Archive for the ‘elderly’ Category

This week (July 23-28) DanceAdvantage.net invites the world to participate in a social media based campaign united on the importance of dance: “Why Dance Matters.”

My dance/movement therapy colleague, Donna Newman Bluestein, has done this exquisitely well in her blog, Musings of a Dance/Movement Therapist. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read her post. You can bet I will be quoting her words for a long time.

I, however, am finding it harder to describe the power of dance as she has, so summarily and eloquently. My response seems to be emerging in vivid memories – moments that have stood the test of time over the decades and remain in my consciousness, reminding me of the power of dance to enliven, to connect, to pierce isolation. To express – joy, grief and everything in between. To not only encode memory but also evoke it.

If only I could provide a YouTube link to these unforgettable moments etched in my bodymind. Alas, I will attempt to rely on clumsy and inefficient words to describe what dance does so effortlessly. (Ah yes, how could I forget that one: dance communicates. Dance communicates what even the most skilled wordsmiths can only silhouette.)

And so, I offer these mere silhouettes and hope they do some justice in verbally conveying what was first experienced, so perfectly, nonverbally.

~~ Why Dance Matters ~~

As I reflect on these words, one of the first images that floods my mind is that of me dancing the Two Step with my grandfather and the Schottische with my grandmother at rural community dances when I was a young child. My grandfather passed decades ago and my grandmother is now an amazing and vibrant 90. Those moments of physical touch, of loving gazes from twinkling eyes, of our laughing and moving together will always remain in my heart and bring joy and comfort to me all my life. To have danced with my grandparents…

~~ Why Dance Matters ~~

Every week I enter a room at some psychiatric hospital, prepared to lead a dance/movement therapy group with inpatients who are in crisis. As I enter, I witness withdrawal, disconnection, paralytic depression, isolative preoccupation. Often those with thought disorders are talking to themselves or imagining some delusional yet terrifyingly real threat to their personhood. Attempts at facilitating a group discussion are. . . well, mere attempts. Focus, interaction, listening, organized verbal expression: all these things are nearly impossible to facilitate amongst such a diverse group of individuals challenged with such severe psychiatric symptoms.

But the dance…

The music plays and an ever-surprising, inspiring and magical dance emerges that I feel blessed to witness and partake in every time. I never know how one patient will respond or who will be inspired by whose movement to express themselves in what way. But they do: Respond. Interact. Dance. Sometimes alone, almost always, eventually, with each other as one group. Maybe the group cohesion is only for a few moments but those moments are gold. The voices quiet (or at least are ignored for a bit), the isolation melts, joy – that ever elusive joy – is felt, embodied and expressed. Or perhaps there is sadness and despair or anger – but these feelings are permitted, embodied, symbolized, expressed. People are accepted for who they are and embraced. Nonverbally the dance says We are all welcome here and we have something to say and we shall say it with our bodies.
Every time. It is both commonplace and miraculous.


~~ Why Dance Matters ~~

Elsie. *

Eighty-something, she lived alone in an apartment in an enriched housing apartment complex. I did a portion of my dance/movement therapy internship there after grad school. Elsie would never leave her apartment for activities. In fact, she wouldn’t even leave for meals, often insisting the meals be brought to her apartment where she dined alone. But all I had to do was knock on the door and say “Elsie, there is a dance downstairs. Would you like to dance?” Her eyes would come alive with a fire and a joyous anticipation.

Well, let me just change my shoes…

She was the belle of the ball every time, even if our “ball” was only a circle of folding chairs in the tv room in the middle of the afternoon. She was there to dance.

And did she dance.

~~ Why Dance Matters ~~

There are so many other stories. . . patients frozen physically with severe Parkinson’s disease coming alive with dance like the Wizard of Oz’ Tin Man with his precious oil. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease – withdrawn, unable or uninspired to speak or connect– sharing stories with the group as their spontaneous dance movements evoke memories long since forgotten.

Every day I dance with someone there is a new story.

I cannot imagine my life without dance. I only began dance studio training when I was 16 but I’ve been a dancer in my heart since I was old enough to walk. I am not the most technically trained dancer but I am no less a dancer.

We are ALL dancers.

Donna, so brilliantly, writes in the above-mentioned post that

“While it is true that not every one feels comfortable dancing, it is only because of limiting cultural beliefs. If we taught otherwise, it would be otherwise.”

