Embodied Lives ~ Reviews and Endorsements
“Suprapto’s work with movement is radically inventive and his dancing a revelation.”
Anna Halprin has been named one of ‘America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures’ by the Dance Heritage Coalition
Asian Theatre Journal
"The book demonstrates how Suprapto is open to diverse uses for
his always evolving methods of body-mind training. As one contributor puts it, “One of the gifts of Amerta Movement is that Prapto offers an idea or a practice and, through use and reflection, we make it our own” (p. 176). We read of derivative psychophysical training systems in Prayitna’s Mantra Gerak ritual art practices, Sally Dean’s Somatic Costume workshops, and Diane Butler’s Dharma Nature Time participatory events, and the application of training to archaeology, filmmaking, dog rearing, a personalized wedding ceremony, healing and therapy, home redecoration, solo performance art, collaborative performances, work in the Royal Courts of Justice, visual art, self-actualization, and personal development.
Suprapto’s work has rarely been the subject of academic scrutiny, with only a few scattered scholarly articles on his practice.... This book thus gives important insights into Amerta Movement as it has developed internationally over the years, and Suprapto as a charismatic guru figure or guide. Lack of a fixed form makes it difficult to define Amerta Movement categorically. The book’s introduction describes it as a “forum” for interacting with the environment and the self as well as fellow movers, a means to attend to the past and present, “an attitude of attentive play” (p. 2). One chapter describes Suprapto as “rolling out a ‘mind carpet’ upon which we can all move, learn and interact” (p. 37). Another, drawing on Sufism, describes Amerta Movement as “a path to learn how to be in the world but not ‘of ’ it” (p. 43). A third speaks of “somatic learning or un-learning” (p. 253). Suprapto himself once characterized his approach as an active form of Buddhism, a means to perceive the world “from the Buddha walking, rather than from the Buddha sitting” (p. 50). But increasingly he has used the metaphor of the garden. Participants move and sound in a collective space (p. 161), each existing and growing in their own way, but responsive to the whole. The job of Suprapto and his dialoguers is to “cultivate an atmosphere” (p. 309) to allow for the “blossoming” or “enlivening experience” (p. 2) of movers.
Suprapto has developed a set of adaptable techniques for “gardening,” coordinating selves with groups and environments. These are described by one contributor as “open experiential forms or themes, such as Human, Nature, God; Home, Road, Temple, Stage; Circle, Oval, Square” (p. 27)... Only a few of the chapters detail Suprapto’s expositions of these forms or demonstrate with rigor how they unfold in workshop contexts. What we are granted instead are poignant, memorable moments from Amerta Movement workshops that have shaped lives, informed art, and illuminated spiritual and ecological issues. Throughout we observe Suprapto’s sensitivity to the individual needs and abilities of movers, as well as group processes and the particulars of workshop environments.
Matthew Cohen in
Asian Theatre Journal , Vol. 33, 1 , Spring 2016
"Dancing inside, dancing outside with this elegant book in hand, you celebrate the coherence of body and place. Whether moving amid temples in Java or in your kitchen, this distinctive compendium invites the reader to engage both the grit and coherence of authentic voice. Each page cultivates the thrill of discovery, drawing charged lines of connection between the ground under our feet and the matrix of our dancing bodies."
[Andrea is author of three books: The Place of Dance: A Somatic Guide to Dancing and Dance Making; Body and Earth: An Experiential Guide; and Bodystories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy. She is a Professor of Dance & Faculty in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, VT]
"Each chapter testifies to the impact of adopting this practice and bestows on the reader an intimate insight into their experience.
There is a sense of intimacy woven throughout the writings, perhaps because some of the writings slip into an artistry that touches our deeper ways of being.
...This aspect of the book seemed to require that the reader journey with the writers, each chapter needed time; time to read, time to ‘stop, don’t follow that...’ (p.197), time to allow the written words to become embodied in some way. Each practitioner offers their perspective: unique, personal and diverse; from law to architecture, from archaeology to family.
