PHYSICAL LISTENING: A Dancer's Interspecies Journey

A Dancer’s Interspecies Journey


Illustrations by Joe Lertola
Doodles by JoAnna Mendl Shaw

Joanna Mendl Shaw takes you on a 22-year journey in her book PHYSICAL LISTENING: A Dancer’s Interspecies Journey. With a childhood full of accomplished skiing and dancing, a 1998 choreography experiment at Mount Holyoke began a new venture that ultimately led to the Equus Projects.

Physical Listening is a cohesion of intuition, sensation, and thinking. Shaw tells you how you can enhance this through horses and other animals (puppies, cats, squirrels, hippos, rhinos and more – oh my!). She explains various techniques – sponging (absorbing the horse’s energy), tracking (pelvis to pelvis alignment), cadence (weight sensing), learning through hands, and many more. Exercises are provided so that you can practice these techniques with or without animals.

With delightful anecdotes, exquisite photographs, and detailed doodles she takes you through various productions complete with background stories and behind-the-scenes tales, in countries and cities, theaters and stables, pastures and meadows. As she works with children, communities, autism, dancers, and anyone interested in her innovative creations, she includes scores, settings, movement diagrams, bits of research, and construction concepts. She has even managed to bring physical listening to Zoom meetings.

And why should you care about all this? Because Joanna Mendl Shaw has re-defined listening to an all-encompassing awareness experience. There is no event from which you cannot learn and enrich your consciousness and appreciation. In addition to learning from her horses, Shaw found lessons in watching her toddler take out pots and pans, a brief stint with vertigo, and even shorthand figures. Now that’s utilizing life to its fullest! PHYSICAL LISTENING may well be one of the most rewarding purchases you have ever made.

- Laurie Lawson -