The Discipline of Authentic Movement – what it is and what it is not

The following text is not an exploration of what the Discipline of Authentic Movement (DAM) is and what it is not but it offers my understanding and my insights at this moment. I am offering them as teacher of the Discipline of Authentic Movement. 25 years ago I started practicing Authentic Movement and since more than 15 years I am practicing the DAM in the presence of my beloved teacher Janet Adler.

This text consists of statements. Some of them are accompanied by several sentences. There is a specific amount of empty space between the statements. Reading both, the text and the empty space, can allow a different experience than just reading one sentence after the other.

May this text be received in the unique individual way that is appropriate for every single reader.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement is where I feel at home.

It is not every bodies home. It is for everybody who commits to practicing it. For many this includes the experience of coming home.

The Discipline of Authentic Movement is „one branch of the mother tree Authentic Movement“. *1

It is essentially shaped through Janet Adler. And it is shaped through us, her students and meanwhile teachers of the DAM and through our students. The growth of Authentic Movement (AM) begins with Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow. They received the teaching for what they call AM from Mary Whitehouse. Mary Whitehouse invited a quality of moving that includes moving and being moved. This happens in the presence of another. Mary Whitehouse is the founder of AM.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement is not the tree. It is one branch of it.

Janet Adler meets Mary Whitehouse for the first time in 1969. They work and meet intensively for five months, almost every day. During the following eleven years Janet Adler teaches AM. In 1981 she founds the Mary Starks Whitehouse Institute. Now she begins to use the term ‚witness‘ for the person, whom Mary Whitehouse had called the ‚observer‘ or ‚teacher‘. „I imagine I learned this word ‚witness‘ while working with my teacher, John Weir, a Master psychologist, in 1969“. *2  And she begins „to understand this developing relationship between mover and witness as a discipline“. *3


The presence of an inner witness and its development towards a compassionate presence is essential in the Discipline of Authentic Movement.


The compassionate inner witness can be present in a conscious body.


Being a mover is the foundation for the development of the inner witness and is the foundation for being an outer witness for a mover.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement is developmental. It is not hierarchical.

The experience of being a mover preceeds the experience of being a witness. This does not mean that the one or the other is of higher value. There is a developmental sequence in the unfolding of the compassionate inner witness out of the experience of being a mover. You can see the developmental sequence in „The Mandorla“, as presented by Janet Adler. *4


The Discipline of Authentic Movement begins and it ends facing the empty space.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement is a mystical practice.

Direct experience is at its core.

Direct experience is mystical experience. *5

Direct experience is not the same as directly experiencing with awareness our moment to moment experience, whether as mover or as witness, whether in the studio space or in everyday life. Direct experience is ineffable, we cannot know, what it is. „It is what it is. It is so much, what it is, that we can be aware when we enter it or when we leave it“. *6 Direct experience is a state in which my (the author’s) experience of time and space is seamless. And this can be different for everybody else.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement has three root systems: dance, healing and mysticism.

It can be named one way of deep learning about, from and through our self as a moving body. It allows a deepening of our embodied knowing about our self. And it moves us to what is beyond our self. Many of us come into the DAM with a deep longing to move towards what is bigger than our self.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement allows the experience of being part of a collective body as well as the experience of being an individual body and also both at the same time.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement invites and supports us to move from the dualistic nature of our human consciousness to our source, to unitive consciousness.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement is constantly evolving in every moment when it is practised.

Its form has been developing throughout the 45 years, since Janet Adler is guiding the evolution of the discipline. The evolution happens because of each individual, committing to its practice.


The Discipline of Authentic Movement is offered in Circles of Four to those who devote to becoming a teacher of the DAM. *7


*1 Adler, J. (2012), from personal teaching notes.
*2 Adler, J. (1999), ‚Who is the witness?‘, in P. Pallaro (ed.), Authentic Movement, London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, p.142.
*3 Adler, J. a.a.O., p.146.
*4 Adler, J. Internet:http:// ‚The mandorla and the discipline of authentic movement’.
*5 Many of the teachers of the DAM use the term direct experience in this specific way
*6 Adler, J. (2015), from personal teaching notes.
*7 Adler, J. Internet:, ‚Circles of Four‘.

Copyright Cornelia Schmitz, 2015