Reading this book, savouring each chapter, the reader experiences something of the spirit of Amerta movement approach, where each “gardener/teacher” is encouraged to “open the atmosphere first in space and time” (p.309)
Embodied Lives does not merely engage the reader in the writer’s reflections, it requires the reader to stop and reflect, to ask reflexive questions, to discover if they are being drawn to explore the ‘Space of Being’ (p.265) in their own movement psychotherapy practice.
...The afterword closes with an implicit invitation to each “gardener/teacher”, potentially, to each ‘gardener/ therapist’ to:
“See from the mover’s potential rather than from the mover’s problems or difficulties. In practice it demands a dynamic, creative, responsive approach and cultivates an atmosphere and an attitude of loving-kindness.” (p.309)"
Ruth Price in e-motion (journal of the UK Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy)
"It's so good to see this book in print. Suprapto is a movement master and his work has deeply touched my life and the lives of countless others. In this book, some of the people who know him and his work best share their insights and inspirational stories about Amerta Movement Practice. A joy to read for anybody interested in making the most out of this creative project called living in a body on planet earth."
Ya'Acov Darling Khan
Ya'Acov is co-Founder of Movement Medicine and author of Movement Medicine: How to Awaken, Dance and Live your Dreams (Hay House)
"Although we have now not worked with Prapto for many years, each time we meet the warmth of spiritual connection is still there. In a way Prapto personifies the extraordinary energy and spirit of Java, its paradoxes and subtle power to enter your being and transform your way of seeing the world. We have always carried the idea of movement as meditation with us, and it still sits at the heart of any performance work we do.
This book reflects in its form, shape and content, the influence and impact of the Praptosphere: the all consuming yet fluid and nebulous paradox that is Prapto’s world. Sometimes frustrating, often meaningful, always resonant, just being with Prapto created an unidentifiable yet tangible legacy affecting mind, body and spirit.
This book looks to convey that essence to the world."
Simon Pascoe, Caitlin Easter
Red Earth co-directors
"...the richness of the book for me lies not so much in the individual chapters, inspiring though these are, as in the themes that recur, running like bright flavours through a meal. One is the way that the lives of many of the authors have been influenced not only by working with Prapto, but also by their exposure to the very different culture in Java: the experience and the challenge of living with people who have another relationship to time and space and a very refined sense of atmospheres. Christina Stelzer highlights three aspects, which she names waiting, hearing the world and respect. Several authors comment on the contrast between Westerners, who are mostly in such a hurry to get somewhere that they have mentally arrived even before they set out, with the Javanese, who surrender to the moment, opening them to receiving their environment and each other, so that things happen when all that is needed is ready.
Let me tempt you with a few more flavours. One of the strongest, mentioned by several contributors, is how, wordlessly, Prapto senses what each person needs and then creates the appropriate space for them to explore this need. This ability, refined through years of practice, chimes for me with how we aspire to enable rather than direct or instruct when facilitating constellations. Then, permeating many chapters, is the way the Amerta practice is embedded in the environment, expanding individual consciousness and strengthening awareness of the field in which we are all embedded. Inevitably this leads to the development of presence: deepening the experience of how we are in a particular environment. Margit Galanter discovered that this is a dynamic process of presencing: rather than something to have or achieve, presence subtly shifts as we respond to changes within and around us. Over years of practice, Amerta has refined her awareness that presencing has a range of qualities. Staying in relation is another important facet of the work: to ourselves, to each other, to constants in the landscape. Amerta practice also promotes allowing, leading to the recognition that acceptance is a process, a happening, something that cannot be ‘done’ but can be prepared for.
One contributor describes Amerta as “amazing yet simple”; another writes “its coherence is astounding, pervasive, and elusive, like mist or the movement of qi … to express a simple practice was to open into a mosaic of possibilities”. Even if I haven’t persuaded you to jump on the next plane to Java and seek out Prapto (I must say I’m tempted!), do read this book: it will enrich your life and, I hope, your work with constellations."
