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What is somatic practice?

Are you in engaged with your everyday movements and how they relate to your health? That is what Somatic Practice can offer you. Morley tutor Carolyn Roy explains what the practice is and what the course can offer you.

In somatic practice we are exploring ways of sensing where we are as we dance in relation to the world through focusing on contact with the ground, the air and other dancers, as well as listening to our own bodies. This tuning of attention both inwards to our own sensory experience and outward to what is happening in the space is a great preparation for working with partners – the kind of deep attentive listening that is called upon in Contact Improvisation.

‘Somatic’ as a term covers practices ranging from the generally therapeutic to a specific approach to dance composition. As described by the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association, somatic practice ‘encompasses postural and movement evaluation, communication and guidance through touch and words, experiential anatomy and imagery, and the patterning of new movement choices. These practices are applied to everyday and specialised activities for persons in all stages of health and development. ‘

Martha Eddy, a researcher and writer in this field, noted that ‘somatic pioneers discovered that by being engaged in attentive dialogue with one’s bodily self we, as humans, can learn newly, become pain free, move more easily, do our life work more efficiently, and perform with greater vitality and expressiveness.’

In brief, somatic practice encourages awareness of the body and its potential for greater ease of movement both in our daily life and as movement practitioners. There are many approaches to somatic work but all shares an emphasis on listening deeply to the body. Noticing what is already happening and how we carry out habitual movements, working with the breath, responding to sensations, encouraging exploration of alternative ways of moving and consciously altering movement habits and choices. Sessions promote participants’ self-organisation, self-healing, and self- awareness. They often use touch to amplify sensory experience through the skin, the body’s largest organ, and therefore more quickly awaken awareness.

Somatic practice can include bodywork with an emphasis on therapeutic outcomes, though these classes at Morley College are designed with a focus on somatic approaches to dance movement. They aim to support individual development as dancers and performers but are open and accessible to anybody who is interested in exploring and expanding their movement potential regardless of any previous experience in dance.

During class students are encouraged to work at their own pace through a series of guided movement explorations. Experience gained during these sessions will underpin and complement technical training in other forms of movement and performance. They aim to encourage spatial and physical awareness through attention to the breath, the support of the ground, use of the senses, understanding of structural and anatomical organisation and alignment, whilst promoting increased co-ordination, suppleness and ease within the body as it moves. Again to quote Martha Eddy, students of somatic practice will ‘experience an embodied sense of vitality and extended capacities for living’!

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