Nine Ways of Seeing a Body - Reviews
I love your book and will use it as a text in one of my courses next fall. ...I am now using it starting next week.
Don Hanlon Johnson, Professor of Somatics, California Institute of Integral Studies
The body is a hot topic in fields ranging from theatre and performance studies, to dance studies, to therapeutic-movement practices, to cultural studies. Issues surrounding the body encompass a spectrum of internal and external impressions and experiences, including representations of race, gender, sexuality, age, and health, as well as somatic exploration, sensuality, environmental relationship, and healing. Influenced by new developments in disciplines as divergent as the humanities and neuroscience, bodies are everywhere. Yet, the feminist theorist’s conception of the body may differ from the movement therapist’s image, which may differ from the dancer’s idea, and so on.
The three-book series Ways of Being a Body, edited by Sandra Reeve, aims to initiate conversation across the many disciplines addressing the body and embodiment. Nine Ways of Seeing a Body, the first volume, juxtaposed varied historical and theoretical body perspectives, positioning them as context-specific lenses. Reeve defines lens as “a way of seeing, thinking about and engaging with the body as well as articulating and theorising that experience”. The lenses covered in the first volume focus on Western philosophical conceptions of the body, including the body as object, the body as subject, the phenomenological body, and the somatic body, among others. Reeve, a UK-based dance therapist and PhD in performance practice, introduces her “ecological body” as the final lens in the first volume, arguing for the interconnectedness between the body and environment, and envisioning the body as a dynamic organism in continual relationship with, responsive to, and inseparable from its physically situated landscape.
Body and Performance, the second book in the series, focuses on twelve additional lenses, all grounded in the experiential application of contemporary performance practices and training techniques. Each chapter highlights a different aspect of the body in performance, modeling the application of the new body lens to performance practice through case studies drawn from the authors’ personal experiences. Abstracts at the beginning of every chapter clearly define each body lens, and the well-referenced glossary of terms establishes common vocabulary usage, making this an excellent reference text and a digestible resource for students and teachers of contemporary performance training, practice, and research theories and techniques.
There are multiple ways to experience the body in the rehearsal process and in performance, and the kaleidoscope of lenses offered here does not pretend, nor even intend, to create a singular body image. Reeve emphasizes that “this collection of lenses and the application of various somatic approaches is by no means exhaustive”. By acknowledging the multiplicity of approaches to the body and embodiment in performance research, training, and practice, she posits this series as the beginning of a conversation between and among a range of overlapping and divergent perspectives. Reeve refrains from creating hierarchical categories of lenses, instead inviting practitioners, students, and scholars to select the lens or lenses most appropriate to their specific, embodied context.
In this second volume, Reeve is careful to state that the featured practices emphasize the subjectivity and creative agency of the body. She further notes that all of the lenses “reject the notion of treating the ‘body as object’”. The performance methodologies cited throughout the text draw on: body practices like Body-Mind Centering, the Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, and authentic movement; and performing arts practices from Viewpoints, to Kudiyattam, to Taketina; as well as theoretical perspectives, including corporeal feminism, embodied cognition, and object relations. The chapter authors—all practicing artist-scholars from primarily European institutions—emphasize images of the body as processual, adaptable, and relational. This relational quality establishes the body as both agent and receiver of action and is a thematic thread loosely knitting the various lenses outlined in the book...
Meg Brooker in Theatre Topics, Volume 24, Number 2, June 2014
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Your little NEW book is absolutely wonderful and useful! It is really very helpful - next week I'm going to use it in my lectures and ask all the students get it (I have 36) students, here and in the USA
Amanda Williamson, Course Leader: MA Dance and Somatic Well-being: connections to the living body, New York and UK
In this compact and accessible book Sandra Reeve invites the reader to engage with ‘the body’ through nine different lenses. The ensuing thought provoking journey will be of particular value to psychotherapists, arts therapists, and those interested in new ways of being.
Anna Chesner: London Centre for Psychodrama
"...a small and perfectly formed book, which is by no means small in content.
...illuminated by reflections on her own clinical practice, Reeve offers a historical tracking of different conceptions of the body within western thinking in a concise and informed way.
...for anyone who has ever trawled through philosophies of the body it is a welcome relief to have them laid out so clearly.
...essential reading for anyone interested in dance, in movement, in philosophies of the body; for dancers, researchers, students, somatic movement practitioners and for dance movement therapists. Wonderful."
Polly Hudson: Senior Lecturer, Dance Performing Arts, Coventry University
Movement therapist Sandra Reeve provides valuable descriptions of different lenses to approach the body in her book Nine Ways of Seeing a Body (2011) distinguishing between the embodied experiences of the body in motion from other qualities of embodiment. One of the lenses through which Reeve views the body is the “ecological body” which she describes as “situated in movement itself and as a system dancing within systems”. This strongly suggests a layered understanding of a body engaged in movement and therefore integrated with the senses. In this way, direct observations can be seen as more than a research tool but are of themselves a technique of sensory perception of embodiment. This ties with the researcher's interest in investigating the idea of embodiment, the senses and perception as forms of knowledge.
Vanessa Mafe-Keane in Telling Bodies
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This book is a delightful, readable set of beginning points or lenses through which to constantly consider and reconsider embodied practice… I am already looking forward to the second book.
Phillip Zarrilli: Artistic Director, The Llanarth Group
... a fascinating and insightful book that has provoked not only my own thinking in the way in which I view the body in performance but also provides a really useful and valuable text for my students. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and re-reading it. I love the notion of the 'Lens' which implies a real focus, a close look, observation rather than looking. It is something I am very keen to encourage in my students. The creative act of observation is lacking in many people.
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