Mary Starks Whitehouse (1911 – 1979) combined the modern dance movement techniques of Martha Graham and Mary Wigman with Jungian psychology, emphasizing dance as a spiritual and healing experience rather than simply a physical activity or aesthetic performance. She is considered the founder of dance therapy in general and Authentic Movement in particular.
Whitehouse studied psychology at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, and followed Martha Graham and other students of Graham in grounding her understanding of dance in its expression of archetypal patterns, myth, and folklore, as ways of reaching into the collective unconscious. Unlike dancers whose focus was purely on performing, Whitehouse focused on the way the dance affected not just the audience but the dancer, and the way it could be used for healing.
In Graham's technique the dancer moves from her center, but the movement is choreographed. For Whitehouse, Authentic Dance starts from silence and stillness which open a space for movements unfolding out of the deep wisdom of the dancer's own body, often revealing forgotten trauma. Usually, dance therapy sessions are group activities with several participants (or "movers") engaging in this therapeutic movement and a "witness" observing and interpreting.
Authentic Movement can also be a starting point for a certain type of improvisational choreography, and influenced such movements as the Judson Dance Theater of the 1960s.