I was with Amparo in El Galpón in Badalona and asked her some questions…
Eliana: What is authentic movement?
Amparo: Authentic Movement is a form of Dance Movement Therapy (DMT). It was created in 1950 by Mary S. Whitehouse, and later developed by Joan Chorodow and Janet Adler. Through a body and movement aproach, a greater state of self-consciousness is sought.
In our daily life movement is continuously present. It is the great law of life, everything moves. The clouds in the sky move with the wind, the water flows through the river bed until it flows into the immense sea, the fire travels and rises up the mountain with wind and the earth is in constant
change and transformation.
Our body is a world of movement in itself: the circulation of blood, breathing, digestion and sleep are unconscious processes of movement which develop continuously from birth to death.
However, we use little movement in communication, at least consciously.
Words have become the main means of communicating despite being a limited way of perceiving ourselves and others. Nonverbal communication allows new and different ways of perceiving, feeling and relating.
Unconsciously movement communicates. From gestures, physical attitudes or how a person is dressed we have an impression of that person, it transmits an information to us, it evokes an image in our psyche perhaps coming from a memory or a fantasy. Small movements of hands, feet or face give a sense of restlessness or nervousness. There may be tension in raised shoulders or on someones voice. Fear may be present in limited and controlled movements. It’s something we feel automatically, without realizing it.
During the practice of authentic movement we pay close attention to all these details, both when we move and when we are witnessing the movement of another person. We are discovering something that we did not know about ourselves in a context that facilitates the opening for this
discovery and its subsequent integration.
In this way unknown aspects that come from internal listening of the body, in the form of sensations, images or emotions that emerge through movement or stillness, are integrated.
We discover the intimate connection of body and psyche through experience. We discover that the physical condition is somehow the psychological condition. Just as the body changes through working with the psyche, the psyche changes working with the body. They are not separate
entities but a mysterious totality. In this sense, from the practice of authentic movement, the body is perceived not as something alien, an object that we can train or manipulate, but as the house where our feelings, our emotions and memory live. It is a place to inhabit, discover, listen, transform …
The movement thus becomes an experience. We experience the truth of our body, what it wants to express, show, unlock, recover, articulate, save, confront, unite, separate, … ultimately what we have to live.
The axis around which all this work is articulated is the relationship between the mover and the witness. The mover remains with his eyes closed, bringing his attention to inner listening, waiting to feel an impulse that leads him to movement or to stillness and deep rest.
Who observes, silently accompanies the experience, attentive to his own internal experience as a witness, enabling the creation of a respectful, safe space, in which the judgment or interpretation of the material that emerges is not involved.
E: How does authentic movement practice relate to Jung’s analytical psychology?
A: Authentic Movement can be practiced for psychotherapeutic purposes, as a meditative practice or as a creative resource.
In the beginning, the practice of authentic movement was closely linked to analytical psychology and C. G. Jung. It arose from Mary Whitehouse’s need to integrate her work as a dance teacher and her analytical process with Hilde Kirsch, a Jungian analyst from Los Angeles (CA) who was trained with Jung. Recently divorced, and with two children in her care, Whitehouse needed to work and dance was her job. However, both her training with contemporary expressionist dancers Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, as well as her Jungian analysis, slowly led to a new understanding of herself, of dance and of the world around her. This made her undertake a search that materialized in the practice of authentic movement, where her entire process found meaning.
As an authentic movement teacher, Whitehouse provided a context of openness and tools for her students to discover something new and different from themselves through body and movement. This creative aproach, present in Jung’s principle of individuation, encourages everyone to seek their own path, honoring the uniqueness of each person.
In this sense, authentic movement is not intended to be a method or a theoretical approach to movement. Whitehouse used to tell her students that movement could not be imposed from the outside as a suit or choreography, but rather should be searched and found internally.
Jung developed in his book “The Secret of the Golden Flower” the concept of Wu wei, which means to be able to let something psychically happen, non-action in action and action in non-action, a principle of totality that governs life according to Taoism.
Whitehouse takes this principle and applies it to movement in the sense that: if we do nothing we let something happen, we let something move us from the body, we let the body be. She Illustrates this concept through the difference between moving and being moved. To be moved is the experience of life expressing it self, to be moved is to let oneself be.
It also uses Jung’s active imagination in movement as a way to integrate unconscious contents. It proposes a symbolic approach to understand internal and external events.
The practice follows a process orientation, where the emphasis is placed on the discovery and experience of the psychic reality of the unconscious through the body. Without this experience our perception of reality and the world is incomplete. Perceiving the world implies an introversion, making contact with an internal psychic reality that is alive and moving within us. This is why after taking a session of authentic movement we have the feeling of something that makes sense, of something that is ben completed.
E: Is the practice done in a group or individually?
A: The practice can be in a group or in individual sessions. It is more organic to start with individual sessions and after some practice try in a group. The experience you have is very different. Different aspects are worked out. In an individual context, the relationship between the witness and the mover becomes more relevant, where they can work from pre-verbal related aspects to the relationship with the internal authority or Self.
This is a process that develops in what Jung describes as the ego-Self axis.
In a group context, we work in relation to a group process where aspects of relationship with the collective emerge, and the relationship between the individual and the collective becomes more relevant.
Analytical psychology offers a fertile context to elaborate and work in a process those aspects that emerge from the practice of authentic movement giving them meaning and enabling an expansion of consciousness.
E: Can everyone engage in authentic movement?
A: As it is a practice that is destined to work with the unconscious, it is aimed at people with an ego structure that allows a descent into the depths of the psyche. Each case must be carefully evaluated. In people with psychosis or borderline personality disorders, this practice is not advised since it can greatly challlenge ego structure.
A previous interview is recommended, and starting very slowly, creating a strong container and sufficient body, kinesthetic and proprioceptive awareness so that the body can sustain the process and be sufficiently aware of what is happening internally.
Sometimes practices that make use of the body as a therapeutic tool are too cathartic, and body-psyche connection is lost or severely impaired. We must always be attentive to our own personal limits, maintaining a strong position of self-care. We follow the homeopathic principle according to
which “less is more”.