Jen Altman in The Knowing Field: International Constellations Journal, No. 25, Jan 2015
Read the full review
Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices
"...The book provides a wide-ranging and up-to-date description of Prapto's approach to movement and embodiment, which he calls Amerta Movement, and is perhaps the first publication that reflects the full scope and richness of this practice.... Embodied Lives is likely to be an important resource and inspiration both for existing and potential new Amerta practitioners, as well as for those interested somatic approaches more generally.
...It is notoriously difficult to encapsulate any embodied experience in words, and Amerta Movement has its own particular issues and questions around language. This is an area that the editors highlight with their opening quotation from Prapto about how his "presence can create words and arrange words", and by their selection of the material in the "Prapto Companion" chapter. In one of the texts they include... Prapto suggests the possibility of a complete integration, in communication, of language with direct experiential understanding unmediated by concept, or even by symbol. At the same time, the text also demonstrates how Prapto's words can often be interpreted on many levels: as literal (referring to actual movements or body parts, for example), or as metaphor addressing the psychological, metaphysical and/or spiritual. This creates a fertile ambiguity in some of the key language through which Amerta Movement is taught and described. The ambiguity is extended by the fact that different practitioners use terms in somewhat different ways, and that, as one chapter shows very clearly, even an individual practitioner's own understanding and usage of language may evolve over time. The language of Amerta Movement seems unstable, slipping and blurring as it evolves, touching on and combining with the languages of other practices in a way that is both illuminating and stimulatingly confusing. One gets the sense from the book of a broad community in a continual process, over many years, of finding language for ineffable, but shared, experience. This is a process in which the book itself will no doubt play an important role, in which case it will certainly have achieved the editors' stated aim of effecting a "new evolution of Amerta Movement".
...For those wanting to share Amerta Movement with others, Prapto encourages them to find their own synthesis of it, and many of the contributors to the book have their own, independent, named body of teaching work. ... All this appears to contrast with the institutional and economic arrangements that have been applied (no doubt beneficially in many respects) to some other somatic practices, such as trademarking, or teacher certification that confers ownership of a body of knowledge and technique that is otherwise withheld.
... The book embodies the values of the practice, its form and style as well as its content encouraging us to think of Amerta not so much as a "practice" or set of material or techniques, but as a broad approach to learning, growth and development that centres on movement - a "practice-as-research" methodology, as one might call it, that is constantly emergent in response to participants, to context and to what needs to be understood; that is "open source", in the sense that it is collectively owned and developed, freely shared, and available to be reconfigured and combined with other practices as needed; that is continuously researching itself; and that is overtly value-laden, with an explicit orientation towards growth and creativity ("blossoming", in Prapto's language). This is one reason why the book may well be of interest far beyond the community of practitioners from which it originates."
Alex Crowe in
Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, Vol. 7, 2 , October 2015 See full review
"Reading Embodied Lives is like stumbling upon a distant relative of whom I was previously unaware, but who resembles me in an uncanny way. The book’s affect is inspiring, invigorating my internal dialogue about my Feldenkrais work, and refreshing my practice. Most touching to me is the excellent quality of the
writing about phenomenological experiences of the self in movement, and the subtle complexities of inter-relationship. The diverse contributors to Embodied
Lives describe these “un-describables” thoughtfully and eloquently.
I am challenged by the knowledge and experience of these mover-practitioners to apply myself with more rigor to my own best intentions in my Feldenkrais practice. How can I best create an environment in my ATM classes for interindependence to flourish? Can I identify students who are “dependent” or “independent” in condition, and provide for each the learning tools they need for their own personal growth, while remaining compassionate and unambitious to change them? How does thinking in these terms help me help them?
