- Body and Performance ed. by Sandra Reeve
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 [End Page 161] 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” (5). 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” (7). 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’” (5). 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.
The performance paradigms framed by the twelve lenses position the body as mutable and multiple. The first lens, the ontogenetic body, focuses on Body-Mind Centering—a somatic-movement practice emphasizing experiential exploration of body systems and developmental-movement patterns. The ontogenetic body enables movers to reconfigure embodied...