Dance Movement Therapy is a form of art therapy. Patients are directed to express their inner feelings through dance movement, and this is thought to bring about healing from disease and trauma. Sometimes through verbal dialogue deep seated negative emotions will elude a therapist, but through Dance Movement Therapy it is thought that emotion may be more readily expressed. Under Dance Movement Therapy, the body and mind are inseparable entities. Psychological issues are brought out to the physical level.
Dance Movement Therapy is used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, day care centres and counselling centres.
Marian Chace, who was born in 1896 and lived to the age 74, is considered a founder of modern dance movement therapy. Although she formally studied dance and choreography, she became heavily influenced by the ideas of renowned psychologist, Carl Jung. Chace developed ideas about the therapeutic possibilities of dance and educated in hospitals and schools.
It was in the 1960s that she founded a program for dance movement therapists in New York. The American Dance Therapy Association was founded in 1966 with Marian Chace as its first president.
Today, the American Dance Therapy Association promotes the highest standards of education and practice in the field of Dance Movement Therapy. It publishes the American Journal of Dance Therapy. The American Dance Therapy Association has over a thousand members, with international members spanning the following countries: Canada, Australia, Argentina, France, England, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Korea, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and The Netherlands.
A Dance Movement Therapy session normally begins with a warm up so that the muscles can loosen up. Therapy usually incorporates music but it doesn’t have to. The practitioner does not directly set the theme for the session; the mood of the dancers plays out in their movements and the practitioner will attempt to guide this so to produce maximum benefit for all participants. If patients feel like speaking while they dance, they are encouraged to do so; the practitioner will then challenge the dancers to incorporate these verbalised feelings into their dance movements.
There are a wide variety of people who may benefit from Dance Movement Therapy. Persons experiencing emotional conflicts, problems or distress, are prime examples of people who might benefit from the treatment. Dance Movement Therapy can be of assistance to people wishing to enhance their personal communication skills, as, by communicating non-verbally within a group of dancers, people become more in tune with what they wish to express. Some people may have experienced trauma in their lives, which they suppress emotionally but still carry with them in their physical body; dance movement therapy can help these people to release themselves from the burden of past trauma. If a person cannot speak verbally, for instance, if they may have suffered serious injury to their tongue, then it is through dance movement therapy that they can express their feelings and be free of their inner-burden. People without specific problems that they can point to, who feel that something is not right, can benefit greatly from Dance Movement Therapy, as the issues that elude their conscious mind are able to emerge though the free physical movement generated by the therapy.
Benefits of Dance Movement Therapy include: increasing self-awareness; experiencing links between feelings, thoughts and actions; expressing powerful feelings and actions; maximising the ability to communicate; testing the consequences of free expression on others; managing the feelings that obstruct learning; the development of trusting relationships.
Also read about Chakradance for an alternative type of dance healing.