We ARE all dancers.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I have never known as much joy and aliveness as I have when I am dancing – on the musical stage, in the club, in my living room, in a Zumba class, with a lindy hop partner. I have never been so in the present moment as when I am in my dance. And now, as a dance/movement therapist I get to witness and experience the meaningful and, yes, at times life-changing impact of dance on my clients.

Dance is inherently healing – it always has been.

Why does dance matter?

Because it DOES.

We move in the womb. Our hearts beat a pulse. We respond to rhythm as babies with joyous movement even before we can walk. We only stop completely moving in this world when our lungs no longer inflate and our hearts stop beating.

To be alive is to move.

To dance is to be alive.

That is why dance matters.

(You can share your own reflections on Why Dance Matters on Twitter. Just use the hashtag #whydancematters. Also check out the Why Dance Matters Facebook page or the Why Dance Matters website for more ideas on how to get involved in this important campaign.)

* Name has been changed.


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Wouldn’t that be something?

This question will be explored in depth at my upcoming presentation, Gene Expression and Neuroplasticity: Implications for Dance/Movement Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease, at the American Dance Therapy Association’s 2010 Conference: Creating the Mind-Body Mosaic: Theory, Research and Practice in Dance/Movement Therapy.

For a sneak peak at what we’ll be discussing and learning through movement exploration, here’s the abstract from my conference paper – the entirety of which can be obtained through attending the conference or by direct purchase from the ADTA:

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to continue to grow and change in response to new experiences throughout the life span. Evidence supports that plasticity declines as we age and that this deterioration precedes the more commonly recognized pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease, including plaques and tangles. Research also supports that certain types of physical, sensory and social experiences can maintain brain plasticity and increase neurogenesis. Building on the anecdotal and clinical literature that supports the use of dance/movement therapy with individuals with dementia, this workshop introduces Ernest Rossi’s concept of “psychosocial genomics” and integrates the language of neuroscience to more concretely explain what can happen on a molecular level during a DMT session and why that may be particularly significant in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (Wilson-Mau, 2010).

The impact of widespread implementation of interventions that prevent and delay progression of Alzheimer’s disease is profound, according to the calculations of the Alzheimer’s Association (2010). If, by the year 2015, we could universally implement an intervention that delays onset of Alzheimer’s disease a mere five years, we would reduce the number of Americans with the disease in 2050 by almost 50%. Calculations also project that an intervention universally implemented by 2015 that simply slowed the progression of the disease would reduce the number of Americans in 2050 living in the severe stage of the disease (and requiring most care) BY NEARLY 80%!.

While Alzheimer’s disease is a very complex neurodegenerative disorder that needs continued study, there is much research that already points to the power of dance (and, in turn, dance/movement therapy) to confront its threat. Collaborations between dance/movement therapists and neuroscientists are absolutely necessary – NOW – to bring the attention of the world to the profound healing power of something so simple and accessible to us all: DANCE.

For a look at the complete list of workshops being offered Sept 23-26 at the conference in Brooklyn, click here.


Wilson-Mau, L. (2010, September). Gene Expression and Neuroplasticity: Implications for Dance/Movement Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease. Paper to be presented at the American Dance Therapy Association Conference, Brooklyn, NY.

Alzheimer’s Assocation. (2010). Changing the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease: A national imperative. Washington, DC.

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Course Title: Dance/Movement Therapy with Seniors

30 Continuing Education Hours for LMFTs, LCSWs, and Dance/Movement Therapists.
Also partially fulfills alternate route education requirements for dance/movement therapy students.

Offered by
The Center for Movement Education and Research

January 9,10, 2010 – Scripps College — Claremont CA
February 13,14, 2010 – Pomona College –Claremont CA
9:00am – 5:30pm

This dance/movement therapy theory, practice and application course will cover the specific developmental needs of seniors and the dance/movement therapy skills pertinent to working with this population age group. The course content will focus on physical, psychodynamic, psychopathological, and enculturating factors impinging on the later years of human development. Students will be exposed to various clinical concepts of dance/movement therapy viewed within a developmental framework that are pertinent to selected late adulthood populations, including clinical disorders of late adulthood and, the types of somatic transference/countertransference issues that might be encountered.

This course has been approved by the American Dance Therapy Association as meeting the Alternate Route Requirements for the R-DMT credential” and satisfies 30 hours of DMT Theory and Practice Training.

This course meets the qualifications for 30 hours of continuing education credit for MFTs and/or LCSWs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (Provider #3888). Students taking the class for continuing education are excused from the required assignments other than attendance and participation.