Other questions arise. When is it time, when teaching ATM (Awareness Through Movement) and FI (Functional Integration), to widen my focus, be more receptive, and do a bit more following, even when it may lead me off plan? When is it useful to return to my plan? What am I listening to or listening for during teaching to help me to navigate these questions?
How does creating space for my inner witness provide me safety in the flux of a lesson? Can I recognize the judgments that invade the non-judgmental space, and how can relate to them non-aggressively? What is the affect on my relationship with my client while I’m navigating this space?
The many testimonials in Embodied Lives of practitioners finding new aspects of success in their work as therapists, artists and movement teachers through practicing Amerta movement, are quite inspiring."
Sheri Cohen (Sheri teaches the Feldenkrais Method, hatha yoga, contemporary dance and movement inquiry in Seattle, WA). Read the full review here
"Embodied Lives... is an anthology that points to ways in which embodiment not only informs perception and communication but also shapes the ways we can deepen knowledge of ourselves and others. Galanter has an essay in the book on the “presencing dial” a term she coined to describe modulations of presencing that can happen through Amerta Movement practices. Galanter has used this approach in teaching movement classes within universities.
… Embodied Lives contributes significantly to studio practices in academia that can also respond to changing discourses in dance studies. In other words, scholars revealing ethnocentricities and hierarchies that have influenced writings of dance history and criticism have made huge strides, but less attention has been paid to applying these critical frameworks to technique and composition classes. To use the descriptions of classes at UC Berkeley as an example, technique classes aspire to “focus on improving flexibility, strength, alignment, coordination, and muscular endurance.” In contrast, Amerta Movement is “not seen as a symbol nor is it seen as functional; it is not for getting better, it simply is”. Keith Miller [a contributor to Embodied Lives] adds to this explanation by writing, “A key practice is the investigation of sensations, perceptions, feelings, and memories, starting from daily life movement and then ‘excavating skin by skin, layer by layer, to discover what is the story, the motive, the source.’ …Whatever the focus of my attention, the aim is to maintain an awareness of both subject and object. Through a process of continuous self-reflexive investigation, a dialogue develops between ‘subject’ – myself as mover-in-the-environment, and the object of my research in the environment… I am reading both myself and my context”.
I appreciate this system as a mode of engagement that opposes training systems that emphasize the execution of shapes or phrases, the replication of another person’s movement, or “achievement” defined by flexibility or strength, this practice diminishes the ego-driven self to foster awareness of inter-dependences and intersubjectivities. Galanter says the practice is about, “lessening identification because we are so trained to be self-involved... It is a practice where people get to be human. It addresses the question, ‘How can we bring humanity into our lives?’ Maybe other practices like tuning scores and release techniques do this as well, but Amerta is the most inclusive movement form I have ever done. It is dealing with the whole person and involves conversation, movement, dialogue, and reflection. Students in universities I have introduced the practice to have loved it.”
…Galanter says that “one of the big influences on Prapto’s work is a Javanese meditation form called Sumarah which works with listening, or channeling, and is connected to rasa, a Javanese word for subtle flavor and tone. He is deeply skilled at it. When he teaches he senses what is needed, and speaks to each person, and dancers work from a similar understanding. When you move with him he is really emptying himself out and listening to you, kind of teaching you, but it is very powerful.” In Embodied Lives Bettina Mainz uses Foucault’s and Butler’s theories about critique to demonstrate how Prapto’s work “is practicing a critical attitude; its virtue is embodied in the art of his responses through which he is supporting blossoming in the environment”.
This willingness to engage discursive theories and movement practices makes Embodied Lives (like Susan Rethorst’s A Choreographic Mind) an important addition to academic reading. Although it is not published by a university press (or perhaps because it is not published by a university press), it explores and uncovers essential links between verbal and nonverbal epistemologies."
Kate is a graduate student in Theater, Dance & Performance Studies at University of California, Berkeley and is a dance critic and evaluator for the New York Times, the Village Voice, the N.E.A. and many other publications.