Kinetic Awareness

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Kinetic Awareness is a trademarked system of bodywork originated by the American choreographer Elaine Summers in the 1950s.[1][2][3]

The practice is developed through close individual observation of proprioceptive and kinesthetic processes. This practice of heightening self-awareness is combined with objective information about anatomy. The resulting awareness is intended 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 the individual's proprioceptive signals as the guiding principle, complemented by anatomical understanding of the body and guidance through a certified teacher. Physical pain and discomfort are treated as important warning signals of the body, and consequently avoided. Instead, the focus lies on discovering resting positions and 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 to perform a self-directed massage of deeper muscle-layers.

Kinetic Awareness is structured into five phases. Each phase builds upon the previous one:

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 practitioner 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:

Ability to articulate any part(s) of the body at any desired speed, from very slow to very fast, but still on the lowest possible level of tension. By working with low speed at first, injuries are avoided that would otherwise be risked by using an inappropriate amount of tension.

4 - tension levels:

From completely relaxed to highly tense, with any part of the body at will. Tension is seen as a resource for the individual mover, who is guided along in an exploration of the choices 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 noticed 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 includes the relationship to the space in which the movement happens.

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[edit]

Kinetic Awareness is closely related to Sensory Awareness and Feldenkrais which both have been influenced by the work of Elsa Gindler. Elaine Summers studied Sensory Awareness with Charlotte Selver and Physical Re-education with Carola Speads, both former students of Gindler.

Kinetic Awareness Center[edit]

The Kinetic Awareness Center was founded in 1987 as an organization for professionals who use Kinetic Awareness. The Center coordinates the certification and training for Certified Teachers and Master Teachers of Kinetic Awareness. The president of the Center is originator Elaine Summers.


  1. ^ *Sally Banes, Democracy's Body, 1983
  2. ^ *Anne-Sargent Wooster, Elaine Summers, Moving to Dance, The Drama Review T88, 1980
  3. ^ *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[edit]