An Account of the 2009 International Authentic Movement Gathering, Vienna

There is a challenge, a never-ending game, being in the abyss between having a sensation and naming it.

Why would we write about the 2009 Vienna International Authentic Movement gathering in Vienna in March when it took place last July? Maybe because we are looking forward to the 2010 gathering. We remember moving together, thinking about the perspectives of developing practices, skills and understanding what we call “the miracle” of Authentic Movement.

The Second International Gathering of Authentic Movement took place again in Vienna, Austria in July 2009. This time there were nineteen people from twelve different countries: Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, the U.K., the U.S., Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, Brazil, Russia and Belarus. Therapists from the fields of dance-movement therapy, body-oriented therapy, music therapy, Hakomi, psychomotor, and others were present. Whether there for the first or second time, we were all united by one thing - the Authentic Movement practice. We convened once again in the wonderful space of the therapeutic center, Gersthof, that our colleague therapists IsaĆ­as and Clarissa Costa, generously provided for this annual gathering.

The International Meeting of AM lasted four and a half days and maintained a very full schedule. The first night we started with an Authentic Movement “long circle”. The following days there were two sessions each day. A warm-up starting each session was offered by one of the participants. The group decided on the form for each following session in the day based on the individual state and needs of participants. One evening our Brazilian colleagues, Soraya Jorge and Guto Macedo, showed us the video of their work and spoke of their dance projects. On another day, on the initiative of Alexei Konstantinov (Minsk), a group discussion took place regarding methodological issues of the practice. There was a lot of professional as well as interpersonally warm and supportive interaction.

Following are the experiences from three of the attendees:

Yulia Morozova:
This was the second peer-group gathering that I attended. The first hours in the therapeutic centre Gersthof, were filled with the joy of reconnecting with old friends and the anticipation of meeting new people. I knew some things about the new participants from the impressive mail introductions. I was very excited to meet and communicate, talk, move, and witness with people who had years of training and practice in AM and other fields of movement and dance therapy.

It was remarkable to me, that the most used form was a 'long circle'. We did not plan it in advance, but by the middle of the day, after sharing and asking which form feels the most appropriate to undertake in the moment, the long circle was most often chosen. This choice in the moment was natural and reflected the logic of a process. This being said, I feel I missed dyad processes!

During the sessions, I faced some moments in practice that were new for me. For example, one participant asked the circle of witnesses to make some space for moving outside the circle—behind the witnesses, so if one had a need to move there s/he could do so. Another participant noticed that in her practice there was an 'official third role' in addition to the mover and the witness. This being so, if a person in her/his process couldn't stay in the witness position, but couldn't be a mover either, s/he could choose the role of the one 'sleeping 'outside the circle. I do not know how this fits in with the classic canon of AM, but I think sometimes it could be the safest option in some situations.

The discussion initiated by Alexey Konstantinov, revealed that we have learned the practice in slightly difference ways, not the core of the discipline but some details of the form. These tiny details, such as how the mover begins the process, (ie: sliding to the floor from her place with eyes closed, taking a place not far from her witness, or going to the place where something "caught" the attention when s\he was a witness) were in question. The language of witnessing was also a question. Do we say, "I see the mover", or "I see you", or "I'm the witness who sees the mover." Of course we asked ourselves, which version is "the right one"? We came to the conclusion, that awareness is most important in that every word and action has a function that impacts the movers and the group process. We then as a group, could find and commit to solutions that were safe and supportive to our process. Finding time for the discussions was difficult. That is the common problem at such gatherings, to find time for everything: for more AM-sessions, for the discussions, and for the integration of one's own process.

Also the witnessing styles present at this gathering I would call poetic. In a large group setting where there is not much time for the detailed sharing, there begins the process of crystallization of many sensations, movements, images and feelings in a few capacious words. The witnessing remained full of sensation, and that was for me the breathtaking process of creating the space of shared experience. This is a space where everyone could see and be seen, as well as feel and share with others. It was like poetry. My experience was that witnessing sometimes became the form of a poem.

This meeting was one of the most supportive events of the year for me, and I am grateful to all those with whom I shared this experience.

Elena Starikova:
“To write about a peer group with the understanding that I am myself a member of a peer group for two years is important, as it clarifies and makes the practice of Authentic Movement more conscious, more valuable and grounded not only in the body, but also in words. The format requires sufficient maturity and elaboration (or desire to move in that direction), the ability to take responsibility, not only for one’s own process but also for the process happening in the group as well. This is a group without a leader. What does it mean? In the group with a leader, we are completely, feeling it within, sharing with others and learning to see and be seen. In general, it can be called a learning process where the formation and development of “Authentic Movement skills” takes place. The leader teaches, directs and is responsible for group dynamics. He/she leads the process. In the peer-group, leadership as I understand it is distributed among group members who possess the ability to see the process and talk about it outside the language of the projections, based on the deep experience of the body. This is the language of respect and trust for others. By following the rules drawn up by the group, we have the ability to discuss and follow the unfolding process. I often have brought to the group’s attention that we should not move further until we have specified all the nuances to achieve the necessary safety to start the movement again. Even if one member feels unsafe, the group takes this into account and looks for the most appropriate practice for the present session.

