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.
Part I of this research examined the beginnings of Dance/Movement Therapy (sometimes referred to as DMT) in the early to mid 1900s and the positive physical effects of dance used as therapy for World War II veterans, autistic children, and breast cancer survivors. The benefits from Dance/Movement Therapy are not only physical but can also be emotional and psychological. The emotional and psychological effects will be addressed within this issue.
One experiment performed for patients suffering from anxiety consisted of placing the patients in either a math class, a music class, a modern dance class, or an exercise class. Surprisingly, the dance class proved to be the one that significantly helped to decrease the patients’ anxiety (Devereaux). Dance/Movement Therapy is an effective way to relieve stress, which can manifest itself in many ways within the human body, both physically and emotionally. At some point in time, every person will experience stress in their lives, whether it be from work, school, or relationships. People tend to subconsciously hold tension in their neck or back, which is directly correlated to stress. If left unattended, built up stress can allow for a variety of health problems. These problems can include ulcers, insomnia, and high blood pressure. In some cases, the health effects of stress can become as severe as arthritis and heart disease (Huber 99-100). Dance is an excellent way to release pent up emotions and relax the body.
Since dance is, in itself, very personal and expressive. It is also a way of accessing hidden emotion; in this way it can instigate or advance the process of emotional healing. Jenna Cheung, an Oral Roberts University alumna who studied Dance Performance, presents some examples of how dance affects circumstances in her life. She explains how choreographing a dance allows her to process things within her life and her Christian faith. Cheung is then able to implement these ideas into her piece and finds herself growing closer to God through the process. When asked the reason for her dancing, she replies, “I dance because I don’t want my mind to get in the way of my raw emotions as I communicate” (Cheung). She appreciates how improvisation allows her to express her moods in the moment by creating movement to either compliment or create discord with the music. Cheung shares about an experience in which she recently took part with the dance program at Oral Roberts University: after the loss of one of their dance instructors, a modern dance class at the university learned some of the instructor’s choreography to honor her (Cheung). These movements were the breaking points for some of the students who had not been able to cry or fully process the situation before. Eventually, the motions from the original phrase were taken by each student and were morphed into their own expressions of honor towards their instructor. The emotions released in this class provided needed closure and facilitated community for these grieving students.
Dance/Movement Therapy evidently affects one’s emotional state but it can also affect their psychological state. Looking back at the group of cancer survivors mentioned in Part I of this series, not only did they benefit physically, but in addition, those who took part in a Dance/Movement Therapy class showed improved self-esteem and had an improved self-perception (“Dance”). Since moving one’s body is necessary for dance many people find that as they grow more confident in their dancing it boosts their confidence in the way they look. This is a result of the individuals learning how their body works and gaining an appreciation for how it moves. The bodies of adolescents go through drastic changes within only a few years. Because of this, it is very important for them to be able to move and grow accustomed to their bodies, as well as to learn how to control and coordinate their limbs, core, and muscles through dance (Engelhard). As a result, teenagers who have taken part in DMT tend to have increased stability and assurance in themselves despite the difficult time of adolescence when everything around them, and even within them, is changing.
Some studies show that teenagers suffering from depression have decreased dopamine levels with increased levels of plasma serotonin (“feel good” chemicals) after twelve weeks of Dance/Movement Therapy. This suggests that DMT could even aid in balancing the nervous system. More time and research will be needed to verify this conclusion but there have been several findings that substantiate this idea. A study performed with depressed teenage girls in Sweden in 2006 shows that after only three months of Dance/Movement Therapy their mental health improved (Engelhard). Another study performed at the Wonkwang University in Korea confirms this idea as well. Once again, teenagers were invited to participate in twelve weeks of DMT, at the end, conclusions were drawn that dance can aid in alleviating depression along with other psychological disorders (Devereaux). Unlike some hobbies, there is an aspect of dance that touches every person. It can reach through lost memories, wandering thoughts, and clouded minds. Whether an individual prefers ballet, modern, or hip-hop, there is always a style with which they can identify. The final part of this series will discuss the social effects of dance and how it can benefit you, our readers.
Cheung, Jenna. Personal interview. 7 April 2015.
"Dance Therapy." Dance Therapy. American Cancer Society, 11 Jan. 2008. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.
Devereaux, Christina, Ph.D, BC-DMT. "Why Should We Dance?" Psychology Today. Christian Devereaux, 16 May 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
Engelhard, Einat Shuper. "Dance/Movement Therapy During Adolescence – Learning About Adolescence Through the Experiential Movement of Dance/Movement Therapy Students." Arts In Psychotherapy 41.5 (2014): 498-503. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.
Huber, Fritz. Essentials of Physical Activity. 5th ed. Peosta: Bowers, 2013. Print.
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.