Panel discusses movement as a way of knowing

Elizabeth Stoeger, Freelance writer

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Though not widely acknowledged, movement is integral to the way people relate and react to the world.

It began with three dance performances that highlighted the role of bodies and the way they move.

The panel conversation “Mindful bodies – Movement, Meaning, Emotion and Wisdom” was held in Ice Auditorium on Nov. 18.

Emily Crocker, a professor of dance at Linfield, performed the first dance and was also a panelist. She said she choreographed the dance two years ago when she was pregnant with her daughter.

Following Crocker was two of her students who both performed improvised works.

The evening was dedicated to Parker Moore who was an athlete at Linfield who was tragically killed on Nov. 16.

The event was also a Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement event that explored movement as a way of knowing.

The discussion consisted of five panelists from different disciplines sharing about various facets of the philosophy of movement.

Crocker spoke about the power of words in conjuring up images that affect movement in relation to dance.

Albert Johnstone is a courtesy professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon. He talked about the involuntary nature of emotions and the emotional response from the body during the discussion.

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone is an interdisciplinary scholar associated with the department of philosophy at the University of Oregon. She said, “We learn by moving and thereby discovering capabilities … in this learning process we forge corporeal concepts, non-linguistic concepts from our moving and having moved.”

Sheets-Johnstone also spoke about how movement is integral to a baby’s development and introduction to the world, “In the beginning we discover and experience a qualitative understanding of movement and world.”

“It is hardly debatable either that movement is our mother tongue. We all speak it knowingly as adults and yet most adults are dumb to it, they take it for granted and pay no attention to the qualitative dynamics.”

Mark Johnson, the Philip H. Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon discussed emotion and the body. “Emotions are a key part of the process by which bodies assess how things are going for them and they’re automatic.”

“In the body, you see a primordial expression of meaning through movement … and words do not capture it,” Johnson said.

To illustrate this, Johnson showed a clip of Gene Kelly dancing to the title song in the classic movie “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Linfield senior Colton Wright who is an art major with a theater minor and is an independent music student talked about the importance of being attuned to the body and paying attention to its signs.

“Emotions move us to move. For example, trust moves us to move in a way different from fear,” Sheets-Johnstone said in response to a question about how a psychological state effects the way we move.

Johnson added, “90 percent of human cognition is unconscious.”

The panel conversation was an enlightening and insightful look at an often-neglected area in the discussion of knowledge.