Reviving Hellas : the body and natural movement in early twentieth-century Britain

Salgado LLopis, Maria (2020) Reviving Hellas : the body and natural movement in early twentieth-century Britain. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis examines the body and the new corporealities that emerged at a time in history when the modern looked back to Hellas as a source for selftransformation. In particular, this thesis investigates the actions of the body and Madge Atkinson’s (1885-1970) Natural Movement technique and its relation to Hellas. The investigation is grounded in the reconstruction of Madge Atkinson’s Elementary syllabus (through a practice-research methodology), and an indepth contextualisation of the discursive dimensions of the corporeal practices, training regimes, and body techniques of the period. As a methodological tool and mode of analysis the reconstruction process provided access to the materiality of the body and its operations facilitating the investigation and theorisation of the body and the technique of Natural Movement. The study of bodies entails the study of the context in which past bodies were immersed in and mediated by specific historical contingencies, discourses and arrangements of power. The two structuring axes underpinning the contextualisation of the body in this thesis are (i) the relationship between Hellas and the emerging corporeal practices and discourses of the period, and (ii) the problematisation of the body by institutions, Atkinson and her contemporaries. The research has revealed Atkinson’s problematisation of the body and dance and her re-conceptualisation of dance as a transformational and educational force. By doing so, it has been possible to observe how her ideas echoed the discourses and practices of the period that occupied an interstitial space between, art, education and physical culture. Through the interrelation of practice and archival research this thesis has revealed relationship between the Greek referent in Atkinson’s practice and how the positions appropriated from artistic representations, the principles derived thereof and everyday actions were used as a basis for the development of training methods. Inherently to this proposition is the idea that Greek sculpture and Greek representations hold a set of movement principles that could be extrapolated and adapted to create training systems. This research has theorised Raymond Duncan’s approach to dance and gymnastics and has positioned this in relation to the practices examined in this thesis. The reconstruction of Atkinson’s technique has unveiled the relationship between Raymond Duncan’s technique (body figures, Movements) and Madge Atkinson’s Natural Movement.

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