Memory is a great thing. It’s a place I often go to when I want to get out of where I am. Sometimes life takes me to that place of memory. Today was one of those days, when I heard one of my “body” heroes, Emilie Conrad D’oud, had died.
I discovered Emilie’s work, Continuum, in the Nineteen Seventies, when living in Marin County, California. It was a time in my life when I was starting my conscious research of the body, movement, and fitness. What Emilie had offered, confused me. It was this confusion that attracted me to her work.
Born in New York in 1934, Emilie moved to Los Angeles where she began teaching at the Actors Studio. Here she used her novel approach of movement to enrich the performing art.
As a visionary in the world of the body, it was Emilie’s love for movement that inspired her to define what she referred to as the "primary movements”. These movements are common to all life forms and she felt they lay beneath cultural influence. She viewed these fundamental movements as the, "cosmology of life, where form is fluidly mutable, dissolving, and shaping itself anew.”
A recipient of the “Teacher of the Year” award, Emilie’s pioneering work in Somatics resulted in a protocol for spinal cord injury. From 1974 to 1979, Emilie was a Movement Specialist in a research study conducted at UCLA by Dr. Valerie Hunt (another one of my body muses). Their groundbreaking study demonstrated how fluid, primary movement is essential in our ability to innovate and bring forth new insights in the understanding of the human body and its potential. Her approach to incorporating multiple angles in gravity to facilitate developing diverse muscular and skeletal relationships underlies Nia’s form and freedom concept; addressing people’s unique individuality. Emilie’s recent contribution, “The Three Anatomies” defines three distinct tissue structures as the: cultural, primordial, and cosmic anatomies. Becoming aware of the primordial-cosmic flows of information helps us to move beyond our stifling adaptive patterns and connect to a resource for health and creativity.
Emilie’s book, Life on Land, published by North Atlantic Press is sure to live on and inspire generations to come.
Gil Hedley, my main squeeze anatomy teacher, told me he coined the name “Somanauts.” This is the name he uses to describe people who study anatomy with him, in Emilie’s name.
Thank you Emily for being a somatic pioneer, a visionary, and woman of courage. I will miss you. The world of the “body” will miss you.