What is dance therapy? by Carl Alleyne
For thousands of years, humankind has been dancing and moving to a rhythm to express different emotions and states.
Although dancing is mostly considered an art form, history and evidence show that it is much more than that.
In many countries and tribes worldwide, dance and movement have been the main part of rituals for healing illnesses, in rituals for birth and death, for worship, and celebration or mourning.
Since the history of humankind can be traced and until this day, dance is used to support the emotional, mental and physical functions of the human body.
Dance is more than an art form, it is a form of self-expression and communication.
This is why I like to talk so much about the Move Creatively Philosophy and why I repeat, time and time again, that dance really did change my life.
The Establishment of Dance Therapy
The philosophy that speaks of dance transcending art form was being developed during the 1930’s and 1940’s. But, dance as therapy was officially established in the 1950’s. To begin with, DMT was established in the US, but soon enough it spread out to Europe (especially United Kingdom) and Australia.
The founder of what today is known as Dance/Movement Therapy or DMT in the US was Marian Chace; a pioneer and legend of dance therapy.
The ADTA (American Dance Therapy Association) was established in 1966, with Marian Chace as the first president. In Australia, the DTAA and in Europe the EADMT were officially established in 1994.
In the UK, DMT is known as DMP or Dance Movement Psychotherapy. DMT programs are done in sessions, usually in surroundings such as schools and clinics.
Dance Therapy can treat a variety of psychological and physical disorders. Recent research studies are showing more and more proof of this. A number of these studies can be found in the “American Journal of Dance Therapy”.
Dance as therapy for children
Dance therapy promotes physical and mental well-being, especially in young children. Dance should be an integral part of a healthy child development program because it teaches children to express their emotions, develop emotional regulation, learn self-expression, gain self-awareness, learn social skills and empathy, and much more.
You can also check out my post on benefits of dance for children where I talk about the experiences that I’ve found through my work and research as a dance and movement coach.
A good number of schools in Greater Boston have realized the value and the therapeutic effects dance has on children. This is why Boston Mobile Dance Studio is present at schools such as the Lexington Montessori School and the Adams Montessori School.
What does dance therapy look like?
A DMT session, as practiced in the US, and approved by the ADTA, consists of 4 stages. These are:
- and evaluation.
Dance therapy sessions are carried out by DMT, certified professionals (Dance/Movement Therapists) who have studied this field in depth. A DMT is qualified not only in dance but also in psychotherapeutic aspects.
DMT looks at the interconnection of the mind and body because when one part of an individual is neglected or abused, imbalances and psychological disorders start to occur.
Individuals are encouraged to express their inner states through a DMT session and the therapist is there to guide and help realize and define behavioral patterns. The end result being self-awareness, clarity, emotional release, and self-confidence.
Effects of dance on the overall well-being
DMT is carried out by professionals in the field, especially in cases of psychological disorders.
But dance as a form of activity, without the psychotherapeutic part in the process, is also extremely useful for the overall well-being of any individual.
Taking part in social dancing and dance classes has a number of positive effects on an individual. In fact, I carried out some research and I interviewed members of the BMDS creative community. Then, my team and I wrote a case study on the move creatively philosophy. The results were very encouraging.
Besides being an emotional and distressing outlet, we found a growing trend of people who look at dance as a tool in self-development. This was a really exciting find for me, as this is what my vision of the Boston Mobile Dance Studio is about. Moving creatively, to live a creative and fulfilled life.