The Movements, or sacred dances, is one of the foundational forms of the Gurdjieff Work, a unique legacy that he bequeathed, working with T. de Hartmannn to provide the accompanying music , and with J. de Salzmann teaching the Movements to pupils.
The role of the movements is nothing less than to bring attention to the whole person; body, mind and feelings, while maintaining a level of consciousness of one's surroundings-- the teacher's instructions, the other pupils, the music. Gurdjieff taught that we are fragmented; we are not aware of our whole selves, not unified within. In order to have any self-awareness we need this unity, We need to see that we are more than just our thoughts or feelings or activity, and that to rely on just one aspect of ourselves is very limiting. We are challenged by the Movements to find a new way to move, to work with others, to understand the instructions. At the same time the Movements evoke the very unity we are seeking.
Gurdjieff also taught that we do not 'remember ourselves', that is, we do not have a sense of our inner being at the same time as an experience of the outer situation. Generally, we are attracted to the outer, and forget our inner selves. The practice of 'self-remembering' is reinforced through the movements which require both inner and outer awareness.
Movements classes involve a group of participants led by experienced teacher(s). Live music, often piano, is generally an important aspect of a class. While there is no comparable form in other traditions, the practice of yoga or tai chi might come closest.
Jeanne de Salzmann teaching movements
"You ask about the aim of the movements. To each position of the body corresponds a certain inner state and, on the other hand, to each inner state corresponds a certain posture. A man, in his life, has a certain number of habitual postures and he passes from one to another without stopping at those between.
Taking new, unaccustomed postures enables you to observe yourself inside differently from the way you usually do in ordinary conditions."
Gurdjieff-First Talk in Berlin 1921
Gurdjieff’s sacred dances “are not ceremonial rituals, but rather a precise means of self study based on ancient principles and knowledge, quite remote from the contemporary idea of ‘the dance as self expression.’ … These sacred dances are designed to act simultaneously on all three parts of a human being: the mind, feelings and body, and to discover the inner conditions that are necessary for the experience of self awareness.” —Dr. William Welch, former president of the New York Gurdjieff Foundation