I spent the first 15 years of my training as a therapist learning/practicing/facilitating the Halprin Method/Motional Processing, a movement based creative arts process. One of the methods used is body-part explorations. In this process participants develop an awareness of anatomy and posture, relationship of body parts to each other and the whole body, personal and collective themes and metaphors associated with each body part, and relationship of body parts to feeling and imagination. (Rutkowski, 1984)
Typically participants start with an anatomical drawing of a body part, followed by a movement exploration of the body part. This exploration is then followed by a subjective drawing of the experience. Themes, metaphors and feelings/thoughts of the body part are often experienced during the exploration. Alternatively you can have participants do an anatomical drawing and then create a subjective drawing, which is followed by the exploration. Lastly a drawing and or a journal entry is made, recording the experience. Participants are often encouraged to notice any connection to a theme or an issue/charge they may be working on. (Halprin,A.,1995)
Generally, for subjective drawings, people are directed to provide a word or sentence that expresses the three levels of awareness (physical, emotional, mental and occasionally spiritual). (Funderburk, 1992) During the exploration, the script (word/sentence) is used as a device of exploration with movement. It’s quite amazing how a word or two can enhance and deepen the movement.
For instance Figure 1, “Strong Arms” is a subjective image I created before an exploration. This experience took place as part of a larger residency, a month long workshop at Tamalpa Institute in 1987. This exercise was part of a typical day-long process which included movement ritual one, drawings, movement, journaling, partner body-work and group/ partner-sharing. This process focused on exploring the arms and hands and this particular image was created under the direction of exploring strong and weak arms.
The script for this image was right to the point, “My arms are strong.” In this image we see a childlike, primitive representation of the human form. There is much animation in the portrayal of action/active arms that are projecting energy/strength outward. This composition fills the page and, like the sentence, gets right to the point, “My arms are strong.”
In Figure 2, we see the subjective arm drawing after the movement exploration. This surreal image expresses flow and movement and has an organic feel to it. In the exploration phase I discovered and focused on movements that expressed rebounding and resilience. According to my journal entries, I wanted to delve into the experience of using my strength as a method of maintaining my presence in situations that were less than ideal. This concept was reflective of one of my workshop themes of self-acceptance and projection of self in the world. The movements were based largely on tai chi, which I believe is expressed in both drawings.
Funderburk, J. (1992). Thesis: Healing the whole person: a process oriented expressive arts approach to therapy. Unpublished master’s thesis, Vermont College.
Halprin, A. (1995). Moving toward life: Decades of transformational dance. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.
Rutkowski, A. (1984). Thesis: Development, definition and demonstration of the Halprin Life/Art Process in Dance Education. Unpublished doctorial dissertation, John F. Kennedy University.
Reprinted from my unpublished manuscript: Renewal and Rediscovery of the Self in the Life Art Process: 20 years as participant, assistant and facilitator. Copy write 2006.