Photo: Asheville Butoh Dance Theatre

Illustration: Merce Cunningham, Space Plan for Dance

Choreograph (v.): to arrange relations between bodies
in time and space
Choreography (v.): act of framing relations between bodies;
“a way of seeing the world”
Choreography (n.): result of any of these actions
Choreography (n.): a dynamic constellation of any kind,
consciously created or not, self-organising or super-imposed
Choreography (n.): order observed . . ., exchange of forces;
a process that has an observable or observed embodied order
Choreograph (v.): to recognize such an order
Choreography (v.): act of interfering with or negotiating
such an order

(Book of Recommendations, A Manifesto on Choreography by Michael Klien, Steve Valk and Jeffrey Gormly

Michael Klien was the artistic director of Daghdha Dance Company in Limerick from 2003-2011.  In 2012 he became the founder of the Institute of Social Choreography in Frankfurt. Klien proposes that the aesthetics of social change can be achieved through choreography as a catalyst for actions that re-negotiate communication through states of embodiment. Making contact with others, and our surroundings, through active physicality re-orders perspective and context. Through interrogating social structures that regulate physical and psychological states of being, desire can be released through choreography as a form of inter-personal and environmental re-adjustment.

perfect circle 2_rising

Photo: Perfect Flat Circle, Katrina Brown

Art therapy can draw upon the ideas of social choreography as a way to infuse the desiring body into therapeutic space. The social relations of psychotherapy must not only be talked about (or drawn out), but also be re-sculpted through the ways in which space is occupied and dynamically lived. The aim is to infuse movement with affect, thought and sensation.

Activating art therapy within the thresholds of physical experience is letting go of art therapy’s propensity towards order and containment. The dynamics of change are an essential aesthetic component of art therapy practice, and reside within the illustrations of movement as they manifest between therapeutic participants and art media. Art therapy evokes an ecology of circumstances, situations within which to explore movement inwards and outwards into the exteriors of personal and shared space. It is this combination, and the urge to process experience, that makes art therapy a somatic performance that marks out mobile forces of representation. The body is the living artwork, and imprints materials with surges of evocation that might be marks on paper, but equally can be made into sculptural forms that inhabit the art therapy studio. Ultimately, this instinctive choreography may result in redesigning the art therapy space through movement patterns that mark out paths of what Klien terms “ungovernable moments.”

All choreographies are the outcome of lengthy periods of research, so-called Field Studies. They are rigorous, poetic artefacts that aspire to engage ‘the unkown’, observational and reflective realms offered to the audience to sense reality beyond rationality and purpose….They change and grow whenever performed or situated; they are cradles of relations—‘organisms’—interacting with the world, affecting and being affected. (Michael Klien,


Michael Klien,

Book of Recommendations: Choreography as an Aesthetics of Change by Michael Klien, Steve Valk and Jeffrey Gormly on

Sensingsite: Materialities of Landscape and Place