What is Somatics?

The Somatic Movement Arts (Somatics) is a wide array of exploratory movement practices that lead to embodied knowledge of autonomy and agency — personal and societal. For further general information about Somatics, click here.

I wrote the following for a Somatic Notebook for the 5th Symposium Traces Forward, hosted in July 2019 in Vienna by IDOCDE, the International Documentation of Contemporary Dance Education. The Somatic Notebook was the start of an ongoing project to deepen the understanding of Somatics in view of today’s global crises. Those initially interviewed were asked a series of questions (see below). The conference brought together artists and educators from many different countries for a multiplicity of dialogue on a different politic, a potentially anti-capitalist politic, a potentially anti-colonial politic, a potential politic that is not resistant to conflict, but is yet to learn how to embrace, process, and learn from conflict. For more on Somatics and politics, within the current biopolitic, click here.

I gave the keynote for this conference of dance artists and educators, Quest(ions) Forward.

Somatic Notebook: Glenna Batson

  • What is your understanding of Somatics — from the viewpoint of your practice?

Somatics is a process of embodiment learning through multi-dimensional, sensory-rich, movement-centered approaches.

Historically, it evolved out of an ideologies of the ‘self,’ a construct that crystallized in a number of practices throughout the 20th  century. A somatic practice often begins as a deeply personal and disciplined embodied inquiry (either alone or in community – the field ). These explorations seek to reveal patterns of movement that are culturally constructed and conformist, psychophysically habituated, and even biologically imprinted – thereby opening a space for transition (transformation) towards more autonomous ways of being. In essence, Somatics is a quest, a rigorous inquiry, where one lives the questions through bodily movement, rather than seeks proof, leaving it open to evolving investigation and critique.

  • Is there a foundational principle you keep revisiting in your practice?

Principles of compassion, acceptance, and celebration of diversity of age and stage, guide my practice. I strive to remain (1) open and agile to perceiving/receiving information, (2) flexible and accommodating in meeting embodied resistance and conflict, (3) differentiating constraint from restraint, (4) valuing process over product, and (5) egalitarian in sharing the experience.

  • What significant bodily (past) experience informs your (present) practice?

Growing up with an Italian immigrant mother who danced with Ruth St. Denis and Hanya Holm; Actively engaging in the sociocultural movements of the late 1960’s, (the beginning of the neoliberal era), and continuing to age under late capitalism. Now, at 71 years old, I attune to how global society calls into question my existence, my rights, my ways of being.

  • Do you think that somatic practices construct a political self?

Somatics is integral to anyone’s experience. Thus, Somatics can reveal how the personal and political interweave, impacting on the ramifications of practice. However, Somatics evolved out of the late 1960’s-early 1970’s wholistic health and psychology movements, attracting a predominantly white Western population. In my view, integration has been slow, and critiques of its perceived radicalism are a healthy sign of evolution.

  • How does your somatic practice inform your creative practice?

Current somatic practices: Human Origami, an improvisational process on the macro- and micro-dimensions of body folding (biological and aesthetic), and Living Traditions, a non-denominational form of body prayer. In each, I am led by spontaneous language-ing –– neither logical nor scripted –– somatic expression which fosters a state of transformational consciousness.