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Archive for August, 2009

I have great respect for the work dance/movement therapists do with all populations, but I am riveted by my colleagues who work in the trenches with victims of war and torture. Without commentary, I simply want to draw your attention to the powerful work that a fellow dance/movement therapist, David Alan Harris, did with child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Please take a few moments, settle in and read of his account.

And/or perhaps you would rather hear him share the story on ABC Radio on the series All in the Mind.

But do take the time to learn about the circumstances of these children; learn how the work of dance/movement therapy reached them.

While David Alan Harris’ use of dance/movement therapy was tailored specifically to the needs of the children as those needs manifested in the moment, the following brochure from the American Dance Therapy Association can give you a little more insight into how dance/movement therapists work with trauma, in general.

DMT-with-Trauma-Info-Sheet

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Ever open a book or click on a link randomly to discover a message that seems precisely written just for you in that moment on that day?

On this particular day I struggled with finding the motivation and energy to fight my way through an overgrown jungle of stressors. After awaking from a three hour nap that was a response to oppressing heat and weight of ongoing stress, I decided to check in on the online writings of my friends and colleagues and “randomly” came across this link through a blog entitled The Somatic Mechanic.

Just prior to my nap (when was the last time I actually took a nap?!?!) I had been mentally beating myself up for not taking contrary action and using this Saturday to dive into my To Do list; I had tried to coach myself (in my mind, unsuccessfully) to not fall victim to the stress that has been the driving pulse of our my family’s life for months now and to Get Things Done.

Such the American perspective, right?
Get Things Done.
Despite.
Whatever.

Sick?
Take a pill to disguise the symptoms. Work through it.

Grieving?
Here, take 3 days. You work will be waiting for you on the 4th day.

Tired?
Drink some coffee. Chop chop. Never mind that consuming caffeine can end up just making you more tired the next day. Whatever you do, DON’T SLEEP. In America, a need for sleep is a sign of the weak and lazy and unmotivated.

Stressed?
Get over it.

Granted, not everyone in our country walks through their daily lives, guided by such a dearth of self-compassion. But even if one is able to carve out space and time for oneself in a self-nurturing way that is contradictory to our cultural paradigm, the fact remains that this paradigmatic pressure exists.

We all know “stress” isn’t good for us for a growing number of reasons. This article from the NY Times, however, illuminates how living in a chronic stressful state actually rewires the brain to make living in that stressful “rut” persistent. Living under constant stress takes its toll on our brains, in such a way that we can lose our ability to make healthy choices in response to it.

Don’t lose all hope though. The plasticity of our brains is miraculous and it is possible, that with a enough time stress-free, the synapses and dendrites in our brain can change and our ability to make healthier decisions can re-emerge.

I read that article and I felt like one of those rats. But what a gift to understand the mechanisms in the brain and how they affect the body and our choices.

And as a dance/movement therapist I understand fully well how the movement of the body, in turn, affects the brain and our choices.

Maybe that three hour nap wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to head to the gym now. My body needs to move and somehow, I just found the energy and motivation to let it.

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How does dance/movement therapy benefit those living with Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease or Autism? What does the research say about the application of dance/movement therapy with trauma or eating disorders? How is dance/movement therapy used with children? The elderly?

These are great questions, readily addressed in two-page flyers created by the Public Relations Committee of the American Dance Therapy Association. There are great photos of dance/movement therapists in action on each sheet, in addition to a summary of the work in that context, along with a short bibliographies documenting current related research. Donna Newman Bluestein, Public Relations Chairperson for the ADTA, has provided easy to follow links to each of these compelling information sheets. Curious? Check them out at her blog: Musings of a Dance/Movement Therapist.

Feel free to read and/or print and share with loved ones or colleagues. Previously these were only available to members of the ADTA as inservice materials but are now accessible for all who are interested in learning more about the work. Pass them on!

(And if you are interested in the use of dance/movement therapy with other populations or diagnoses, just ask. More flyers are in the works and I can always point you in the direction of books and journal articles pertaining to your area of interest.)

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All week – as I’ve navigated my way through personal challenges that Life inevitably throws at us all at one time or another – I have repeatedly found solace and catharsis in my living room by listening to my favorite music, singing loudly and dancing whenever the whim hit me. Within seconds of doing so I could feel the shift starting to happen – the shift of suppressed feelings being stirred and emotions being let out. I could feel, almost on a cellular level, my perspective shifting – with each beat, with each note. Despair dissolving into hope. Futility shapeshifting into possibility. Control releasing into peaceful surrender.

Dancing and singing didn’t make the complications with my house escrow go away but they sure changed my attitude for awhile… and what do we ever really have, truly, but this present moment?

Singing in harmony with the Indigo Girls, belting with Melissa Etheridge, allowing my anatomy to melt and grow and punctuate in time with the music as if my body were just another instrument in the band… none of these particular acts were “therapy” but were they ever therapeutic!

The professional dance/movement therapist works with the inherently healing power of dance and expressive movement within the therapeutic relationship – and the result can feel earth-shattering at times in its poignancy.

But outside of the professional dance/movement therapy session or the music therapy group, we still can tap into our own innate capacity for healing – through music and dance.

What a gift we have within ourselves! Each of us – at any moment – can tap into our innate musician, our innate dancer and transform the moment with creative expression using the most powerful and immediate of artistic instruments: our voices and our bodies. Who cares what it sounds like? (Maybe your downstairs neighbor, but who asked him, right?) Who cares what it looks like?

Perhaps you think that is easy for me to say because, as a dance/movement therapist, I am a dancer first. It’s true. I’ve never been afraid to dance – by myself or in front of others. But singing is another story entirely.

Many years ago I was self-conscious about my singing voice – I had countless friends who were professional caliber singers and I didn’t ever allow myself the pleasure of singing loudly by myself, let alone singing solo in the presence of others. A dear musician friend finally encouraged me, some 15 years ago, to release those insecurities – to sing loudly and often. Despite his encouragement, I still couldn’t sing in front of him and our paths eventually separated; but I took his words to heart and I started singing with great abandon in my car whenever I drove, wherever I drove. Six solo cross-country drives is a lot of time to work up the confidence to sing with abandon! (The trips are another story for another blog!) But what a precious gift he gave me when he told me to release my “cares” and just sing.

So I pass along his kind command: Just Sing.

And I add to it my own addendum: Just Dance.

Let your inner, healing dancing musician reveal a new perspective of the world.

It awaits you on the other side of your favorite song.

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