Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘nonverbal’

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.

Every.
Time.

~~ 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.

Read Full Post »

More and more press is being devoted to people who are benefitting from the inherently healing power of dance.
A Zumba® Fitness Class

Recently, the Orange County Register reported on a former Laker girl who offers dance classes to cancer survivors.

Another online article highlights the work of a social worker using dance and movement in her work with a boy with Asperger’s syndrome.

It is always inspiring to read about people’s lives being positively affected by dance, whether it is through Zumba® Fitness or in classes taught by former dancers who know from their own personal experiences how healing and cathartic it can be. Dance IS inherently healing.

The pioneers of the profession of dance/movement therapy were also exploring the use of dance as therapy in the 1940s and 1950s, planting the seeds of the modern profession of dance/movement therapy with their respective groundbreaking work with World War II veterans, psychiatric patients and clients seeking deeper self-understanding.

Dance/movement therapy has come a long way as a profession since the American Dance Therapy Association was established in 1966. We have accumulated nearly four decades of published scholarship and dance/movement therapy professionals practice in over 30 countries. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of dance/movement therapists in this country is estimated to increase by 15 percent by 2018. (Source: International Business Times.)

To all the dancers, teachers and therapists impacting people’s lives through dance, I invite you to consider undertaking the training to become a board certified dance/movement therapist (BC-DMT.)

With graduate level training, your skills can benefit from the knowledge that dance/movement therapy scholars, researchers and practitioners have cultivated over 60 years.

Under the tutelage of renown clinicians, you can learn to hone your compassionate instincts into the refined nonverbal and verbal skills of a trained therapist, one who understands thoroughly the nuances of how to best employ dance and movement to facilitate healing.

Dance/movement therapy group. (Photo courtesy of ADTA.)

Dance does heal. Yes! Absolutely! It is therapeutic, cathartic, empowering! Dance has been a healing force in communities since time immemorial.

The practice of true clinical dance/movement therapy (DMT), however, is a complex and nuanced one, involving graduate level understanding of all of the following:

psychological theory
human development
multicultural perspectives
group process
behavioral research
psychopathology, psychodiagnosis and assessment skills
dance/movement therapy theory
expressive & communicative aspects of verbal & non-verbal behavior
movement observation and analysis
human anatomy, kinesiology, and basic neuroscience
and clinical applications of DMT with individuals, families & groups
(Source: ADTA.org)

Even though DMT has been an organized profession since 1966, many people exploring the therapeutic use of dance today feel they are creating something “original” and pioneering a new path.

One truth is these paths were actually pioneered decades ago…

Marian Chace: a pioneer of modern day dance/movement therapy.

AND, yet, another truth is that, in fact, we are ALL STILL pioneers.

Dance/movement therapy graduate students at Drexel University

Dance/movement therapists belong to a community of trailblazers that have been on the cutting edge of mind/body medicine since the mid 20th century. However, in a population of over seven billion people, it is hard to hear the voices of less than two thousand dance/movement therapists dispersed around the globe.

But, the number of voices is multiplying. Adding to the chorus, amplified by the power of the internet, are an even greater number of voices proclaiming throughout the world that dance and movement is helping them cope – with cancer, with Parkinson’s disease, with depression, with autism, with Life. If you are a person who is helping others express their emotions through dance or cope through dance… we need you and you need us.

I remember reading once that, by flying in a V formation, geese can fly 71% farther than if they were flying individually. This happens because each flap of the birds’ wings creates an uplift for the birds that follow.

Your flock awaits.

I invite you to learn more about the profession of dance/movement therapy and consider it as a career option. For those of you who already have a Master’s degree in a mental health related field, you can pursue board certification via alternate route training or pursue a PhD in dance/movement therapy. For those of you in the midst of your undergraduate schooling, you might want to take a closer look at these graduate schools offering Master’s degrees in dance/movement therapy. (Note that if relocation to one of the seven graduate programs is not possible for you, alternate route training is also an option.)

Together, let’s grow the research, the scholarship, and practice of dance/movement therapy so that all might understand its efficacy and have access to the healing inherent in dance.

Read Full Post »

This is the question every dance/movement therapist gets – often.

