A Transdisciplinary Approach to Psychomotricity
Marina Tschiptschin Francisco
This is about a fundamentally practical approach, based on the system Biodanza and on Psychomotricity, a subject that has been researching the psychology of movement. In this combined approach, the main issues in Psychomotricity: Body as Lived, Body as Perceived, Body as Represented, Body Schema, Lateralization, Space, Time, Rhythm, Muscle Tonus, Control, Coordination, and Equilibrium are discussed under the light of the main currents of Psychomotricity, Bioenergetic Psychology, and Developmental Psychology. Then, each one of these issues is translated into a Biodanza class that explores all its possibilities and counterpoints. The aim is to experience and modify the emotional memory in the body, affecting its expression through movement. Students are prepared to understand this approach that is a complement to Kinesiology, for it explores the psychological counterpart of the logic and logistics inherent in the awareness of body and movement. The results of this approach are disclosed and discussed.
Index Terms — Body Talk, Emotional Memory, Experiencing Body Memory, Transforming Emotional Memory
About the Author
I am a psychologist graduated from Universidade de São Paulo, with post-graduate studies at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute (USA), and a Master’s Degree in Developmental Disturbances by Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie. I am a professor for graduate and post-graduate studies of Body Communication, Psychomotricity and Dance for Actors at Faculdade Paulista de Artes. In parallel, I am also a Clinical Psychologist, working with children, adolescents and adults, both normal and handicapped. Besides, I am a Biodanza Facilitator, recognized by the International Biocentric Foundation. I am very interested in fashioning a synthesis of my complex path, in order to build different systems in the educational area.
Psychomotricity is still a very new concept, having been introduced in the ‘30s of the last century. In reviewing the literature around it, we find an array of different interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches. Most of them, however, do not delve enough into the emotional content of muscular activity and movement. Wilhelm Reich was the pioneer in finding emotional content repressed into muscular armoring. He and his followers developed ways of liberating emotional content through the analysis and release of this armoring.
In the ‘60s, Rolando Toro Araneda created Biodanza, defined as “a human integration system of organic renewal, affective reeducation and re-learning of the original functions of life…” Biodanza, inviting its subjects to live out vivencias (Spanish term meaning experiences) through a combination of music, singing, movements and group encounter situations, unwittingly introduces a Psychomotricity program, leading its subjects to become aware of the emotional memory embedded in their bodies and movement, to liberate emotional content therein, and to reach new levels of psychophysical integration that have a marked power of healing.
Methodological Approach and Proposal
Being a psychologist and Biodanza facilitator, I was faced with the task of developing a Psychomotricity program for the Dance Department of Faculdade Paulista de Artes. This is when I examined the main body movement themes dealt with by Psychomotricity and ascertained that most of its several approaches have not taken into account the deep emotional aspects implied in the moving body. This appeared to me as an open door for Biodanza, which has been paving its way through the emotional body ever since the ‘60s.
In the construction of the present method, the basic dimensions of Psychomotricity: Body as Lived, Body as Perceived, Body as Represented, Body Schema, Lateralization, Space, Time, Rhythm, Muscle Tonus, Control, Coordination, and Equilibrium  were understood as issues pertaining to the expression of human emotional potentials and translated into Biodanza classes aimed at awakening body awareness and developing body expression so as to heal deviations in each of these themes and bring the individual closer to his inner balance.
Something about Biodança
Biodanza is further defined by its author, Rolando Toro, as a system departing from the holistic conception that integrates all of Nature’s instances, regarding them as interlinked and concomitant. Biodanza is based on two main principles: The Vital Unconscious and The Biocentric Principle. The Vital Unconscious permeates all life on Earth and has as its corollary the Biocentric Principle. In Toro’s words:
The concept within the Vital Unconscious allows us to understand in depth the Biocentric Principle, as a cosmic “tendency” that generates life. The Vital Unconscious is in synchrony with the living essence of the Universe… The act of cure will thus be understood as a movement to retrieve this vital synchrony with the Universe.
