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Writing the somatic in the Insomnia Poems project

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The issue of how to write the somatic is a recurring one within embodied, practice led research. It relates to the ways in which dancers and somatic practitioners may translate or evoke felt, embodied, sensory and moving experience to the realms of pages. How might concepts, affects, feelings and spaces developed in a specific studio environment reach and contribute to new critical and creative spaces? This article is a collaborative reflection on the Insomnia Poems project, which developed from an eighteen-month studio practice between Alys Longley and Katherine Tate, as an emergent enquiry into the relationship between somatic dance improvisation and language. It purposefully follows an experimental narrative structure, acknowledging that writing can have a sense of dislocation and disruption. This echoes Longley and Tate’s somatic experiences as artists and writers working across continents and time zones. The Insomnia Poems were shaped by somatic practices including Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT), poetic methodologies and the boundaries of Tate’s health. As movement scores, they took form in a deck of cards that employed photo-graphs of studio work, journal notes, drawing and poetic reflection, to give readers 52 starting points for considering dance, or 52 starting points for improvisation or choreography. The Insomnia Poems were designed like a body of cells, as poetic blueprints for creative practice, including writing provocations such as ‘waiting/ weighting’ and ‘the world writes the inside of your body with its breath’. The Insomnia Poems will be discussed in relation to the cultural geography of Giuliana Bruno, the social anthropology of Mary Douglas, and arts practitioners such as Fluxus artist George Brecht and the site-specific performance group Wrights & Sites, who work to refine experiences of everyday life into performance events.

Keywords: Skinner Releasing Technique; artist-reflection on practice; improvisation; movement scores; somatic writing; sustainable practice

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Auckland

Publication date: April 27, 2012

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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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