I am enjoying the search for teaching materials for an experiential anatomy workshop that I’ll teach later this year. The process of examining various texts itself is proving a great refresher for me, and it is leading me to consider adaptations I may want to make to my technique courses, incorporating even more anatomical perspective into my teaching methodologies. One book stands out among the other text I’ve examined though, mostly for the way it is helping me re-examine my relationship with my own body: BodyStories: a guide to experiential anatomy by Andrea Olsen and Caryn McHose.
This isn’t the first time I’ve worked with BodyStories. I initially encountered the text sometime in the late 1990s, concurrent with—but separate from—my graduate studies. I remember appreciating the process at the time, but I lost my copy in one of several moves after grad school and never replaced it. Olsen and McHose’s approach to teaching anatomy eschews the empirical presentation of factual information common in most texts. Instead, they lead the reader/student through a practical exploration of the body that requires participation at the physical, intellectual, and emotional levels. In essence, they seem to teach whole-person anatomy. This is in stark contrast to empirical approaches that foster a disconnect between the body and the human. And, that is what makes BodyStories so important.
In dance training, we may talk about the body-mind or body-mind-spirit connection, but the intense focus on the body as an instrument can obscure the body as home. It can cause the human to feel remote or displaced in the process of training, even when dance educators employee a compassionate approach to teaching. Dance science practitioners sometimes unintentionally reinforce that displacement, too. BodyStories and their other book, Body and Earth: an experiential guide, are reminders of the human being that inhabits our bodies. It’s a reminder the human being as artist in relationship with the organic matter that facilitates our lives and work.
In addition to my dance experience, I’ve also been a Reiki Master for nearly two decades now. BodyStories and Body and Earth resonate with me because of their humanist perspective. I’ve been thinking about dance and Reiki both in the context of human ecology for a while now, and I can definitely see myself incorporating Olsen and McHose’s books in my classes/workshops in both of those areas.
I highly recommend both of Olsen and McHose’s books to anyone who uses my book, Introduction to Modern Dance Techniques.