Imitation and Intuition: More Tools to Enhance Body Knowledge

According to Laban, human movement can be understood in three different ways.  It can be appreciated simply through the unreflective act of moving itself.  It can be grasped through objective analysis.  And movement can be interpreted by linking concrete actions with abstract ideas and feelings.

adults_leapingDifferent sorts of understanding arise for each perspective.  Movement analysis provides a means for observing with greater definition.  It slows the automatic process of interpreting simply on the basis of body knowledge.  By so doing, analysis supports taking a more objective approach to movement study and helps one transcend body prejudices.

In addition, Laban recognized that there is value in the perspective of the “biological innocents,” those who “swim more or less contentedly in the same never-ceasing stream.”  These individuals grasp movement intuitively;  they know it from within as an indivisible, constantly changing whole.

Intuition contrasts analysis.  According to the French philosopher Henri Bergson, analysis aims to embrace the object but is forced to circle around it, multiplying points of view endlessly “in order to complete the ever incomplete representation.”  Intuition is a “sympathy by which one is transported into the interior of an object.”  Intuitive understanding is immediate, unique, and inexpressible.

Translating these ruminations to practical terms, imitation becomes a valid way of understanding another person’s movements.  Mimicry provides a foundation for developing movement skills.  But as adults, we seldom apply this as a means of penetrating another’s mode of being in the world.

In reality, imitating another person’s movement involves analysis – one must look objectively at body, effort, space, and shape elements.  But imitation goes beyond this breaking up of movement into component parts, for the imitator must put these elements back together to simulate whole actions.  This embodied synthesis provides another way to enhance body knowledge and the sympathetic understanding of other people.