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Dance, Somatics and Spiritualities review
Book Review by Maria Luise Oberem, Ph.D. in Psychology, MA in Dance/ Movement Therapy (USA), (BC-­‐‑ DMT), MA in American Studies and Political Science

When I first heard this book being announced, it was with great anticipation that I awaited its publication. The book's title and subtitle deeply resonated in me and I was wondering how these fields, experiental and intensely personal realms for me, would be addressed in the form of a written book. 

Since four decades, I am actively engaged in dancing, moving between cultures (artistic,academic and clinical), countries and continents. Researching the living, sensing and moving body in this 'ʹprocess of becoming'ʹ, we call individuation and life, is close to my heart.
 
When I finally held this anthology in my hands and began reading each contributor's
article, I found myself immersed in different universes, each offering tremendous
richness, wisdom and knowledge articulated from somatic experience. I knew in my bones that this comprehensive body of work has the potential of becoming a classic and standard work of assigned readings in the future.
 
This anthology offers a comprehensive body of written work, documenting a wide array of somatically informed scholarship; it comprises 20 chapter contributions by 27 women and 6 men engaged in the field. The voluminous book is divided into three parts, each part is introduced and contextualized by one of the editors.
 
The first part, titled Moving Spiritualities, introduced by A. Williamson, offers six chapters by leaders of the field. Its topics range from embryology, alchemy of the body and Jungian thought, dance in the natural world/ environment to philosophical reflections.
 
The second part, introduced by S. Whatley, addresses the Intersection of Spiritualities and Pedagogy. In nine chapters, various approaches of the spiritual dimensions of somatic dance education are presented, covering topics from embodied spirituality, the making of consciousness, inner dances, meditations on language to contemporary wisdom keepers and shamanic somatic approaches.Part three is dedicated to Cultural Immersions and Performance Excursions and is introduced by Glenna Batson. It offers five contributions on topics such as the dancing Kalahari bushmen, dancing with the Divine in Bali and America, outdoor perfomances in sacred sites in Java, the role of meditation in dance performance and spirituality and Akram Khan's performance.
 
What makes this anthoplogy so unique and fascinating to read is not only the tremendous openness with which the editors approached the subject, thus inviting and allowing for such a diverse collection of individual sacred narratives to emerge; it abounds with mulitfaceted gems. It is also the variety of presentation styles, ranging from personal narratives interwoven with articulated scholarship, philosophical reflections, various research approaches, imaginary dialogues and interview conversations that turns this work into a rich and colorful fabric woven by the hands and hearts of its 33 contributors from across various cultures.
 
The framework of story-telling and the spirit of sharing personal narratives of lived
experience with others is reminiscent of the original ways women have traditionally
passed on their knowledge and wisdom, which was orally, rather than in written form. The bodily aware scholars of this volume have taken on the challenging task of moving from direct physical experience, from sensing the soma and spirit to written words, well aware of the fact, that some things cannot be translated to the pages of a book. Writing cannot do justice to the physicality of experience, and it is understood that gaps will remain between experiental knowledge and the written word. With this in mind, this anthology is a tremendously important work, holding particular significance in the intersecting fields of Dance, Somatics and Spiritualities for several reasons:
 
For the first time, an impressive array of unique voices of movers, dancers, performers, somatic movement practitioners, educators, scholars, poets and philosophers are presented, who are working in these fields since many years.
 
This collection offers insight views into the multiple possibilites of experiencing the soma and accessing bodily wisdom and the diversity of somatic approaches by successfully interweaving dance, somatics and spirititualities in new scholarly ways. Clearly, a new model of thinking is emerging, a thinking from and through the body, by living consciously and in connection with breath, honoring the ultimate life force through which we are all connected. This anthology is a testimony to the human spirit and particularly to the feminine spirit, which for so long has remained in the shadow, often wounded in partiarchal culture, by its language and its institutions.Often, dance and somatic spiritual work remains on the margins of society and in the academic world. The publication of this anthology marks a departure from this position and advances the field of Dance, Somatics and Spiritualities, moving it from the marginstowards the center, putting this field onto the map of the academe. The 'ʹslowly emerging revolution'ʹ, Don Hanlon Johnson refers to in the preface, is the gradual and continuous building of a somatically informed scholarship, making itself known and turning into a voice to be reckoned with in the future.
 
Knowing there are many somatic movers, dancers, educators, scholars deeply engaged in their somatic practices and in comm-°©‐‑union with spirit, offering their work in service of humanity and ultimately, for a better life on this planet, fills me with great joy. While immersed in the narratives of this book, I noticed my heart pounding in excitement, my breath deeping, the cells of my body singing and at times, tears flowing in recognition and resonance to the contributors'ʹ journeys. This anthology is a real treasure, its various contributions are nourishing my body/self/soul.
 
I now realize: there are many of us and to whom I feel connected in spirit. With
connectivity as the core component of spirituality (Williamson: 2009) and 'ʹattentive
connection with bodyself, to others and to the imagination'ʹ shaping somatic practice, it feels reassuring to know there is a community of like-minded who are dancing spirits embodied – on the path of conscious embodiment, cross-°©‐‑culturally.
 
Living one's personal and professional life in conscious relationship to body, movement, dance and spirituality, in various parts of the world can, at times, be a lonely journey. Yet, it is the only one that feels truthful to me, forever intriguing, challenging and surprising. 
 
The best surprise in recent years to me is the publication of this rich anthology which I can recommend whole-heartedly to all who are interested in the interrelationship of body, dance, somatic movement and spiritualities. The readers will be rewarded and inspired by the rare, honest, gifted and creative sacred narratives. It is with much appreciation and gratitude to the editors, for their vision and creative conception of this project and, to the contributors, for sharing their courage, insights and wisdom, resulting in the creation of the most significant anthology in this field, that I have gladly written this review.
 
Maria Luise Oberem is a Dance artist, dance/movement therapist, certified authentic movement practitioner with the Center for the Study of Authentic Movement; scholar, researcher in dance & somatics; Co-°©‐‑chair of the First International Conference on the clinical application of dance /movement therapy (1994) in Berlin, Germany; lecturer at various universities, among others: the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco, California; Rotterdam Dance Academy, the Netherlands; INTAT Vienna, Austria; University of Central Lancashire, UK; formerly affiliated with the Authentic Movement Institute in Berkeley, California,USA.
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