Dance In The Mix welcomes Evangeline Bonin as our first student guest blogger sharing thoughts are research she has been developing during her undergraduate work at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK.
Dance has proven to be an effective and natural tool for physical, emotional, and psychological therapy. In addition, dance can aid in developing social skills. These effects of dance as therapy will be addressed and examined in a three-part series, beginning here with an introduction to Dance/Movement Therapy and its physical effects.
According to the American Dance Therapy Association, Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) is “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual” (“About the American Dance Therapy Association”). Dance therapy first began, due in large part, to a woman named Marian Chace (1896 -1970). After a driving incident damaged her back, Chace’s doctor prescribed dance as part of her physical therapy. Once Chace started dancing, she never stopped. She realized the value of dance and saw a multitude of ways it could be used to impact the lives of those around her and how it could be used to reach the mentally disturbed. The rest of her life was dedicated to discovering how she could help people learn more about themselves through movement. In 1947, Chace became the first full-time dance therapist. In 1942, she was invited to work with St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. Once at the hospital, Chace worked with World War II veterans suffering from psychological problems due to their traumatic experiences. Through dance movement, Chace helped these veterans learn how to cope with life after the war (Chaiklin; Kolcio 92).
When most people hear of dance therapy they think of only the physical effects, such as increased flexibility, coordination, and strength. While there are other benefits from DMT, the physical effects are the most prevalent. Because of this, dance has been used to help children with autism for years. Autism can come in many different forms with varied symptoms; yet, every autistic child will have difficulty interacting and communicating with their peers. Children with autism often become over-stimulated by their surroundings, causing them to become agitated. This is where dance can benefit them. Ballet is an excellent hobby for autistic children because it calms their bodies and allows for a different kind of communication with their classmates: communication through movement instead of words (Webb).
Another example of dance as physical therapy is a study done on women who survived breast cancer. Some of the women took part in a 12-week Dance/Movement Therapy class. By the end of it, they showed improved mobility in their shoulder joints compared to other cancer survivors who did not take a DMT class (“Dance Therapy”). As experienced by the participants within this study, dance is an excellent form of exercise and, as such, gives the benefits of other workouts by lengthening muscles and ligaments as well as gaining strength in those muscles for a greater range of motion, flexibility, and quality of movement. While the physical effects are, indeed, the most commonly recognized results of Dance/Movement Therapy, they are certainly not the only benefits. The next issue will look at the emotional and psychological effects of dance used as therapy.
"About the American Dance Therapy Association." ADTA. ADTA, n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.
Chaiklin, Sharon. "Marian Chace: Dancer & Pioneer Dance Therapist." ADTA. ADTA, n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.
"Dance Therapy." Dance Therapy. American Cancer Society, 11 Jan. 2008. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.
Kolcio, Katja Pylyshenko, Marilynn Danitz, and Margot C. Lehman. "American Dance Therapy Association: Claire Schmais." Branching Out (2000): 89-99. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text. Web. 7 Mar. 2015.
Webb, K. J. "Ballet Serves as Therapy for Those with Autism." GTR Newspapers. Greater Tulsa Reporter Newspapers, 19 Jan. 2011. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.
photo by Nathan Harmon; dancers: Jessica Vokoun & Rachel Bruce Johnson.
PC: Jeanne S. Mam-Luft
It is a simple philosophy here at THE BELL HOUSE; make connections by bringing people together through dance. Art that seeks to defy a fractured view of the world by creating culture that cares for the soul and is concerned with human thriving. For me, it isn’t enough to just make dance for dance’s sake; it is my belief that it is the connective power of people that makes art worth engaging. We do that by taking our interests and talents and challenging the ways we connect them to something tangible in the human experience. It is through these connections and tangibilities that we see the true power of art and dance manifest back to relationships with and through people. In my view, what matters is people; the time and space of making work refract and overlap revealing and creating new possibilities for human connection.