What is Movement Based Expressive Art?

First, the Movement Part….

I’ll first talk about the “movement” part when I use the term Movement Based Expressive Arts, then later I’ll talk about the “expressive art” part. So what do I mean by movement? I’m covering a lot of territory with this term and intentionally want to leave it open to interpretation. For me, this is using improvisational rhythmic movement or dance - no plans, no choreography.  I may use a little space or a lot.  I may use a weight-bearing apparatus, or not. Using a weight-bearing apparatus can be as simple as interacting with a wall, floor or chair. I also like using the chrome pole, but others prefer silks, Lyra, trapeze or similar apparatuses. I may move fast or slow. With music or without. It may be dance-y or sort of strange.

I place a high value on making the movement space a liminal space. Liminal in latin means threshold - the space that ushers us between where we are and where we are headed. In that space we enter the unknown, we open up the potential for a more soulful and poetic life and we increase our joy and funk-ability. Movement is a transformational tool.

I love moving in wide-open unobstructed spaces, AND, I also have a special affinity for moving with the chrome pole. I have re-imagined the 45 mm chrome dance pole for use in a Movement-Based Expressive Art practice.

The pole has practical value for those new to creative movement - it provides a sense of sturdiness and safety. It is also emotionally evocative and has the unique quality of engaging haptic perception, which is our ability to experience through touch and movement. A pole practice uses a great deal of grasping, which is developmentally our first gesture. Movement and art practices tend to draw heavily on hepatic perception which links us to preverbal periods, where images, symbols, and sensations necessary for psychological healing reside. I find this fascinating and very on point with what is happening in the world of psychotherapy today. There is a push to integrate “bottom-up” approaches that engage the nervous system and activate the body’s natural healing potential.

My hypothesis is that the pole serves as a metaphorical spine.  When used in a reflective and contemplative way, as part of an overall approach to psychological growth, this metaphorical spine becomes integrated. The membrane between the mover and the pole become thinner and qualities of sturdiness and resilience are absorbed. This metaphorical spine becomes a very real internal axis. From here the mover can go in any direction. (Read further about how I understand the use of the pole in my POLE ESSAYS)

The Expressive Art part…

By “expressive art”, I’m referring to the practice of layering art modalities (dance, visual art, poetry/writing, sculpting, photography).  The use of layering art forms allows one to use imagination and senses for self-exploration. For example, in my personal practice I may move in some way for 20 minutes, and then continue my movement on paper with pastels. It all movement just in a different form. It’s an amazing feeling when I flip through my sketchbook, to know that these sketches, colors, shapes I create would never have existed without the movement! In fact, I can rarely engage in artistic practice, if I have not greased the wheels, so to speak, with movement. In her book The Creative Connection, Expressive Art as Healing, Melanie Rogers describes it as:

“...the process of allowing one art form to influence another directly. Using various expressive arts in sequence heightens and intensifies our journey inward...By moving from art form to art form, we release the layers of inhibition that have covered our originality, discovering our uniqueness and special beauty. Like a spiral, the process plums the depths of our body, mind, emotions, and spirit to bring us to our center.”

Think you don’t have a creative bone in your body? To engage with the expressive arts, and to derive therapeutic benefit, you don’t need to to have any special skills or abilities. None of this is about creating art that would be hung in a gallery or even a wall in your home. It’s simply about being curious about your internal world and finding new ways to explore and express.

What makes me qualified to write about these things? 

I’ll give you the short on the personal and professional. They get pretty connected.

I’m a practicing psychotherapist and certified eating disorder specialist. I’ve been doing this work for nearly 20 years. Years ago, during a time of great transition, I entered psychoanalysis, a gut-wrenching and joyful process of deep self-exploration. Until then, other forms of therapy were not peeling back enough layers. I began to feel the work deeply in my body, so began a steady movement practice to explore and contain those experiences.  Then I added in the art. The process of analysis asked me to use my mind differently, and to get integrated in ways I wasn’t.  Sort of a weaving myself together process. This is the heart of the Expressive Arts philosophy - a weaving together of all the disparate parts of myself - into something integrated, something of substance.

And although my movement practice was a deeply personal experience, there was also a part of me that yearned to be seen, witnessed, in ways I hadn’t been before. Who knew in this process I’d make it on stage, multiple times, to perform in front of hundreds of people? I actually gave up my card-carrying privileges with the wallflower club. (Thankfully they welcome me back when I ask…) It’s been transformational - the analysis, the movement, the art, the performing. All of it has mixed together to become Body of Art, originally my personal practice and now a practice I wish to share.

My thinking, whether it’s about movement, the mind, art, culture - is grounded psychoanalytic theory, which l love and hate at the same time. It’s about getting to what is true and what is honest and that is never easy. It’s subversive to go for what is real these days when we are awash in quick and easy explanations and solutions. Subversiveness is an essential part of a woman’s developmental path. Being too good, is not good for us. Psychoanalytic thinking is a place for safe and healthy subversiveness, much like experimental movement practices.

So there it is! I hope that serves as a good introduction, and gives you a sense of the origins of Body of Art. I do believe that there is an artist in EVERY-BODY, given the right environment.  I’d be honored to have you in a class, workshop or individual session.