Tracing Forms, Moving Dimensions

May 13, 2015




Photo: Human Writes, William Forsythe, performance to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“Our work is about moving between positions and passing through positions, not maintaining positions” (Dance Geometry, A Conversation with William Forsythe,


Photo: Lectures from Improvisation Technologies by William Forsythe 2011,

Art therapy activates the movement of spatial dimensions, marking out both familiar and new planes of existence. As a potential choreographic enterprise, art therapy draws us into movements which open up perspective. Each artwork is a new situation, an arrangement of subjectivity that is both familiar and recently acquired. The physical act of art making relates to extensions and crossing boundaries into additional planes of reference.


Photo: Artwork by Peter Welz in Collaboration with William Forsythe, 2005

The dimensions of artworks can be inhabited as kinesthetic journeys, stimulating physical and mental configurations. An artwork can be a choreographic reference, a stimulus that potentially enlarges our physical and mental proportions. Art beckons not only as an object but as a research tool, that can re-route both body and mind into unfamiliar experiences. It is the confidence to examine and inhabit the unfamiliar that often acts as a remedy for fixation. To act out is to animate and recover from predictability and containment. The risk taking in art therapy can relate to simultaneously moving in more than one direction. Combining known perspectives with difference, and learning to understand the artwork as a choreographic object, invites new forms of thinking that are physically generated.



Photo: Dance Drawing and Wire Sculpted in Movement Based Art Therapy

“A choreographic object, or score, is by nature open to a full palette of phenomenological instigations because it acknowledges the body as wholly designed to persistently read every signal from its environment” (Choreographic Objects by William Forsythe,

The influence of artworks as stimuli for movement motifs can be understood as a call for attention. The ability of an artwork to transfigure orientations in both mind and body, can be a therapeutic asset. The possibility of displacement, of transforming established ways of conduct within the world at large, is therapeutically beneficial. This is often at the heart of therapeutic release, the call to go beyond restrictions and to experiment with dynamic changes in action.


Photo: Self-Directed Movement Studies

Moving Dimensions of Art Therapy

1. The inclusion of physical thinking within art therapy involves kinesthetic responses, giving space for physical animation as thoughts and sensations appear.

2. Therapeutic choreography animated by processes of art making may create new dimensions of identity.

3. Art therapy environments collaboratively composed (in conjunction with service users), should be open to transformation increasingly incorporating new materials, ideas and physical arrangements.

4. Taking risks can relate to experiments with space, where artworks inhabit the environment as forms that trace out physical paths and their corresponding sensations.


Photo: Tape Drawing, Diagram for Movement Produced in Art Therapy

“Choreographers are composers; subjects are continually reiterated and played in another key…In choreography, there’s all kinds of motion going on, countless levels of kinetic juxtaposition, many beyond the immediate, visible sphere of dancing…the effect of ideas in motion” (William Forsythe: Artists in Conversation by Gabrielle de Ferrari,

William Forsythe (New York, 1949) originally trained as a ballet dancer and became the director of Ballet Frankfurt from 1984-2004. He later founded the internationally renowned Forsythe Company, where his choreography involved the visual arts, architecture, the moving image, written and spoken words. Starting in 2015 Forsythe will begin teaching at the University of Southern California and join the Pais Opera Ballet as an associate choreographer. 

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