Life Size Self Portraits

In the Halprin Method/Motional Processing/Life Art Process participants not only use movement/dance they also use drawing, writing, sounds, talking, and group processing. In a previous post, I talked about my participation in the ‘color and the body’ year long workshop. This process explored colors, one at a time, and their relationship to the self. I shared the red color explorations in the drawing and writing examples of my process in Life Art. But the color that I chose as my color for this experience was green.

In my movement explorations through the year, I began to uncover the aspect of green that expressed(s) growth, health, well-being and spirit. This process of exploration ended in the creation of a life size self-portrait and a final enactment .

clip_image003The final enactment of our color self-portrait was a weekend affair. We went to a rural area and spent the first day exploring, in the environment, a spot that called to us in relation to our color and self-portrait. I was immediately drawn to a sweat lodge site that was currently being rebuilt. In the process of moving, writing, praying in this location, I felt called on by the spirits to use my enactment as a blessing for the lodge and fire pit. This clear vision seemed to embrace aspects of my many color explorations that focused on prayer, invocation and blessing of sacred space.

I spent the rest of the day moving and sensing the lodge space and letting the months of exploration unite with the moments of being in this new spot. The next day began with everyone using body paint to color themselves and others with the color of their self-portrait. My self-portrait was fairly straightforward with the exception of some Chinese characters written on my legs and arms that expressed certain aspects of green to me. After everyone was painted, we proceeded to the locations and, one at a time, enacted our color dance/movement for the group.

When it came to my turn, I asked that my enactment not be videotaped and that one person take a few photos only. I felt that since this was a sacred prayer and it was meant to exist for that moment only, I did not want a video tape which would, in a manner, recreate the spirit of the dance over and over again.

This enactment reflected movement ritual 4, the combination and new creation of all of Anna’s movement rituals. I first walked in a circle around the lodge singing a prayer with my hands held out, taking the time to use each step as a blessing. This movement for me expressed a blessing and sealing/closing of the space to negative outside influences. I then sat with my legs folded underneath and beganclip_image005 to sing again and touch the earth with my hands, and then lifting them to the sky. This, for me, was the establishment of a connection between the earth and sky with myself as the intercessor.

Next, having laid out my self-portrait before I began, I proceeded to lie on top of it (stomach facing up) as if I were becoming one with the image. I began to roll side-to-side as I embodied the image into my being. This movement produced an animal-like series of movements, which I explored the space with (Figure 26). After a bit I closed the animal movements down and proceeded to closure of the enactment by once again walking around the lodge, singing/chanting a song.

Most of the movements for this enactment were created on the spot and were based on movement ritual, hatha yoga, tai chi chuan and the previous year of explorations. The beginning movements of walking and prayer were scored, but the actual song was not. The next set of movements, sitting and connecting was not scored, but the idea of connecting above and below was. The section of embodying the image was scored; including the rolling side-to-side but the resulting movements afterwards were not scored. Lastly, the closure sequence was scored but not the song.

The process of making self-portraits represents a rebirth of the ancient use of dance for the healing and transformation of the individual and community. In the self-portrait process, whether it’s a one-day workshop or year-long experience, an individual’s evolution and life events become embedded into the image. A self-portrait can be a particular theme or a general expression of an individual in the moment.

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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