The following text ‘What is Kinaesthetic Empathy’ is taken from the Watching Dance website. Although I’m not an afficionado of Contemporary Dance, I’ve become interested in how aspects of movement and general agency have started to appear in relation to parts of my work and research.
“Spectators of dance experience kinesthetic empathy when, even while sitting still, they feel they are participating in the movements they observe, and experience related feelings and ideas. As dance scholar Ann Daly has argued:‘Dance, although it has a visual component, is fundamentally a kinesthetic art whose apperception is grounded not just in the eye but in the entire body’ (Daly 2002).Spectators can ‘internally simulate’ movement sensations of ‘speed, effort, and changing body configuration’ (Hagendoorn 2004).An important source for the concept of kinesthetic empathy is Theodor Lipps’ theory of ‘Einfühlung’. Lipps (1851-1914) argued that when observing a body in motion, such as an acrobat, spectators could experience an ‘inner mimesis’, where they felt as if they were enacting the actions they were observing.This shared dynamism of subject and object implied the notion of virtual, or imaginary movement.Kinesthetic empathy and related concepts took on particular relevance in the context of modernism, which emphasized the idea that receivers should respond directly to the medium of a work of art (eg. movement rhythms) rather than to a storyline or a subject.In the US, Lipps’ ideas were taken up and developed by the influential dance critic John Martin (1893–1985), who championed the dance of Mary Wigman and Martha Graham. Martin argued that what he variously called the spectator’s ‘inner mimicry’, ‘kinesthetic sympathy’ or ‘metakinesis’ was a motor experience which left traces – ‘paths’ – closely associated with emotions in the neuromuscular system. Sensory experience could have the effect of ‘reviving memories of previous experiences over the same neuromuscular paths’, and also of ‘making movements or preparations for movement’ (Martin 1939).”
The following is a quote from Christopher Tilley:
“If writing solidifies or objectifies speech into a material medium, a text which can be read and interpreted, an analogy can be drawn between a pedestrian speech act and its inscription or writing on the ground in the form of the path or track.”
What I have been researching as part of my work could be described as Kinaesthetic Empathy whereby a person’s being in a place and his/her movement through or around that place is a means of ‘reading’ the ‘writing’ laid on the ground by what Tilley calls the ‘pedestrian speech act’.