In the Halprin Method/Motional Processing/Life Art Process, participants use elements of the self such as body parts and/or experiences, such as finding a tree that represents where one’s life is. One of the most common elements in the process is the self-portrait. This activity can be done at an introductory, one-day workshop or a weekend workshop or a week-long one. One can do a self-portrait and explore it and create another after the exploration, noticing the changes. Or for longer workshops a self-portrait can be done on the first day and another done at the end to gauge any changes.
Self-portraits can be done as abstracts or as a lifelike representation. Typically one applies a word or sentence using the three levels of awareness after the image creation. In Figure 22 (right), we see the first of two self-portrait drawings done in 2003 with a friend who has experience in the process. We spent the day together facilitating each other using the self-portrait process.
Based on my notes from this exploration, the words for this image were applied to the sentence, “I am …: physical-cystic kidneys, emotional-sad, mental-confused.” For this exploration each level was done separately, with a feedback experience between each level with a partner. I began by having my partner hold the drawing and I stood in the posture of myself in the drawing. While holing that posture I began to repeat the physical sentence; “I am cystic.” From this point, I could have chosen to hold the posture and continue to repeat the sentence, or, I could have changed position and engaged in movement ritual one and said the sentence. I decided to begin to move through the space, while holding and caressing my stomach. As I moved and repeated the sentenced and caressed, I pushed my torso out and moved my hands to my hips so the fingers were pointing down and the palms face forward. This action exaggerated the stomach, and I remember feeling very much like I was pregnant.
At this point the physical level exploration came to a close, and I returned to my partner to share what I had experienced. My partner shared her experience of what she witnessed physically and what she felt emotionally and thought mentally. After a brief few moments of sharing, we continued, and this time we explored the emotional level.
Once again I started in the image posture and repeated the emotional sentence, “I am sad.” As I repeated the words, I began to slowly move through the space with very heavy feet, head cast down, shoulders rounded. Once again I moved my torso/stomach outwards as I allowed my entire being to feel and express sadness. I remember feeling helpless as I moved sloth-like through the space. As this level of exploration came to a close, I found myself sitting down to rest from the weight of the emotional experience.
For the third level exploration, I again started in the opening posture and repeated the mental sentence, “I am confused.” I began to move through the space in an uneven pace with sudden changes of direction as an expression of confusion. I continued this movement with occasional stops where I sat down and looked blankly out into the space and then continued the confused movement. Once again this level exploration came to an end, and we had feedback time with our partners.
The fourth exploration was to combine all the levels and movements to find out what would happen next. I started out in the image posture, and began the physical sentence and movements, and proceeded to the emotional sentence and movements, and then the mental sentence and movements. As I continued this pattern, moving from one level to the next, they seemed very much alike. The cystic and sad movements where almost one and the same, while the mental movements seem to express my inability to change the situation.
I noticed that, if I could combine the energy of the confused movements with the presence or overwhelming power of the fat/sad movements, I might create a new paradigm. This happened by moving upwards and out instead of downwards and in. I raised my arms, elongated my spine and moved with determined steps that had a direction and purpose. I felt myself expanding and losing weight as I moved.
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.