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The somatic practice of intentional rest in dance education preliminary steps towards a method of study

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Every performing art has its caesura a resting pause a potent stillness in the rhythmic flow of action. For western contemporary dance, stillness is a powerful aesthetic tool. Far less understood are the physiological and behavioural benefits of rest. While rest intervals routinely are prescribed in sports science to promote physiological recovery and improve performance, such protocols are unknown in dance. Somatic approaches (somatics) purposely embed intervals of stillness and rest for active listening and reflection. This kind of intentional reduction in action alters typical space-time-effort values of a dance technique class, shifting attention to an array of kinaesthetic qualities, thoughts and feelings. While dance customarily relegates somatics to a wellness role, the larger behavioural implications of intentional rest within dance pedagogy merit further investigation. Although the purposes are not fully clarified, intentional rest potentially allows a deeper level of embodied knowledge to surface and be directed towards self-regulation and change. This article addresses the somatic function of intentional rest within the context of dance training. The author provides an overview of the scientific evidence substantiating rest. Further, the author opens an inquiry into the behavioural values of intentional rest as gleaned from written reflections of Master's degree dance students in a seminar on somatics. These narratives appear to advance not only with those benefits advocated by sports science, but also psychophysical embodiment and personal autonomy, values essential to becoming a dance artist.
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Keywords: first person; intention; modern dance; reflexivity; rest; somatic(s) education

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Winston-Salem State University.

Publication date: 01 December 2009

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  • This journal focuses on the relationship between dance and somatic practices, and the influence of this body of practice on the wider performing arts. The journal will be aimed at scholars and artists, providing a space for practitioners and theorists to debate the work, to consider the impact and influence of the work on performance, the interventions that somatic practices can have on other disciplines and the implications for research and teaching.
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