Choreographer and equestrian Paula Josa-Jones has written an intelligently observed, beautifully rendered collection of experiences and inspirations detailing her artist’s journey of learning to be more fully present in the world. What she gleaned from the Body-Mind Centering of dancer Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Deep Listening of composer Pauline Oliveros is interspersed with teachings from horse trainers Linda Tellington-Jones, Mark Rashid and others. Most exquisite is the intimate quotidian of the author’s interactions with horses.
Josa-Jones approaches riding as the dancer she is, calibrating breath, balance, and alignment, while focusing on her core. As important, she reminds us how essential it is to become, “one with the horse” through a deeper understanding of how they experience the world: “Always in the moment, aware of smells, sounds, and sights, what is near or far, hard or soft, familiar or strange.” Only then can a true partnership flourish as both rider and steed learn to trust and let go of habitual reactivity.
As a choreographer, Josa-Jones created critically acclaimed works featuring dancers and horses. Not dressage events, but lyrically expressive swatches of movement build from somatic improvisations between humans on the ground and equines cueing off each other. These dances are wonderfully illustrated through gorgeous photographs and sumptuous choreographic notes.
Interviews with writer Jon Katz, dancers Eiko and Koma, visual artist Gillian Jagger, and performance artist Ann Carlson further illuminate the author’s journey toward embodied awareness. I am honored to be included, sharing learning from my Shetland pulling me in a cart. Pam White’s explosive color-saturated paintings complement the text.
Throughout the book, meditations and exercises encourage the reader to pause, embrace stillness, focus on breath and touch, become more intentional, and embrace interconnectedness. As well, the importance of “interstitial awareness” in underscored for transitional moments, moving from one activity to another. The author reminds us, “To slow down, to connect, and to savor the moment, the only one we truly have.” Her barn assignments are certainly relevant to counter the over-saturated thrum of sensory input present in daily life.
Indeed, Josa-Jones’ book is an essential bible for equestrians, artists, and spiritual seekers alike. Her poetic aspirations to develop authentic relationships with equine partners provides a heartfelt road map for each of us to connect more deeply to others, and ultimately to ourselves.
Our Horses, Ourselves: Discovering The Common Body
By Paula Josa-Jones
Trafalgar Square Books
About the Author
John R. Killacky is executive director of Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, VT.