Within the notion of Vital Unconscious is implicit the idea of Cellular Cognition, thus defined by the author:
…a form of psychic life within organs, tissues and cells, obeying a global ‘sense’ of self-preservation. The Vital Unconscious originates phenomena of cellular solidarity, creation of tissues, immunologic defense and, in short, the successful occurrence of living systems. This “psychism” coordinates organic and homeostatic regulatory functions and exhibits great autonomy in what concerns human consciousness and behavior. The Vital Unconscious is a form of cellular cognition that creates regularities and tends to maintain functions stable… 
The notion of Cellular Cognition leads to the idea that this cognition is translated into the physical body through voluntary and involuntary movement, integrating in this translation the phylogenetic and ontogenetic emotional memory.
Upon examining the most recent formulation of the Theoretical Model of Biodanza , one can see in it Jung’s Collective Unconscious, understood as an aspect of the Vital Unconscious that composes the occult zone of human consciousness and is accessible to awareness and to cure, by means of positive ecofactors (environmental factors) that lead to the integrating retrieval of protoexperiences (very early experiences in the lifetime of a person that are imprinted within cellular memory) .
Toro’s works are a poetic homage to dance as a widening of the vital space, along some expressive lines: vitality, sexuality, creativity, affectivity and transcendence. Those who know and practice Biodanza have a notion of how this system can amplify sensitivity and liberate the interior universe, leading to an intra and interpersonal harmonization. In Toro’s words:
Ever since the beginning of human history, up to the present, man has been performing certain “eternal gestures”. These archetypal gestures appear in bass reliefs, sculptures and paintings of all times. They are gestures of adoration, maternity, reverence, work, intimacy (…) The generating positions of Biodanza generate dances and constitute true gestural archetypes. 
Development of the Classes
Each one of the chief Psychomotricity themes suggested by the literature – Body as Lived, Body as Perceived, Body as Represented, Body Schema, Lateralization, Space, Time, Rhythm, Muscle Tonus, Control, Coordination, and Equilibrium was researched and discussed with the students as to what it suggests in terms of emotional memory and its role in body movement.
For example, the Psychomotricity theme Muscle Tonus suggests the inhibition or liberation of energy to a body part, depending on what this energy or body part symbolically and emotionally means to the person. This person may be hypotonic or hypertonic, depending on mood or character. Often, lack or excess of muscle tonus are related to affective disturbances. Wilhelm Reich showed us how psychological defense and repression create muscular armoring that retains psychological energy and is difficult to remove.
As another example, the Psychomotricity theme Space suggests how the Self sees itself within an internal scenario and within the external scenario, especially in its relationship with others. If I am confident in my relationship toward myself, I will probably be confident in my relationship toward others, and my movements will be free and easy, in their inward and outward projections.
Having these references in mind, a whole class of Biodanza was created for every one of these themes, making it possible for the students to live out several of these possibilities, along a spectrum of inhibition-freedom. Having become aware of these possibilities and of their emotional meaning, it was possible to transform the muscular defenses and repressions into free-flowing energy penetrated by new liberated psychological meanings. Thus, the body in movement, guided by free-will that transcends conditioned behaviors, promoted a change in emotional memory.
In the example of Muscle Tonus above, a special Biodanza class was created to dissolve the defenses that sustain muscular armoring, permitting the students to express all the emotion and energy that have been repressed, liberating them toward the Self and toward others, also preparing them to be more expressive in the daily environment.
In the above example of the Space theme, if I am not confident in my relationships, working this out in a Biodanza class will modify the emotional memory of being in a cramped uncomfortable environment and prepare me to deal with Space with much more freedom and ease. This in fact led the students to a deep lived-out perception of how the body in movement, accompanied by mental understanding and emotional release of repressed energies, could become a powerful healing factor for their personality as a whole.
One Whole Class
The first part of this randomly chosen class is a theoretical discussion on the central theme. The second part is a Biodanza class especially constructed so that the students experience this central theme in the motion of their bodies.