Course Objectives:
1) Students will develop an understanding of the developmental needs, tasks and challenges presented when working with various senior populations.
2) Students will develop a basic understanding of dance/movement therapy assessment and application of dance/movement therapy interventions as they apply to various senior populations.
3) Students will learn interventions through which to facilitate an individual or group dance/movement session for various senior populations.
4) Students will be able to design and facilitate a dance/movement therapy session for seniors that is developmentally sound and takes into account the unique developmental, physical, emotional, psychological and cognitive needs of seniors.
5) Students will conclude the class with a beginning level awareness of dance/movement therapy processes and techniques utilized in working with seniors.

Scripps College
Richardson Dance Studio
1030 Columbia Ave
Claremont, CA 91711
Pomona College
Pendleton Dance Center, Studio 16
210 East 2nd Street
Claremont, CA 91711

Course Fee: $750.00

Course Instructor: Gabrielle Kaufman MA, BC-DMT, NCC
is a CMER faculty member, dance/movement therapist and counselor with close to twenty years experience in the helping profession. She has taught creative movement to preschoolers and elementary school students, has used DMT with the elderly, Holocaust survivors, adults with mental illness, individuals with eating disorders and body image issues, with teens at high risk and other individuals suffering from anxiety and depression.
Currently, she is the coordinator of the New Moms Connect Program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. She has run several programs for high risk children and teens in both English and Spanish languages, taught classes to parents of newborns and toddlers, and runs support groups for single parents, women with eating disorders and women with perinatal mood disorders and with seniors. She is a coordinator with Postpartum Support International and has a private practice in Los Angeles.

For Information and Application Contact:
Judy Gantz-CMER Director
POB 2001
Sebastopol, CA 95473

(310) 477-9535

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A recent report has demonstrated that health care costs may actually DECREASE when arts are incorporated into health care settings. Some of the benefits for the patients include shorter hospital stays and a need for less medication. Benefits for the employees include increased satisfaction on the job and greater job retention, especially with nursing staff.

These findings and more are reported in the 2009 State of the Field Report for ArtsInHealthcare. A 33 page document, this report highlights the researched benefits of all forms of art, be they incorporated into the institutional setting itself or conducted bedside with the patients. You can read about the benefits of visual images, poetry, art, journaling, music, drama, dance and more.

Some of the featured studies pertaining specifically to dance/movement therapy in health care included the benefits to patients with breast cancer, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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How would YOU describe “dance?”

Anna Halprin has always said it is “the breath made visible.”

What a profound image…

As I sit here, cognitively pondering her words, I have given myself permission – even whilst sitting at my desk with my fingers poised above the keyboard – to explore its meaning on an embodied level. So I pause, even in this 21st century confined computer-oriented posture, and breathe. I watch my chest rise and expand forward with the inhalation and then sink in the exhaled sigh in such a way that my shoulders follow and my spine curves toward the back of my chair. I play with my breath – changing the force, the speed, the depth – and allow my body to dance to its own music.

To say “the breath made visible” is poetic but the rhetoric is superficial until you actually feel kinesthetically what she means.

Just try it.
Breathe. Now.

Give yourself the gift of focusing on nothing else but your body right now in this moment: breathe. And as you breathe, simply observe how your body responds – it is already moving, already dancing in its own subtle, glorious way.

What if you let that ever so subtle movement, that occurs hundreds, even thousands of times daily, grow just a bit. Expand just ever so little. What if you let that breath gently guide your body… to grow, shrink, undulate, collapse.

Watch your breath – made visible – become your dance and give yourself permission to explore – not knowing where you’re going or what the next moment will look like.

I write of Breath Made Visible tonite because I just became aware of a breathtaking and powerful documentary by that very name that will be in theatres very soon. Breath Made Visible is a full length feature film about the life and prolific work of Anna Halprin – a living pioneer in modern dance and in the expressive arts healing movement.

It is very rare that dance is captured well in film – and even more rare that dance/movement therapy is.

Even in such a short trailer, the cinematographer really captures the essence of Anna Halprin’s spirit and the evocative power of even the most subtle movement. Because I work with the elderly, I particularly loved seeing the footage of what appears to be at least a hundred elders dancing in their chairs on the grass, in the open air – expressing themselves through breath and movement as one. The trailer is brilliant – a mere taste of what will most certainly be a delicious visual experience in its entirety.

Watch the trailer. Then look for the film in your city. A colleague of mine who is a long-time student of Anna Halprin was present at its premiere and declares it is not to be missed.

While you wait for the film opening, you can learn more about Anna Halprin here, in her own words, and of her work at the Tamalpa Institute.

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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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