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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

What is Acting as Movement Therapy?


Acting As Movement Therapy is a holistic approach to increasing movement and vitality throughout the body using the tools of acting.  Acting as Movement Therapy is not drama therapy, a psychological therapy that seeks to resolve emotional issues through role play, nor is it physical, occupational, or speech therapy.  Yet, Acting as Movement Therapy shares some of the tools of these other therapies, particularly the goal of improved movement.

The toolbox of the Acting as Movement Therapy participant contains three main parts:  the body, mind, and spirit.  The body includes the five senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, seeing), movement, vocalization, and gesturing.  The tools of the mind are imagination, memorization, and character analysis.  The spirit employs empathy, humor, desire, and emotion.

The tools of the mind, body, and spirit must work together.  It is nearly impossible to act and do any other activity at the same time.  For people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, acting as movement therapy provides movement with purpose and the option of first engaging the imagination or the mind to stimulate movement.  Here is an example:  a person with a spinal cord injury is attempting a triceps extension.  They try the movement over and over and become bored with it.  Rather than thinking, “I have to keep my elbow tight to my body and bring my hand to my shoulder.”  What if the person imagined, “A black widow spider just landed on my shoulder.  I have to get it off!”  Through the imagination, the movement gained purpose, emotion, and urgency.

Methods of Acting as Movement Therapy

There are as many acting methods as there are actors.  This is great news for the Acting as Movement Therapy participant because every method is at their disposal.  Each method contains physical, mental, and spiritual exercises.  Some of the most commonly used and well known acting methods are listed below:

“The Method” was brought to the United States by Constantin Stanislavsky of Russia in the 1920s.  Stanislavski’s method was known for bringing a sense of reality and emotional depth to the actor.  Jerzy Grotowski, a Polish actor and director, created an acting method that emphasized the relationship between the actor and audience.  Uta Hagen, who acted on Broadway and taught at HB Studios in New York City, invited actors to have a secret about their character that only they knew.

To date, Acting as Movement Therapy has only been exercised in a one on one setting.  Hopefully, it will soon be used in group settings as well considering all of the methods would still be applicable.

Who could benefit from Acting as Movement Therapy?

Anyone willing to try it.  Acting as Movement Therapy is not about becoming a star or even performing in front of an audience.  Actors create characters.  Acting as Movement Therapy participants create purposeful movement by using actors’ tools.  Through this process, not only is more movement created, but more vitality, more joie de vivre.  For people living with chronic health conditions and physical disabilities, acting as movement therapy can be a way into the body.  Sometimes the way to the body is through the mind, an emotion, or the imagination.  All of these entry points are available in acting as movement therapy.  Just because we cannot all swim like Michael Phelps, does not mean we cannot imagine what that would feel like within the bodies that we do have.



Disclaimer: Proper precautions must be taken before you begin an exercise program. An understanding of your current health status and potential problems is necessary for you to exercise safely. Please contact your physician if you have any concerns. This program is intended to incorporate high-intensity physical activity into your daily life, but should not be used in place of physical therapy, professional medical advice, or treatment.


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