The Body Schema
This concept refers to the inner map of the body as perceived by a person. It is a representation of the body’s spatial properties impregnated with psychological and emotional tones.
In the beginning, the child’s ego is fused with the mother. Little by little it starts to individuate and the mother turns into an object – the 2nd person. With time, enters the father and becomes the 3rd person. In this individuating path, the relationships of the child with himself and with the other will determine how this child sees and acts in the world. If good impressions are formed, the child will act well in the world. On the other hand, if this child acts appropriately upon the world, good impressions will be formed. This a virtuous cycle, but obviously an opposite vicious cycle is also possible.
The instrument for getting to know the self, the other one and the world is the body, be it receptive (sensory), or interactive (motor – the muscles – movement and displacement). So, the child proceeds sensing himself, the other one and the world. And he proceeds interacting with self, the other one and the world. Thus the child forms his Body Schema, within which each part of his body represents some kind of relationship toward the self and toward the other one. For instance, with the hands he can touch the self and the other one; but it is also with the hands that he may conceal, hit and hurt. With the feet he can move in the direction of what is desired or retreat from what is rejected. With the mouth, he can savor a desired object or bite one that is feared or repelled. With the entrails he can incorporate appetizing objects from the world, but with them he can also incorporate disagreeable feelings, rage, fear, anguish and conflicts. With the eyes he can see what is desired but also not see what is unwanted. So it is that each part of the body progressively acquires an image to the self of the child, an image that only he can see and feel.
This is how the child forms his Body Schema, in which each part and the whole are impregnated with positive or negative affectivity. In case the relationship with the self or with the world is positive, this image is positive.
The Body Schema can be clearly seen when the child draws the human figure – at bottom a representation of his own self. For instance, the figure drawn may display hands that are potent – for they are capable of touching and searching important objects or people. Or it may display hands that look like sharp claws – expressing resentment and aggression, or feet that are too small – conceived of as incapable of leading the child to his objectives. Or eyes that are only very narrow slits – half-closed so as not to see what he does not wish to see, maybe also not to be seen. Or a very big nose – perhaps felt as greedy to capture odors that may be forbidden, perhaps aggressive or symbolic of a strong sexuality. Or a very voluminous body, stuck to the ground – felt as too submitted to gravity, to the security offered by the ground. Or a body that is tall and slim – felt as capable of rising to great heights.
It is clear that this map of the body as it is felt is not static, but moving. All that is strong in this image map bears a relationship with potent movements, and vice-versa.
In this class we will experience the Body Schema in several of its possibilities, as it is experienced along life, under different circumstances. And we shall follow a path that is healing of the internal wounds, leading to empowerment and sublimation, in order to improve the Body Schema. This class offers a path to neutralize eventual negative emotions associated to the body, substituting them with positive emotional imprints.
Second part of this class,
the music used in each exercise is in italics
1 – Rolling back in time, until you are a baby – the group constructs a circular tunnel for the participants to go through, caressing them as they pass – Music for Babies – 1 – Las Mañanitas – 3:45
2 – The vision of the mother’s face – babies one day old are able to perceive their mother’s face. This schematic drawing that consists of a circle with two eyes, one nose and a mouth is very important, and it must be pleasurable, bearing a loving expression. In this moment, forming pairs in a circle, we rock each other and exchange affectionate looks, so as to inspire trust – Elvis for Babies 4 – Love Me Tender – 4:12
3 – The vision of own hand / the vision of the mother’s hand / touching affectionately our own hands / touching affectionately the other person’s hands – when 4 months old, the baby finds and follows with his gaze his own and his mother’s hands / he touches what he sees / now I look at my hands, so very used and so scantily watched, with the same love and interest that the baby dedicates to them / next, I watch and follow the hands of others / and then I touch my hands and those of others – The Very Thought of You – Natalie Cole and Nat King Cole – 4:15
