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.
After discussing the beginnings of Dance/Movement Therapy and the physical effects of dance in Part I of this series, as well as the emotional and psychological effects of dance in Part II, this third and final issue will highlight the therapeutic effects of dance on a social scale.
Dance has proven to be helpful for those who choose to implement it within their own lives. However, there is another beneficial aspect of dance therapy, which up until now, has not been addressed. Dance is, after all, traditionally a performing art and, as with any performance, there is an audience. One might ask how these performances affect audiences? In the same way that dance affects the dancer, there are several different ways dance can affect viewers. The audience may wish to de-stress and observe a ballet to calm themselves, or they might enjoy the cognitive stimulation that arises when watching complicated footwork. Perhaps they are even looking for emotional release. Any of these circumstances would be an excellent reason to watch a dance performance. Yet, there is something special that occurs when dancers and an audience unite: a community is formed. The crowd is no longer merely a group of spectators; they become emotionally involved. Many times when rehearsing a performance piece, the choreographer will guide the dancers with corrections such as, “Take time here to look at someone,” … “Connect with your audience,” … “What are you communicating?” Just as a piece of music can strike a chord in someone’s heart and produce meaningful tears, so can dance resonate with something inside the individual. Observers can see movement and relate it to something within their own lives. This connection creates an unspoken bond between the dancers and the audience.
There is a plethora of benefits of dance. Improved physical mobility, emotional release, and psychological stability are only a few of these benefits. Dance is a natural kinesthetic response to thoughts, emotions, and external stimuli such as music. Another important influence of dance within a culture is the community created. This desirable bond can be reached through public performances. One need not spend an exorbitant amount of money to take part in dance therapy but can attend performances put on by universities, professional companies, or even get involved in social dances close to home for very little expense. This will also provide support for these departments. Within a university, for example, a dance concert is an excellent opportunity to draw the student body together and give them a reason to relate to one another. Attending events akin to this will broaden the views of those who do not yet dance themselves, as well as give the dancers experience to effectively communicate what they have learned through their movement. If a greater number of people can learn to appreciate this art while the artists learn to share their stories, how much more will that strengthen the bond between “dancer” and “non-dancer,” thus forging unity within an environment? Another example would be social dancing events found within a given city. There are many different organizations that host events such as an evening of swing dance on the weekends. These serve to educate younger generations and aid in social skills – after all, you have to dance with someone – but perhaps most importantly, they draw neighbors, co-workers, and strangers together to form a closely-knit community.
As is seen throughout this series, Dance/Movement Therapy can be an effective tool, firstly, in physical therapy: increasing flexibility, strength, and range of motion in joints and muscles. Secondly, dance can be used in emotional and psychological therapy: promoting self-perception, relieving stress, and even aiding with grief. Thirdly, dance can be practiced as a means of social health: assisting development within a community as well as enhancing social skills. Dance can literally change a life.
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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.
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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.