The process with 4 year olds & evaluation


Most of the experiences I wrote about in this unpublished manuscript / undergraduate thesis occurred between 1983 and 2000. This was a few years before my training in university. Below are some evaluations based on Shape Flow and the Kestenberg Movement Profile both of which I had no formal training with at the time.

I had many good experiences teaching these kids (see previous post) and some stood out more than others. One particular four-year-old boy drew my attention right away as his teachers treated him as a trouble maker and confided in me he was on Ritalin, using this one word as a knowing explanation for him. I noticed that he was more vocal and energetic than the other kids. Both teachers and children responded to him as the trouble-maker and/or one who was expected to be out of control.  dm

One day I was working with the four-year-olds and, on this day, it was unusually small-five kids, all boys. I set up my instruments (hand drums, bamboo flute, shakers) on the far end of the gym and, when the kids came in did the usual opening; we sat in a circle and one at a time said our names and the group mirrored it back. I decided to do something a bit differently than usual and had them all join me as we walked to the far end of the gym by the instruments, and there I gave them the score for the class. I would play the drum while one at a time they would go out and dance and move alone anyway they wanted. They could use what they had learned and experienced from all the previous classes and/or do something new. I had decided beforehand to play the drum until they ran out of something to do and then, while still playing give them some vocal leads/encouragement to see where they might go next. My idea was that perhaps some new profound event would happen.

One at a time the boys went out and ran around dancing wildly. There seemed to be little thought/focus  in what they were doing and my guess is that total freedom meant total ‘exuberance.’ In some ways I was not surprised, previously I had offered them a chance to dance one at a time in front of others any way they chose and they always did this ‘crazy dance’ as one teacher called it.

All of the boys had gone and lastly was this one little lad who I will call “4”. I witnessed the usual movements and when he ran out of exuberance dance he stopped and did some interesting things.

Artistic Evaluation of “4”

The creative/artistic evaluator is one whose skills are dependent on non-traditional qualities, such as imagination and intuition. The use of these qualities can open the consciousness to the infinite possibilities that may present themselves in the course of evaluation/research. (Hervey, 2000. )

This statement wraps up my take on creative/artistic evaluation pretty well. In thinking about its application, I see it as both internal and external. External refers to how one structures the session, and internal refers to how it affects/effects the witnessing to the movement.

I started this session with the intention of doing something different and hoped for a different response as a result. Playing the drum beyond the point where they wanted to stop and encouraging them to go further gave them permission to explore the possibilities beyond what they knew.

bfTo create involves the emergence of an idea into consciousness and the manifestation of that idea into communicable form. (Hervey, 2000.) I witnessed 4 go past that stopping place to where he wasn’t sure, expressing what was internalized.

At the beginning of 4’s turn, he did the usual ‘exuberance dance’ thing. It was unfulfilling in most respects but it did express a wild exuberance that was very much a little boy thing. That aspect I connected with and enjoyed. I cheered him on silently.

Then there was a transition that was clear and profound, exhibited with changes in the quality and physicality of his movement. At that point I knew he had reached that place of ‘I am done.’ The changes were so obvious that I was quite surprised and encouraged that he was slowly coming to a stop, instead of the usual abruptness shown by everyone else.

I encouraged him to continue moving at that pace and he did some hand movements that were slow and precise, unlike anything I had seen before from him. This reminded me of my own use of tai chi as a transitional device in movement exploration. He then slowly turned and ran across the gym, going into the closet and slamming the door. This reminded me of places in my life where I was faced with decisions and ran away, not wanting to go on.

Let me explain that the closet was off limits to all the kids, and they often tried to sneak into it just for fun and make the teachers immediately remove them. So, when I witnessed 4 go into the closet, I guessed that he would expect me to get him, thus forcing me to stop the movement exploration and let him off the hook. I and the (other) boys waited for what must have been a full 2 minutes before I decided to end it by making a big drum roll at which point the closet door opened and 4 poked his head out and he ran back to the group with cheers from his classmates.

Kestenberg believed that there is an association between one’s rhythmic flow of tension and one’s flow of associations, and a significant degree of attunement is required by the therapist to receive and decipher the patient’s feelings. (Amighi, 1999.) I certainly felt an attunement with 4 from the moment I met him. Having been told I was crazy as a child by my parents and siblings, my actions, in many ways, tried to live up to those expectations, as well as my own (which were often one and the same). I witnessed this little boy do the expected exuberant dance and, when given the chance, move unexpectedly with his hands slowly to the chest and then turn and disappear into the closet.

