What is the Discipline of Authentic Movement?
The Discipline of Authentic Movement,compassionate witnessing of movement becoming conscious, is an embodied awareness practice grounded in the relationship between a mover and a witness. In both the mover and the witness, the focus of practice is the development of the inner witness, which is one way of understanding the development of consciousness. As movers work with a compassionate enough outer witness, they gradually develop a more conscious and compassionate inner witness, more available to be seen, see oneself, and see others clearly.
How is it practiced?
The Discipline of Authentic Movement can be practiced in either a solo, (one mover, one witness/teacher), dyadic (two movers, one witness/teacher) or group format. Movers practice tracking the movement of the body through time and space, and simultaneously tracking the contents of experience – sensations, emotions, images, energetic phenomena, thus accessing the body’s own direct knowing. As the mover closes their eyes, waits, and then moves, following spontaneous impulse into gesture and movement, the witness sits to the side of the space, tracking the mover’s trajectory through time and space, and simultaneously tracking her own inner responses with focused and receptive attention, practicing a quality of cultivated discernment. Then mover and witness speak together, both listening closely to the experience of the mover. The witness does not interpret, but stays close to the mover’s experience, increasing the potential for the mover to feel deeply seen and acknowledged. This relational dynamic opens toward the articulation of new awareness. Feeling deeply seen fosters seeing oneself more clearly and compassionately, and eventually a longing to “see another”… to witness others compassionately. As movers work with a compassionate enough outer witness, they gradually develop a more conscious and compassionate inner witness, more available to be seen, see oneself, and see others clearly.
Who benefits from this work?
This work is useful for those who desire an embodied approach to meditative inquiry or spiritual practice. It also offers a subtle yet powerful therapeutic approach that supports personal development, facilitating both a grounded and expansive sense of self. It is useful training for therapists, dancers, somatic practitioners, educators, and others who wish to access a bridge between conscious and unconscious realms, and/or to cultivate respectful and compassionate relational interactions. It can be used as a resource for choreographic and other creative/artistic endeavors, such as writing, theater, music, or visual arts. It can be practiced by those with or without dance/movement experience and at any level of physical ability. The discipline of Authentic Movement informs and deepens our practice of listening, speaking, moving, and being in the studio and in the world. This contemplative form of inquiry enhances our ability to be awake, compassionate, and responsive, that is, fully engaged in being alive.
History of the Discipline of Authentic Movement
Although Authentic Movement has ancient roots within sacred dance, healing, and mysticism, the contemporary form was born through the hybridization of modern dance and Jungian psychology, articulated by Mary Whitehouse in the 1950’s. Whitehouse was a dancer and dance educator who studied with modern dance pioneers Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, and also underwent her own Jungian analysis. She used the phrase authentic movement in response to witnessing certain movement explorations by students, the quality of which she described as “inevitable, simple, and undiluted by pretense”. Whitehouse called this exploration movement-in-depth, and encouraged students to “not just dance around”, but wait in stillness until being moved by a more clear, true, or deep impulse.
Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow, both students of Mary Whitehouse, carried the form of Authentic Movement forward and into the field of dance therapy, and refined its practice and theory. Adler’s investigations bring awareness to the development of the inner witness and the concept of witness consciousness itself, and also serve to map the embodiment of the individual body, the collective body, and the conscious body. Adler refers to her work as “the Discipline of Authentic Movement”, thereby naming a distinct branch growing from the mother tree of Authentic Movement itself.
The practice and theory of the Discipline of Authentic Movement continues to evolve, held and nurtured within the containers created by the devoted inquiry of students and teachers the world over.
Bonnie Morrissey is honored to be a continuing and devoted student of Janet Adler, and the discipline of Authentic Movement. Bonnie first met and studied with Janet (and Joan Chodorow) in 1981. Through the years, Janet has generously offered her presence as Primary and Retreat teacher, as well as in a Supervisory role. Janet’s inspired teaching and the unlimited potential of the practice itself have oriented Bonnie’s professional and personal development.
Bonnie is a faculty member of Circles of Four, a postgraduate program for those who wish to teach the Discipline of Authentic Movement. Bonnie currently offers individual and dyadic sessions, and teaches a regular group series in the Discipline of Authentic Movement in Vermont (on Malletts Bay in Colchester). She also offers retreats in other locations, including NYC, Boston, Montreal, Rhode Island, and Vancouver. Bonnie’s teaching practice is grounded in more than 35 years of experience offering psychodynamic depth therapy to individuals and couples, as a licensed Psychologist-Masters in private practice. In her teaching and psychotherapy practices, Bonnie aspires to cultivate inner qualities of mindfulness through relational inquiry. Whether sitting, moving, speaking, or listening, she longs to participate in the development of a more compassionate Witness Consciousness in self and world.
Bonnie Morrissey, M.Ed., graduated from the Dance Therapy Program at Antioch/ New England Graduate School. She engaged in doctoral work (ABD) in the field of Consciousness Studies with Stanley Krippner at Saybrook Institute. Her research was a cross-cultural study of spirit-based healing using dance and mediumship techniques in Brazil.
“Authentic Movement and Embodied Consciousness: Deconstructing the Hierarchies that Sustain Oppression and Domination in Human and Nonhuman Animal Life”, in ReVision: A Journal of Consciousness and Transformation, Volume 29, Number 1, Summer 2006.
"Umbanda Ceremonies and Mediumship in Brazil”, in Voices: The Art and Soul of Psychotherapy” Volume 26, Number 4, Winter 1990.
Janet Adler's Book
"Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement" Inner Traditions, 2002.
Great Tree Therapy ~ 148 College Street, Suite 303, Burlington, VT 05401 ~ 802-860-2814 or 802-861-2318