Yes, we practiced most often in a long circle, a breathing circle with a bit of dyad work. Why did most people prefer the long circle? I think it gave everyone in the group process support and allowed themes to unfold, giving them space to grow and gain strength. The long circle gave us the freedom to balance between the roles of witness and mover, assessing the needs to move or to be seen. Dyad work at the beginning of the process served as a good start and established the sufficient level of confidence in the group. There were warm-ups in pairs that held the same authenticity felt in AM dyad work.

Yes, it is true we were all from different schools, from different countries and even continents, but we were sharing a universal language of movement, scooping it from the depths of our own experience—the wisdom of ours bodies. Of course it is important to verbalize the details of the practice again and again, the process of formulating the rules for the practice, by referring to the foundational principles laid down by Mary Whitehouse, Janet Adler, and others whose work is now (to the great joy of the many of us who do the practice) available in the printed form.

In spite of the fact that the fundamental rules are the same for many people practicing AM - the nuances and the details can be determined by each group separately; the group develops, breathes, grows and can experiment with different forms of practice. This is what I found and became open to. I am glad that my understanding of the AM practice is resonant, on the same rails so-to-speak with those at the conference, giving me the possibility to “move myself” further.

As I see it now, it would be great to have more space for the integration of whatever came through the movement and witnessing experience. Perhaps, one free day in the middle of the conference to just emerge from the process. But this, I think, is to be discussed in this next year. Overall the experience of moving and witnessing, communicating and the new interactions with such remarkable people brought and continues to bring an increasing awareness and understanding in me. The ideas, the great support received and a lot of joy came from the understanding that there is AM practice in many parts of the world!

And, of course, I would like to thank Irina Biryukova who conveys the tradition of Authentic Movement in the form in which it is proposed by Janet Adler, Joan Chodorow, Tina Stromsted and the others. I also want to thank my peer group in Moscow, which continues to move and be moved.

Soraya Jorge:
After a wonderful description to our meeting in Vienna in the year 2009 from Yulia and Elena, I am bringing some words with the intention to participate in this written piece. I feel a great honor to be part of this Gathering and appreciate their impulses to give and shares words from our time together.

All my work as a movement specialist is profoundly touched by the discipline of Authentic Movement. The way I learned and the way I´ve been developing it in Brazil is an inner/outer dialogue creating new avenues in life. To see, perceive and sense the other in me, and the flowing of invisible and visible movements, have been themes of investigation for me in teaching and performing. Through AM, I experience my body is in the presence of not knowing, embodied experiences of unnamed sensations, life and death in gestures of time, connecting with the spirits in the cells of my whole body.

I hope in the future Authentic Movement Gatherings in Vienna (2010), I will be able to collectively touch the deep extensions of Moving Thoughts*, and sensitive dances. The beauty that comes from sensorial movements, whether they are in silence, in explosive gestures or in a loving, reflective container for our art, becomes a capacity to own and to relate to judgments, thoughts and sensations as a vibrating tune in relationship.

The big event felt in my heart from this Gathering, is to have met people who have experienced Authentic Movement and who love the work. Also, it was wonderful be able to see our differences and similarities, and learn how Authentic Movement expands our relationships and expressions in the world.

Even when tired, I never feel tired when I am at an Authentic Movement retreat. I witness myself embracing my limits and my deep will to gain inner and outer volume, space and time-- stretching possibilities to walk the path of not-knowing. As witness, as mover, with no separation between functions, but conscious of my role in the circle, I interweave personal and collective, solitude and togetherness, closed eyes and open eyes as a way to transform dance in a state of presence. Dance transforms us in this way as well.

My deep interest is to share our creative work as teachers of the form, as therapists, as people influenced by Authentic Movement.

*‘Moving Thought. Movement that is sensation and thought in the search for its own pathways of existence, embodying different forms of being art and life, of observing, deconstructing and creating new patterns. Movement that is spontaneous gesture, the instant before it even happens. A gesture that reveals a fine texture provides meaning without a logical form, capturing the gaze of the observer (in the moment when he meets with the one who performs the gesture). Hence a new question emerges: what unfolding, expansions and possibilities of Moving Thought can arise from such given place? (part of final text from a Specialization in Dance / Therapy - Brazil).

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