Both actions I can relate to and felt a deep urge to recognize what he was doing and why. I felt as if I was given an opportunity to see him in a few brief moments of who he really was, before the character that he was expected to be reasserted itself and he ran into the closet. Of course one has to always look at the situation and judge the validity of one’s evaluation. Attunement to the objective and subjective bridges that artistic/creative and KMP-analytical gap, where you have to make a leap, and in this case I believe a good one.

In the change of physicality of 4’s movements from fast to slow, I witnessed the changes in tension flow. Changes in the quality of the flow of tension become either free or bound (Dell, 1970) His movements went from free, fast and open to bound, slow and more focused, moving towards the chest and closed. I realize that this preschooler may not be the best example for flow of associations. If I could have, I would have asked him to make a sound or words or sentences when his movement changed. I can only guess as to his associations with this movement, they were tender and had a moving, almost hugging quality, towards the chest and heart. Perhaps there was a feeling of loving himself or nurturing the self. In a larger sense, it was the eye of a hurricane, from the exuberant dance to being very still and quiet to running wildly to the closet and hiding.

Shape flow is marked by changes in the body parts toward or away from the body center. Thus I saw “4” change his tension flow (slowing, focus became directed on the hands), weight distribution changed; and I saw 4 change his shape flow by shrinking (body moving inwards) his hands moving towards the torso (folding/closing). skaw

The relation between his movements and his parental relationships is unclear. I could suggest that moving the hands in a hugging-like gesture towards the chest is an expression of a desire to be loved and nurtured or possibly of protection of the heart (less likely based on the quality of the movement). I never got to meet this lad’s parent(s), but generally the kids at this daycare were in the lower economic scale, in a small blue-collar town, with serious drug and alcohol problems. Kids often arrived at six a.m. and left at six p.m., quite a long day for any preschooler. My own prejudice questions why parents would allow their children to be drugged with Ritalin, especially a preschooler.

Kestenberg directed attention to the idea that each movement pattern has intrinsic, developmental significance and psychological meaning. She believed that movements are reflective of psychic functioning. (Amighi, 1999.) Watching “4” move from the exuberant dance to the eye of the storm to the hiding in the closet was a story unfolding before me. The wildness of his beginning movement suggests he was not given enough openness to be creative within a structure, and, when that opportunity arose, he was chaotic and unfocused.

The changes in his movement from wild to quiet suggest recognition of a need to express something different. That pattern of quiet reflective movement could be an expression of something much bigger as mentioned already. Finally, going into the closet is a return to an old pattern, albeit without its usual consequences. I managed to break that old ending by making the hiding in the closet a part of the dance, instead of deeming it a breach of the rules. The drum roll and stopping told him that the dance was over and he ‘came out of the closet’ to use a much used modern phrase.

Basically movement in his session can be describes as:

Fast-jerky-stop/go-slow-hunched when running-tilting when running in circles-ran in circles-ran in straight lines-ran in angles-chaotic-focused.

The beginning of his movement, the exuberant dance, consisted of Fast-jerky-stop/go hunched when running-tilting when running in circles-ran in circles-ran in straight lines-ran in angles-chaotic. This expressed movement, in terms of tension flow, was free when moving and bound when stopped. Changes in timing occurred when he stopped and when his movement went from chaotic to focused. His spatial focus was either directed at the witnesses or, while still, at his hands. There was an element of boundedness in his hunching when running, especially when turning in a circle or a curve when going from one direction to another.

The shape flow of his movement could be seen when he moved his hands towards the body and also when he was running, as his arms were moving in time to his gait. Shape flow can also be used to describe his directional movement: straight, angular, circular. His movements mostly consisted of scattering (away from the body) and just a bit gathering (towards the body).

Amighi,J.K., Loman,S., Lewis,P., Sossin, K.M. (1999). The meaning of movement: The Kestenberg movement profile. New York: Brunner-Routledge.

Cruz, R,F. & Berrol, C.F. (2004). Dance/Movement therapists in action: A working guide to research options. Springfield, Ill.: C.C. Thomas.

Dell,C. (1970). A primer for movement description using effort-shape and supplementary concepts. New York: Dance Notation Bureau.

Rutkowski, A. (1984). Thesis: Development, definition and demonstration of the Halprin Life/Art Process in Dance Education. Unpublished doctorial dissertation, John F. Kennedy University.

Winter, R. (2001). Handbook for action research in health and social care. New York: Routledge.

Mitchell, N. (2006, August 26). All in the mind: Jerome Kagan, the father of temperament. Australia Broadcast Corporation, Radio National. Retrieved August 26, 2006, from

Hervey, L.W. (2000). Artistic inquiry in dance/movement therapy:
Creative Research Alternatives.
Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas.

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 MA, R-DMT. Copy write 2006.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s