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Kinetic Awareness™ is a system of bodywork originated by the American choreographer Elaine Summers in the second half of the 20th century, starting in the 1950's.[1]

The practice is developed through close individual observation of proprioceptive and kinesthetic processes. This practice of heightening self-awareness is also compared to more objective information about anatomy. The resulting awareness is used towards the goal of Kinetic Awareness™ to develop one's full individual potential for healthy movement.

Because of its use of hollow rubber balls to achieve deep muscle-relaxation, Kinetic Awareness™ is also referred to as "The Ball Work".


Kinetic Awareness™ relies on proprioceptive signals as the guiding principle, complemented by current anatomical understanding of the body. Physical pain and discomfort are treated as important warning signals of the body that harm is done to the self, and generally avoided consequently. Instead the accent lies on discovering and emphasizing those movements that are accompanied by a sensation of pleasure and well-being.

Hollow rubber balls are optionally placed under parts of the body to aid the sensation and ease of the moving body becoming a conscious experience, as well as provide a self-directed massage of the larger and the deeper muscle-layers. For this reason, Kinetic Awareness™ is also often referred to as "The Ball Work".

Kinetic Awareness™ is structured into five phases:

1 - becoming aware / articulation:
The focus is on extremely slow and gentle movement of one body part at a time, to increase the proprioceptive and kinesthetic sensitivity of the practitioner. A commonly used instruction is to "let the body part move on its own, in all the ways that it will go without pain."

This phase is completed when the practioner can move any part of the body at will, slowly and with little tension.

2 - total body systems, coordination:
Articulating more than one body part simultaneously. This awareness is applied to total body systems such as breathing and fluid circulation (blood, lymphatic, spinal etc.) Movements are still very slow and gentle.

3 - speed levels:
From very slow to very fast, but still on the lowest possible level of tension. By working with speed at first, injuries are avoided that would otherwise be risked by using an inappropriate amount of tension.

4 - tension levels:
From extremely relaxed and slow to very highly dynamic, fast, and explosive, with any part of the body at will.

Tension is seen as a potential gift and an ally of the individual mover, who is guided along her or his exploration of the choices s/he wants to make about how to use it. In this process, held or 'frozen' tensions (i.e. muscles and -groups that are -often subconsciously- kept in continuous contraction) can be uncovered and released. This view derives from the theories of muscle armor as developed by Wilhelm Reich.

5 - performance / interaction:
Becoming aware of and combining all the previous phases in interaction with others. This can include the relationship to the space in which the movement happens, the environment, etc.

The pace and course of study is decided by the practitioner, with additional guidance from their teacher. Most sessions are happening one-to-one, but group classes are also offered. Interaction of the practice of awareness with movement in daily life and other movement disciplines is encouraged as an integral part of the individual development.

Relation with other bodywork practices

Kinetic Awareness is closely related to Sensory Awareness and Feldenkrais which both have been developed from the work of Elsa Gindler. Summers studied Sensory Awareness by Charlotte Selver and Physical Reeducation with Carola Speads, both former students of Gindler.

See also


  1. *Sally Banes, Democracy's Body, 1983; *Anne-Sargent Wooster, Elaine Summers, Moving to Dance, The Drama Review T88, 1980; *Ellen Saltonstall, Kinetic Awareness, Discovering your Bodymind, The Cultural Press, 1988


  • Banes, Sally, Democracy's Body. Judson Dance Theater 1960-63, 1983 MIT Press
  • Green, Jill, The Use of Balls in Kinetic Awareness™ 1982, JOPERD, Vol. 63 No. 8
  • Saltonstall, Ellen, Kinetic Awareness™ - Discovering the language of your bodymind. Publishing Center for Cultural Resources, New York City, 1988 ISBN 0-89062-232-9 temporarily out of print
  • Wooster, Anne-Sargent, Elaine Summers: moving to dance, The Drama Review T88, Dance/Movement Issue, Vol. 24 #4, New York University, 1980
  • Körtvélyessy, Thomas, Completely coming into movement - Kinetic Awareness™ for the contemporary dance teacher, paper Dance Pedagogy, Rotterdamse Dansacademie, Netherlands, 1996

External links