What are Movement Arts?

What are “movement arts” anyways?

Eastern versus Western Movement Arts

In the book “Discovering The Body’s Wisdom” , copyright 1996, author Mirka Knaster offers fuel for our discussion of “movement arts”. The scope of her book includes more than movement arts alone. She introduces various forms of bodywork, healing arts, and related issues. She uses the term “Body Ways” as an inclusive umbrella. However, in regards to our discussion she makes a useful distinction between Eastern movement arts and Western movement arts.

Chapter 14 is devoted to “Eastern Movement Arts” and Knaster introduces Chi Kung (aka Qi Gong), Tai-chi Chuan, Aikido, Karate, and Yoga. Excerpts below:

“While you can engage in these movement arts strictly for physical conditioning, or in some cases, for defending yourself, they are also methods for quieting the mind. Their highest purpose is unity and harmony, within and without. You can use them to cultivate consciousness and moral character. Some writers contend that these arts originally developed in relation to spiritual practice and that in certain aspects they still reflect such philosophies as Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Shinto. they are as much a way of being as a prescription for doing. They can foster self-knowledge and strengthen your connection to your own body wisdom.”

“As a kind of meditation in movement, these Eastern arts emphasize conscious awareness and effortless action – what the Taoists cal wei wu wei, ‘doing nothing’ or ‘not doing’, and the Buddhists cal ‘right effort’. In this regard, these body ways are similar to Western functional approaches. … To perform these arts skillfully, you must rely on proprioceptive cues – sensing yourself from inside – before checking your form on the outside.”

Chapter 11 is devoted to Western Movement Arts. Here she includes Laban-Bartenieff, Pilates, Ideokinesis, Contact Improvisation, Continuum, Kinetic Awareness, Authentic Movement, Skinner Releasing Technique, Wetzig Coordination Patterns.

She begins the chapter:

“Eastern movement arts, such as Tai Chi Chuan, Yoga, or Aikido, began in relation to self-defense and/or spiritual practice and evolved as healing arts. Western movement arts had a different beginning – in the world of dance. And although you can use some Eastern and Western movement arts as exercise, that’s not their purpose. Mindlessly repeating movements does not help you break into new territory, whereas unpredictability in movement can awaken you. Aerobics may add years to your life, but it won’t necessarily add life to your years.”

“Since how we move is how we function, many Western movement arts have a lot in common with functional approaches. … But unlike the functional body ways, the movement arts originated with dance and choreography professionals, or established a foothold first among them, to help elevate performance levels.”

“During our early years we explore endlessly, twisting and turning, rolling, reaching, climbing, and falling in the process. But as adults, generally we stop delving into new possibilities and become fixed in the way we move, think, and express our thoughts. We move through life in familiar ways because when we step outside of our usual limitations, we tend to experience confusion and anxiety. We don’t realize that we can also experience enrichment. Restricted movement goes hand in hand with a restricted mind. When we free our movement, we also free our personality. Emotional and mental liveliness accompanies effortless movement.”

“In teaching new movement possibilities, the movement arts may help you gain a new ease in your body and expand not only how you move but also how you feel and think. you can learn to move from within your own body rather than from an external image, and you can discover how to move at your own pace, without pushing and causing tension. You can use these arts as a tool for exploring who you are.”

Again, these excerpts above are from “Discovering the Body’s Wisdom” by Mirka Knaster.


What forms do you think of as “movement arts?”


One Response to “What are Movement Arts?”

  1. spacetomove Says:

    What do you think of as “movement art?” Do you agree with Mirka Knaster? What distinguishes movement art from sports?


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