Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (excerpt)

A somewhat altered version of Maxine Sheets-Johnstone‘s writing – pasted together from sections of a long paper she wrote. Here is her original paper that I pulled from. She is a fantastic mind: dancer, philosopher, evolutionary biologist. You can also hear a podcast she is interviewed in here. This is where I first found her.

“we are commonly accomplishing something as trivial as tying a shoelace or unlocking a door. Habitual movement patterns can, however, be made focally present.

We can, for example, become aware of the dynamics of brushing our teeth. Indeed, were someone else to brush our teeth, we would immediately recognize that someone else was brushing our teeth…we would feel a foreign dynamics inside our mouth.

When we turn attention to habitual movement patterns, we recognize our own kinetic melodies.

Movements infuse our being…

An investigation of our own habits teaches us about our movement directly,

about how this movement relates to our emotions – how they motivate and inform our movement…

It teaches us, too, how the particular coordination dynamics we articulate in walking, for example, are the result the many movements happening in us, represented in concrete action, when we walk:

The investigation of our movement habits teaches us the basic fact that –

any movement exists its own space, time, and force,

– and thus creates a particular, felt qualitative dynamic.

In learning how our basic movement-habits feel, in noticing them, we learn that we can change them.

We can make the familiar strange…and make the movements who are strangers – including those internal micro movements, familiar.

We can create a range of different coordination dynamics,

not only in changing our usual manner of walking – making it less tense, for example, or smoother, or more expansive – but in changing the way in which we write our name or get on our bike, or stand next to strangers at the grocery store; through any number of everyday acts.

At this point, from wherever you are, just imagine what I am saying, or feel free to go into these movements:

We can examine the degrees of freedom in turning to the side.

For example, we might initiate the turn by a sideward extension of the leg,

a twist at the waist,

a twist at the shoulders,

or a twist of the head, and the turn itself might be sharp, slow, slight, or sizable, its possible variations being virtually limitless.

learning our bodies and learning to move ourselves are not necessarily learnings restricted to infancy.

We come into the world moving; we are precisely not stillborn –