Theme Exploration

In the Halprin Method/Motional Processing/Life Art Process, people are encouraged to examine how life themes are relevant to their experiences in the process. (Rutkowski, 1984) For instance, I previously discussed (in this post) how the ‘rebounding arms’ (Figure 2) was an unintentional expression of my larger workshop themes of self-acceptance and projection of self in the world.

Color and the Body

One of the experiences, in my apprenticeship with Dr. Rutkowski, was the opportunity to be part of a group of people who were exploring color and its association with their lives in a year long process in 1993. This experience was very much like the body-part exploration. We started by writing and drawing about a particular color using the three-part process (with the addition of the spiritual aspect).

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In the image “Red Rut” (Figure 6), we see the physical aspect of the color red expressed. This image (like all the images in the red series) was created before the movement exploration. In the exploration I crawled on hands and knees in a circle, starting, going, stopping and returning in an endless cycle of movement obedience. As the time progressed, I began to struggle and move in new ways, while still being bound by the parameters of the rut. In this exploration I was physically attempting to create a fresh, new and innovative way of being, while still being cast in the same old mold. Quite unconsciously I was expressing an aspect of my personal life at the time; I was getting divorced for the second time and felt like I needed to start over, but circumstances were preventing that from happening. This particular drawing seems to express what I was feeling in ways that I would have spent months trying to say aloud with words.

The mental aspect drawing, “Red Dragons” (Figure 7), shows the internal conflicts I was experiencing, as well as the situations and experiences that I chose to interpret as conflicts. These green dragons, I referred to as my “hinder-ers and helper-ers.” The lines attached to the body can be seen as both pushing and pulling me.

clip_image008For this exploration I chose to wrap myself in long ribbons of cloth and have the witnesses (members of the group) surround me and pull the ribbons. Thus I was manipulated first in one direction and then the other. The exploration idea was similar to the first red drawing in that I wanted to explore how to move in a new way when I was restricted by circumstances.

In this mental drawing exploration I physically experienced how to move with the manipulators (hinder-ers and helpers) and still get what I wanted/needed. This demonstrates one of the beauties and core concepts of the life art process: taking an idea and making it physical by ‘moving it out’.

The third drawing I created in this red color exploration is the emotional aspect, (Figure 8). This drawing is more of a self-portrait than all but one other drawing from the color group drawings. When I moved this drawing, I unbraided my hair (as a part of the process) and walked slowly around the room. My steps were even, solid and without pressure or effort. I proceeded to do postures that were part hatha yoga and part tai chi, as I closed my eyes and envisioned red. Afterwards I wrote a poem which I shared with the group at my turn.clip_image010clip_image011

The fourth image, “Red Spirit” (Figure 9), expresses the spiritual level of awareness. The inclusion of the spiritual level, although acknowledged in the life art process, is generally not done. However, as Dr. Rutkowski taught it, it was almost always included in the three levels.

When I created this drawing, I remember wanting to include certain elements. I wanted to include the shield on the right-hand side, as representative of Native American and West African warrior images. I wanted to include an expression of morris dance, as seen in the green branches above the figures head in an action of what is called the scarf dance in the English morris tradition. I also wanted to include the lightening, seen in the background, as an expression of change and power. Lastly I wanted to include the crescent moon as a symbol of Sufism. The overall background color occurred as I created the image as an unknown spontaneous expression, as did the bird in the foreground to the right, and the being holding the branches in the center left.

After I created this image and did my movement exploration, I had a chance to journal. I wrote a poem similar to the one written for the last drawing (Figure 8).

I believe that art-making is, for the most part, a solitary activity which allows for the interior to become exterior on the page. In addition, individuals who are not verbally oriented may find pictorial expression more conducive to their personal communication styles. (McNiff, 1992.) Most all of my drawings are done with as little thought and planning as possible. They are spontaneous affairs that come out of me as quickly as I can scrawl them. In the life art process, drawing is a way of accessing information that may not otherwise come to the foreground. It is a way of pulling together ideas, thoughts and feelings and putting them down on paper in an almost map-like display.

Halprin, A. (1995). Moving toward life: Decades of transformational dance. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.

McNiff, S. (1992). Art as medicine. Boston: Shambhala.

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. By Richard Brunner R-DMT. Copy write 2006.

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One thought on “Theme Exploration

  1. Pingback: Movement in the Process | Somatic Education

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