrogated here through a set of ecological principles and tools. I discuss how this approach opens up our normative attachment to a fixed sense of self. My research question enquires whether an ecological approach to movement training can release a fixed and deterministic notion of self by engaging with the changing body/soma as part of a changing environment? A kinaesthetic awareness of context and environment are fundamental to this approach. It challenges the acculturated experience of ‘myself’ as both in control of, and fundamentally separate from, the cyclical life of the surrounding environment. The cultivation of environmental awareness through movement is shown to serve as a way of being simultaneously involved and self-reflexive within the presently changing moment. At the outset of this thesis, I identify movement as primary to human expression. Movement precedes and underpins cognition, language and creative art. The thesis then identifies four key movement dynamics: active and passive, proportion, transition/position and point, line and angle. These dynamics inform all movement and all analysis of movement. I proceed to investigate these dynamics through three practical research projects: facilitating a workshop, co-directing a performance and creating and performing my own piece. Subsequently, each project is analysed through the ecological lenses of niche, pattern and emergence. These lenses serve to reveal how an embodied sense of self as an impermanent dynamic system is an intrinsic part of a complex and shifting dance of multiple social, cultural and environmental systems. . The research projects are discussed in relation to seven traditions which have informed my critical reflections: Amerta Movement, (Suprapto Suryodarmo), Satipatthāna, (the Buddha’s Way of Mindfulness), Gregory Bateson’s understanding of pattern, James Gibson’s work on ecological perception, Tim Ingold’s research in the field of social anthropology, Paul Connerton’s notion of ‘inscription’ and ‘incorporation’, and theories of developmental movement. The relevance of ecological movement to intercultural communication and performance is explored through research as practice and in the context of relevant theories from cultural anthropology. By introducing a practical discourse of embodiment, movement and awareness into the ecological debate, this thesis intends to stimulate creative responses to the on-going environmental degradation that is here seen to result in part from a sense of body as object and of ourselves as separate from our surrounding environment. The practice of ecological movement is shown to offer a foundation in environmental embodiment for performers, teachers and arts therapists. It is also shown to contribute to our understanding and appreciation of cultural difference through the body and the way we move, as well as helping us to assess the cultural aspects of other-than- verbal communication and the body’s cultural memory and lineage.
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
PhD in Performance Practice (Drama)