Authentic Movement: A Natural Unfolding

Good morning, community - The following is a guest blog by counselor and facilitator Jeannine Salemi of Inner Truth Counseling of Chicago, IL.  In Columbia, MO the weekend of February 24th, Jeannine will be offering Grounded Freedom, a unique opportunity to invite integration through Authentic Movement.  Within the following blog post there are all sorts of wonderful links embedded to deepen your understanding about this profound, and yet simple, movement form.  Both Jeannine and I hope you will enjoy the post and will join us in this healing, inspirational event.  -Vic

The practice of Authentic Movement was birthed through Mary Starks Whitehouse, a dancer and dance teacher, as a way to bridge her work with active imagination in her own Jungian analysis with the students she worked with. She wanted to help the dancers she was teaching to move from a deeper and more authentic place. Originally called movement-in-depth, her approach to working with people eventually drew non-dancers to work with her to find their own authenticity in movement.

Janet Adler, a dance/movement therapist and one of Whitehouse's students, developed the form into how it is known today, as a practice where one moves in the presence of a witness. While Whitehouse discovered and developed what it means to let oneself be moved, Janet Adler delved into what it means to be present in witness to the process of another and how the inner witness develops.

Zoe Avstreih, my teacher, although never a student of Whitehouse, discovered the form organically as a psychoanalyst and practitioner of Zen meditation. While teaching a class for dance/movement therapists she invited students to close their eyes and explore the answer to the question, "what moves you"? Zoe later met Janet Adler at a national Dance/Movement Therapy conference and was invited into the lineage of Authentic Movement practitioners. Zoe later became director of Adler's training center for Authentic Movement.


I am drawn to Authentic Movement (AM) because of the way it allows for deep honesty and the opportunity to fully dive into the truth of ourselves. The trust I have developed over the years that the discipline of the form will somehow hold and create a container for all of the chaos, the unknown and the unconscious material that emerges (sometimes in repetitive movements) is comforting to me. I feel a kinship to this form as someone for whom movement is my first language, my first direct line of receiving and of communication. When I am trying to speak from an honest place, words often come after the feeling sensation or wave of energy. The practice of AM has given me a place to practice listening to my deeper movement impulses and allow them to move through me, as well as allowing my inner witness to hold my experience as it unfolds.

The practice of AM can invite us to let go of the conditioning we receive that our cognitive processes are somehow more important than the phenomena that arises in the body. If we want to find a balanced dialogue between body and mind, we often need to give ourselves permission and space to do so first. If we want to learn to listen more closely to our body’s wisdom, we often need to continually and gently remind ourselves that it is safe to let go of the need to understand every moment as it unfolds as a somatic experience.

Daniel J. Seigel, pioneer of Interpersonal Neurobiology, describes various states of integration that occur within the body/mind. We find deeper states of presence and mindful awareness by allowing ourselves to flow in the direction of balance, which sometimes means allowing ourselves to bump up against seemingly rigid patterns and chaotic emotions. However, our systems are wired to heal and integrate if we allow it. 

By closing our eyes and listening to our deeper impulses, we are often inviting the parts of ourselves which may be getting in the way of our full experience of integration and healing. By following sensations, images, feelings and movement impulses, we are inviting movement from the subcortical (middle) region of our brain. This internal listening and exploration through both movement and stillness is done in the presence of an unconditionally accepting witness so our process has the chance to unfold in a safe space. We have the opportunity to open to these more vulnerable parts of ourselves in a safe and accepting space, which invites us to accept more deeply these parts of ourselves as well. As we then verbally process the movement experience by speaking in the present moment, we are invited to keep the vitality of the movement experience alive so that we can bring it more into conscious awareness. This conscious awareness allows for deeper integration between the right and left sides of the brain, as well as the lower (subcortex) and upper (neocortex) parts of the brain. As the witness reflects the mover’s experience in a way of speaking and attuning that minimizes projection, the mover is invited to feel the space around her experience as similar to putting a protective fence around a newly planted seed.

As one begins to trust the natural unfolding of the dialogue between body and mind through the presence of a witness and the development of one’s inner witness, deeper integration within oneself is invited to occur. The more integrated we are, the more flexible and creative we are, which allows us to bring more of our true selves into the world and possibly inspire others to do the same. 

An Authentic Movement practice supports compassion for ourselves as we learn to witness the unfolding of our own somatic processes. There is then almost a natural desire, as humans are wired to be empathetic, to see another in the same way. As we hold space for another, we are given the gift of allowing ourselves to truly see another and release blocks for ease in acceptance and understanding. As we practice seeing ourselves and each other with more clarity and less projections, we create a safe space for all of us to step more fully into our true selves where love and acceptance can flow and fear has less power. 


Adler, Janet. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. (2002)

Siegel, Daniel J. Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology. (2012)