Following the natural pathway: Integrating Barbara Clark's somatic principles with modern dance technique
As a hermeneutic, phenomenological inquiry, this study represents a journey taken to reach a personal understanding of Barbara Clark's somatic work and its relationship to modern dance technique. The overriding purpose of this heuristic-oriented study was to ascertain and to describe how the fields of somatics and modern dance technique might be pedagogically integrated.
Clark, a protégé of Mabel Todd, firmly establishes her work within the ideokinetic principle that idea or image is the primary facilitator of movement. However, her pedagogical application of the ideokinetic prime directive departs from Todd's usage through an emphasis on movement education versus corrective postural work. The focus of this study was to examine how Clark's somatic principles might impact the learning of modern dance technique.
The primary methodological strategies centered around interviews with two of Clark's protégé and seven student dancers who participated in a 1996 workshop focusing on Clark's work. Other primary source documents included in the study were the students' reflexive journals, Clark's manuals, diaries and letters, and personal observations of my experience with Clark's work. Literature from the fields of somatics, ideokinesis, and modern dance technique was used to support and triangulate the personal, reflective sources.
Procedurally, the literature from each field of study (somatics, ideokinesis, modern dance technique) was analyzed to distill the underlying fundamental principles. Essential concepts from each field were reordered through a process of concept synthesis to form an explanatory theory for integrating Clark's ideokinetic approach with modern dance technique. ATLAS/ti (ver. 4.1 for Microsoft Windows 95), a software application package for the qualitative analysis of textual, graphical and audio data, was used to code and analyze both the interview transcripts and the other source documents.
The findings supported the following assumptions: (1) Dance technique is enhanced through the direct integration of somatic principles; (2) Somatic knowledge is gained experientially and is, therefore, personalized and meaningful; and (3) Somatic principles when cognitively connected with movement education, as presented through Clark's ideokinetic work, enhance dance technique. Pedagogical implications of the theoretical findings were discussed and suggestions for further research were made.