For many people, “dance” is associated with ballet and tutus… or jazz hands and pom poms… or grinding on the nightclub floor. How would that way of moving be a psychotherapy, they wonder. While each of those dance expressions (and dozens more) are valid in their own right, they are not to be expected in a dance/movement therapy session.

One of the challenges of actually showing people what DMT looks like is the fact that DMT is done with patients and clients, not students. There are HIPAA privacy laws and rules of confidentiality and ethical considerations. Dance/movement therapy is a psychotherapy and crucial to the success of any therapy session is an atmosphere of psychological safety – a “safe space” within which to explore thoughts, feelings and the unconscious. A video camera with a red, glowing light does little to engender that feeling of safety.

But once in awhile, permission is granted to video and the resulting footage can go a long way to shedding light on our work.

Below is one such video.

Dr. Lori Baudino, a clinical psychologist and board-certified dance/movement therapist, pioneered the development of the first dance/movement therapy program at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. (I have also had the distinct pleasure of serving alongside Dr. Baudino on the Board of Directors for the California Chapter of the ADTA.)

In this video, Dr. Baudino explains how she uses dance/movement therapy, one on one, with children in the hospital. The footage might surprise you – the work is subtle. She comments about this, too, in her narrative. There are wonderful clips of Dr. Baudino establishing and building relationship with the children through attuning to their movements. Interspersed with the clips, she explains what she does.

Key to dance/movement therapy (as opposed to a dance class or a Zumba™ class) is the therapeutic relationshiop that exists between therapist and client. All movement expression that occurs does so within that relationship. Movement communicates. Dance communicates. The dance/movement therapist is uniquely trained to understand that communication, facilitate it and deepen it.

Surprised by anything in the video? Curious? Intrigued? Feel free to comment and I’m happy to continue a dialogue or answer any of your questions.

Also, if you’d like to read more about the use of dance/movement therapy in the medical field, the current President of the ADTA, Dr. Sherry Goodill, has written a comprehensive book on the subject: An Introduction to Medical Dance/Movement Therapy – Healing in Motion. It’s an amazing feat of scholarship. If you’d like to take a look inside her book, click here.

Read Full Post »

March 20-26, 2011 is National Creative Arts Therapy Week!

In celebration of dance/movement therapy and other creative arts therapies, I pledge to post often this week, shining light on my esteemed colleagues all over the world who are facilitating healing through the creative arts.

Creative arts therapy modalities include dance/movement, drama, music, poetry, and art.

I have had the privilege of working with music therapists (both bachelor’s level and master’s level therapists) at various psychiatric hospitals. Some of my most memorable groups have been those that were co-facilitated with a music therapist, where not only the movement but also the live music itself were sculpted by both of us in constant collaboration, in response to what the patients were expressing in the moment.

In celebration of my friends and colleagues who are music therapists, I would like to bring your attention to an independent film that is making its way across the country right now. The Music Never Stopped, an official 2011 Sundance selection, stars Julia Ormond (as a music therapist!) and is based on a true story.  The music therapist character is loosely based on a pioneer music therapist, Dr. Concetta Tomaino, who is now the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function.  In this press release, Dr. Tomaino speaks about the evidence based applications of music therapy:

“For example, with someone who has memory problems, particularly with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, we will use music of personal importance. Those emotions are then connected to deep memories that we can attempt to retrieve as they are exposed to that specific music. We also use rhythm to help people with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, or a stroke, to help people regain their ability to move, as well as a singing protocol that we use for people with strokes to help them regain the ability for speech. We’re using music in ways to reach people on a deep, clinical level.

…Something as simple as a beat or rhythm can stimulate and coordinate movement. The more complex the sound stimuli are, the more neurological functions are activated. If you think of networks in the brain being excited one network at a time, the more complex the sound that is stimulating those networks, the more heightened the response.”

As music and rhythm are also integral to dance/movement therapy (though not always used) the observations Dr. Tomaino speaks of are also seen in dance/movement therapy groups with these same populations.

The healing power of music and movement and rhythm and embodied awareness/expression is profound. I am so proud to be a part of the dance/movement therapy profession and the greater creative arts therapy community. We are all pioneers!

Here’s to a week of celebrating the work of creative arts therapists everywhere!

More to come….!

