Nature moving naturally in succession: an exploration of Doris Humphrey’s water study

Main, Lesley ORCID logoORCID: (2011) Nature moving naturally in succession: an exploration of Doris Humphrey’s water study. In: Dancing naturally: nature, neo-classicism and modernity in early twentieth-century dance. Carter, Alexandra and Fensham, Rachel, eds. Palgrave Macmillan, London, UK, pp. 98-109. ISBN 9780230278448, pbk-ISBN 9781349326211, e-ISBN 9780230354487. [Book Section] (doi:10.1057/9780230354487_8)


This chapter forms part of a collection of writings that link the 'natural' with the 'body' and its expressive potential. The individual chapters attend to specific aspects of these ideas in different contexts, with particular attention to the international dimensions, and wider social implications, of this significant movement in dance historiography. Fellow contributors include Theresa Buckland, Alexandra Carter and Susan Leigh Foster. The chapter focuses on Humphrey’s creative intention and the interplay she explored between ‘nature’ and ‘the natural’ in a range of contexts. A brief historical synopsis contextualises the place of Water Study in the Humphrey canon, as it was the first major ensemble work she choreographed following her departure from Denishawn in 1928 and it continues to be staged today, most recently in New York City and Turin, Italy in 2008. The main body of the chapter considers the influences of ‘the natural’ and ‘nature’ in Humphrey’s creative process in terms of movement, rhythm and time, and the resulting implications of interpreting ‘the natural’ in contemporary staging. Humphrey described the creation of this dance as “starting with human feeling, with body movement and its momentum in relation to the psyche and to gravity, and as it developed the movements took on the form and tempo of moving water.” Her intention was rooted in a broader need for exploration and experimentation. Her motivation was an exploration of natural movement and its relationship to natural forces including the gravitational pull, rather than any conscious decision to create a dance ‘about’ a specific theme. A breadth of opinion is cited and considered in relation to the work and its capacity for continuing interpretation. An analysis of the work is presented that articulates the research process undergone prior to my 2008 staging for Arke Compagnie D’Arte in Turin.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords (uncontrolled): Doris Humphrey; natural movement; successional movement
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Performing Arts
Item ID: 6569
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Depositing User: Lesley Main
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2010 11:46
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2022 19:56

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