4 – Defining his space in the world / the baby interrupts the path of objects – at the age of 7 months, the visual-motor coordination becomes more complex and the baby achieves more interactions with objects and people – Honey Pie – Beatles – 2:10
5 – Tweezing small details, having fun – at the age of 10 months, the baby gets more and more interested in smaller details and starts to master them, becoming able to pick up small objects – likewise let us form couples, one person tweezes details of the other who is a rag doll, moving these details around. And then vice-versa. – Who’s Sorry Now – Traditional Jazz Band – 4:20
6 – Playing with several other challenges, in pairs – at the age of 18 months, the baby walks with ease and performs several other complex movements, under the commands of the facilitator (climb, descend, introduce his body or parts of it in different spaces – Rip it Up – John Lennon – 1:34
7 – Imitating other people / mirror / shadow – at the age of 2 and a half the child starts following his parents’ models, just like most animals – Reserva Especial Eldorado – CD 1 – 14 – Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles – 2:46
8 – Opposition / saying no / asserting identity and possession / setting limits – at the age of 3. This is the moment to mobilize the positive energy with which we can reformulate our emotional memory – Cirque Du Soleil Saltimbanco – 12 – Saltimbanco –– 5:15
9 – Playing rhythmically in pairs – entering another more integrating energy, working on a harmonization of own body with the body of the other person – Rumba Azul – Caetano Veloso – 3:31
10 – Harmonizing within a melody, in pairs – this is when one reconditions the cellular memory within own body, to dialogue affectionately with the other person – Corcovado – Emílio Santiago – 4:05
11 – Relaxing different armored muscle rings, in pairs – this is when one gets in touch with own self in slow motion, under the affectionate touch of a partner / remember Shantala and the massaged babies – Lua, lua, lua – Caetano Veloso – 4:01
12 – Moving around with fluidity, under affectionate touch and care, in pairs – I affectionately touch and stimulate the other person to move with pleasure – Rancho nas Nuvens – Tom Jobim – 4:04
13 – Offering your lap – thus welcomed, the Body Schema reposes and becomes fully recomposed, absorbing the energies of homeostatic equilibrium / the archetypal mother-baby couple is recomposed – Meditation of Thaïs – Jules Massenet – 5:07
13 – All of us rest together in total abandonment, sharing the energies of inner equilibrium – within shared relaxation there is a further dissolution of any leftover armoring, and the Body Schema goes on being benefited – Meditation of Thaïs – Jules Massenet – 5:07 (repeated)
14 – Awakening – getting up and moving on to encounters with others, further healing emotional wounds that were imprinted into body memory – Magie d’Amour – J. P. Posit – 4:43
15 – Final circle celebrating the renewal of the Body Schema – now one parties the happier Body Schema full of more harmonious imprints – Estamos Chegando – Milton Nascimento – 3:35
The results are partial and the system has yet to be perfected. So far, we have the results of two 80 hour semesters, applied to two 2nd semester classes of the Psychomotricity course, within the Dance Department, in Faculdade Paulista de Artes.
It has been ascertained that students have become more aware of the emotional implications in body movement and dance. They have travelled from a very superficial understanding of dance as an external, visual experience, subject to choreographies and techniques, to an in depth understanding of dance as a spontaneous manifestation from the inner universe, a generator of well-being and balance. Another gain derived from this course is the perception that movement can be healed and emotion will concomitantly heal with it. And vice-versa, a perception has been created that emotion can be healed and movement will concomitantly heal with it. More than before, Psychomotricity has emerged as a healing procedure that encompasses mind, emotion and movement.
These results are encouraging and they suggest further investigation of this approach to Psychomotricity, in future classes and research.
 TORO, R. Biodança. São Paulo: Olavobrás, 2005, pp. 33
 ALVES, F. Psicomotricidade: corpo, ação e emoção. Rio de Janeiro: WAK, 2008.
 TORO, R. “O Inconsciente Vital e o Princípio Biocêntrico” in Cadernos do Curso de Formação Docente de Biodança, Sistema Rolando Toro, author’s compiled writings, Copyright Rolando Toro Araneda, 1999, pp 4 and 56.
 URL www.biodanza.org in “Modelo Teórico de Biodança”