(And in the meantime, why not catch a flick? Watch the movie trailer for The Music Never Stopped here. Perhaps it’s at a theatre near YOU.

Read about a music therapist’s perspective on the movie here.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Kudos to both TimesUnion.com for publishing a story on the power of dance/movement therapy with autism and to Paul Grondahl for writing it.

"Dance movement therapist Rachelle Smith-Stallman works on developing trust with 4 year old Emil Bouget as he touches her eye, during a session at his home in Albany, on Tues, Oct 19, 2010. Bouget is autistic," according to Paul Grondahl in the October 23, 2010 timesunion.com. (Philip Kamrass/Times Union)

Parents of children diagnosed with autism are eager, desperate even, for interventions and therapeutic modalities that will help them connect with their child. Dance/movement therapy, over time, has helped many.

Grondahl’s article describes the impact of dance/movement therapy on a child with autism. I recommend reading it, but must do so with one caveat. I must differ with the reference made by Janine Cruiswijk to art and movement therapies as being “new” and “slowly becoming more accepted and mainstream.” Dance/movement therapy is hardly new; rather, dance/movement therapists have been pioneers of the mind-body interface for over five decades and have been acknowledged by federal and state agencies for almost as long, in research, funding, and licensure. The process that remains “slow,” tragically, is the public’s AWARENESS of our profession as a whole and the UNDERSTANDING of this psychotherapeutic modality that makes the body and its power to nonverbally communicate central to healing and deepening relationship. The tragic result of this lack of awareness is that reimbursement from insurance companies is not yet available in all places.

But every story helps spread awareness. With awareness comes the potential for understanding and, eventually, broader accessibility for those interested in DMT services but unable to pay for them out of pocket.

To her credit, Cruiswijk, the executive director of the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, does note that dance/movement therapists are “highly trained therapists.” Indeed, dance/movement therapists are required to have a Master’s degree and thousands of hours of supervised clinical intern hours before being able to practice privately. (To read more on dance/movement therapy education and training, click here.)

Though I, personally, have never worked with children with autism, I know of many colleagues who do and the stories of connection and relationship will amaze you.

Here is one. Enjoy.

“Autistic Boy Makes Joyful Moves”

(As you watch the video footage, you’ll note instances of “mirroring,” a dance/movement therapy technique that helps communicate empathy and build therapeutic rapport. Mirroring and nonverbally reflecting the essence of another’s movement is both subtle and complex, never as straightforward as simply “doing what the other is doing.” But in this footage you can see a few examples of the dance/movement therapist building the nonverbal relationship in this manner. Additional still photos can be seen here.)

More on dance/movement therapy with autism, including research articles and books, can be read in this DMT-with-Autism-Informational-Sheet published by the ADTA.

Read Full Post »

It is always a delight to hear of a colleague’s work being recognized in the media. Recently, Allison Winters, BC-DMT, was recognized for her work with veterans at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in Bronx, New York. She works as part of the interdisciplinary Community Living Center treatment team that includes social workers, dieticians, doctors, nurses and others, all collaborating to meet the unique needs of each veteran and his or her family.

Allison is not alone; dance/movement therapists work at VA hospitals across the nation, helping veterans express feelings nonverbally that are too difficult to share with words.

In California, dance/movement therapists have also been working with veterans for years but, without an additional degree, have been limited to working in the VA hospitals under the department of “Recreation Therapy,” a title that does not recognize the master’s level education of DMTs. However, with the passage of SB 788 by the state legislature in the fall of 2009, that has changed. SB 788 established the licensure of professional clinical counselors. (Surprisingly, California was the LAST state in the nation to license professional counselors; it was a long, hard-fought battle to get California up to speed with the rest of the country on this matter.)

One benefit of SB 788 passing, specifically to veterans, is that California will soon be able to take advantage of federal funding that was earmarked to provide vital counseling services to veterans in VA hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs.)

Dance/movement therapists’ graduate level training is on par with the stringent educational and clinical requirements requisite to become an LPCC in California and, as such, DMTs will be able to work throughout the state in departments hitherto denied them without an additional marriage and family therapy or social work license.

More California veterans will be able to benefit from working nonverbally and from acknowledging the body that stores their trauma.

To read more about Allison’s work, click here .

To read more about the importance of the body in healing from trauma, download this pdf.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »