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Reading, Gardening and 'Non-Self': Joged Amerta and its emerging influence on ecological somatic practice

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Joged Amerta is a somatic and performance practice developed by Suprapto Suryodarmo, a Javanese movement artist and teacher. The Padepokan Lemah Putih, Suryodarmo's interdisciplinary arts institution, is located in Desa Plesungan, in the northern part of Solo, Java. The garden surrounding the three main pendopos is landscaped to provide different environments for movement practice. This article suggests that Joged Amerta offers a model of somatic practice that differs in a number of ways from western somatic practices, and that these differences may offer useful insights for the developing practice of somatic ecology in the West. In particular, Joged Amerta differs in that it foregrounds the notion of 'non-self' (which is Buddhist in orientation) as well as the notion of 'surrendering' the self, which comes from Sumarah, a philosophy of life and a form of meditation that has its roots in Javanese culture. Both of these approaches refer to a conception of self untouched by the West's rendering of the unconscious. Additionally, as a model of practice, Joged Amerta differs from western approaches in the following areas. First, it has emerged from Suryodarmo's daily movement practice, a practice that has stimulated, step by step, a pattern of theoretical understanding. The complete methodology of Joged Amerta has taken 24 years to emerge and to find its form. Second, Joged Amerta pays attention to environmental embodiment and attaches crucial importance to the mutual interdependence and co-creation of organism and environment. Third, it offers an approach to education that respects the inherent 'difference' that our respective backgrounds create at a personal, sensory, social, cultural and spiritual level. Joged Amerta articulates how, in daily life, the way that each of us experiences the world is fundamentally mysterious to the other and cannot be 'cloned'. It recognizes and appreciates the influence of cultural conditioning on the study and transmission of Joged Amerta as a practice. Finally, this article points to the way that Joged Amerta is contributing to paradigms of ecological somatic practice and performance that are currently emerging in the West. The specific example of 'ecological movement' is offered as one application of Joged Amerta in Europe.
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Keywords: BUDDHISM; ECOLOGY; EMBODIED AWARENESS; ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT; PERFORMANCE; SOMATIC; SUPRAPTO SURYODARMO

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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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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