Beyond "Somatophobia": Phenomenology and Movement Research in Dance

By Barbour, Karen | Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue, June 2005 | Go to article overview

Beyond "Somatophobia": Phenomenology and Movement Research in Dance


Barbour, Karen, Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue


In this article, I articulate a phenomenological and feminist methodology for researching lived dance experiences, (1) and include a short narrative representation of some of my findings.

The development of phenomenological research by feminist and dance researchers has provided a means to finally shift beyond Western "somatophobia", and towards understandings that account for the integral nature of lived movement experience and body in knowledge. Phenomenology, together with a feminist consciousness, provided a means to focus on the description and study of women's lived experience. Phenomenological description of lived experience has become increasingly popular with dance researchers, and I discuss the research of Dorothy Coe, Sandra Fraleigh, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Susan Stinson, and Ruth Way. (2) I extend this dance research to outline a methodology and specific methods that allow an exploration of individual lived experiences in dance. My research also required the development of alternative narrative ways of writing that more appropriately represent women's lived movement experiences, and I conclude with a narrative excerpt.

PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH ON MOVEMENT

Phenomenologists study lived experience, describing phenomena and exploring the experiential meanings as lived by particular individuals. (3) In lived experiences, individuals are fully engaged in and aware of their world. (4) Lived experiences are immediate and pre-reflective. Integral to lived experience is the notion of the "lived body": a non-dualistic understanding of the conscious, intentional, and unified body, soul and mind in action in the world. (5) Affected by dominant Western culture's denial and repression of the body, and of experience as a source of knowledge, (6) lived movement experience has only recently been studied academically. Feminist Elizabeth Grosz commented that Western culture and knowledge has been profoundly affected by "somatophobia," or fear of the body. (7) Prior to the twentieth century, few Western philosophers attempted to theorise the body, and the lived body simply tended to be taken for granted (8), or considered "absent", (9) despite the significant contributions of phenomenologists Baruch Spinoza, (10) Martin Heidegger (11) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. (12) These phenomenologists provided alternative understandings to the Cartesian dualistic notion of a separated mind and body. Merleau-Ponty stated that embodiment was the existential condition of being in the world, (13) thus attempting to draw the lived body and lived experience into understanding. (14) For Merleau-Ponty, the lived body was at the centre of experience, as it was the body that understood and experienced the world, rather than the mind. (15) However, the lived body remained typically represented as a male body, and individual embodied difference was unrecognised in these early phenomenological accounts. (16) Feminist researchers' (17) development of phenomenological understandings within their critiques of Western knowledge allowed the body and lived experience to figure more centrally in contemporary theorising.

Alongside the development of feminist critiques and theorising has grown a substantial body of research in dance. In a number of examples, (18) dance researchers have utilised phenomenological description and understandings of the lived experience of the dancer. (19)

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (20), drawing on Merleau-Ponty's work, wrote: "One of the promising features of a phenomenological approach to dance is ... the possibility of bringing movement and philosophy, creation, performance and criticism into some kind of meaningful relationship." (21) Phenomenology provided a method of description that focused on the wholeness of dance in the immediate encounter, in lived experience. (22) However, while being a method of description, Sheets-Johnstone also saw phenomenology as a mechanism for reflecting backwards and illuminating the structures of consciousness. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Beyond "Somatophobia": Phenomenology and Movement Research in Dance
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.