This book is clearly not a book about therapy, body-oriented or otherwise. It may nevertheless be of considerable interest to dance therapists as well as body-oriented therapists in general by providing an experience-based analysis of movement and dance, and hence thought-provoking reflections on movement and dance. The book’s finely detailed descriptive analysis of movement is complementary to the graphic analysis of movement that constitutes Labananalysis. In addition to its finely detailed descriptive analysis of movement, the book concerns itself with dynamics, rhythm, and expression, each in separate chapters, and elaborates in experiential ways Susanne Langer’s philosophy of art as a matter of “form symbolizing feeling.” In particular, though Sheets-Johnstone diverges methodologically from Langer’s analytical approach, following instead the rigorous methodology of phenomenology, The Phenomenology of Dance prospers greatly from her insights into how the qualitative dynamics of movement in dance come to symbolize forms of human feeling.
The 50th anniversary edition also includes a lengthy new preface that addresses what Sheets-Johnstone sees as present-day issues in research studies and writings on movement and dance, most notably but not exclusively, the lack of recognition of kinesthesia as a sense modality, and with it, a lack of attention to the qualitative realities of movement. Sheets-Johnstone furthermore shows the value of dance to be dance in and of itself. She thus shows that dance is not a means to lofty goals of education, but that an education in dance–and hence the study of movement–is of prime value in and of itself.
In her first life, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone was a dancer/choreographer, professor of dance/dance scholar. That life has continued to inform her life as a philosopher and interdisciplinary scholar in near 80 articles in humanities, art, and science journals, and in nine books, all of which attest in one way and another to a grounding in the tactile-kinesthetic body. She has several articles in psychotherapy journals, among which Body, Movement and Dance Psychotherapy, American Journal of Dance Therapy, Psychotherapy and Politics International, and Philoctetes (the latter a journal co-sponsored by the New York Psychoanalytic Institute), as well as articles on movement and dance and on animation in journals such as Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences and Continental Philosophy Review.
She has given guest lectures and keynotes in the states and abroad and is scheduled in 2016 as a guest speaker at the International Human Science Research Conference in Ottawa, the European Association Dance Movement Therapy Conference in Milan, and the European Association of Body Psychotherapists Conference in Greece. She was awarded a Distinguished Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University in the UK in the Spring of 2007 for her research on xenophobia, an Alumni Achievement Award by the School of Education, University of Wisconsin in 2011, and was honored with a Scholar’s Session at the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy Conference in 2012. She has an ongoing Courtesy Professor appointment in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon.
See also: Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s interview for SomaticPerspectives.com: