Processions, movement and trace-forms


The procession as a ‘thing’ – as a ‘complete’ movement is something I have been pondering over for a long time. As an ex-dancer the idea of moving bodies is compelling.

I have been reading Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s work The Primacy of Movement’ and also her ideas of moving in concert with other people. In the opening of her book ‘The Primacy of Movement’ she comments that, ‘moving is a way of knowing and […] thinking in movement is foundational to the lives of animate forms’ (Sheets-Johnstone, 2011: xvii). Her work demands that ‘we be silent, and, in our silences, to witness the phenomena of movement – our own self-movement and the movement of all that is animate or animated in our surrounding world’ (2011: xix). She contends that we are born animate and that movement is our primary way of feeling and knowing the world. She later refers to movement as ‘our mother tongue’ (2017: 2) and that moving in concert with others is further an innate human capacity:

When we move in concert improvisationally with others, we attune ourselves to a communally constituted dynamic that is fleeting, that precisely does not stay still. In the course of experiencing this fleeting dynamic, we might experience ourselves not just being alive but feeling that aliveness – and moreover feeling that aliveness among a host of others whose aliveness is infectious and whom we trust. (2017: 10).

I am interested in how this might function or feel in a procession – especially within the religious context. Further, in terms of how this plays out in the city spaces I am thinking about how these ‘movement phenomenas’ as we might call processions become part of the architecture of the city. This takes me to an oft-quoted piece from Rudolf Laban in his work Choreutics

Movement is more or less living architecture, living through changes of position but also through cohesion. This architecture created by human movement is formed by pathways tracing forms in space, and we call those forms ‘trace forms’.

I wonder what the trace-forms of processions are and whether we are able to map them in the same way that a dancer might notate movements? How can we then maybe map the city onto this?


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