Guest Post: How does Dance Movement Therapy work?


by Eve Chalom (read more from Eve on her blog)

Dance Movement Therapy starts with the base idea that the body and mind are one.  “Body movement reflects inner emotional states and changes in movement behavior can lead to changes in the psyche. . .Helping individuals to regain a sense of wholeness by experiencing the fundamental unity of body, mind, and spirit is the ultimate goal of dance movement therapy” (Dance Movement Therapy, a healing art by Fran Levy, pg 1).  

What I often find is that people with healthy relationships to themselves and others have a naturally comfortable interaction and communication between their conscious and their unconscious mind.  There are different parts of the brain that interact, and some of what we do and think and feel is conscious, and some is unconscious.  With people who have healthy relationships, the unconscious and conscious parts of the brain are communicating all the time and working together well, and not at odds with each other.  Where there are dysfunctional relationships, or what I see as dysfunctional, the conscious and unconscious parts of the brain/mind have a very different relationship.  It is oppositional, or extremely disconnected, and the flow of communicating between the two is disrupted for some reason.  Dance movement therapy is so powerful because it works different parts of the brain at the same time, and works to improve the communication between the conscious and the unconscious parts of the brain/mind.  This has a positive effect on the person’s relationship with him or herself, and with their relationships with other people.

The way dance movement therapy does this is by working both physically and symbolically. When you move in metaphors and symbols, or qualitatively in response to images or music, it taps into the unconscious parts of you.  The conscious mind is invited along for the ride by witnessing the movement and feeling the physical aspects of moving on deeper and deeper levels as you continue the work.  Sometimes, we begin from a physical place, where someone moves their shoulders in different directions, or experiences moving through the room in different directions, or with different speeds.  The person is registering his or her experience, feeling the physical sensations that go along with moving, and noticing what happens and how his or her body responds when he or she make different movement choices.  Other times, we begin from a mental place, starting from an idea or an image and allowing movement to come forth from our imagination.  Last but not least, sometimes we begin from our emotions, which are a combination of physical sensations and thoughts.  We are moved to move, and moved to express.  This is a powerful way in the end to bring together our unconscious desires, thoughts, and feelings that rest inside of us, with our understanding, intellect, and ability to see ourselves.  Clarity is gained through the process, and this helps people on many levels, emotionally, physically, and mentally.  

There are many feelings that are hard to get to through words, and it’s important to have a way to move that leaves enough freedom for all of our emotions.  Dance movement therapy brings together the healing power of the arts, of ritual and dance’s humble beginnings in our ancient ancestors, kinesiology, anatomy, learning how to use the body in more safe and stable ways, and a joy of movement that can be shared with others.   

About Eve: Eve’s interest in movement comes from an extensive background in figure skating and dance. She is a two time world competitor in ice dancing, and spent ten years performing with the Ice Theatre of New York as well as other modern dance companies in New York City. She has undergraduate degrees in English and Philosophy, and a master’s degree in Dance Movement Therapy. Since moving to Chicago, she has been teaching skating and choreographing and performing for the Ice Semble Chicago skating company. She also is an active participant in the local dance movement therapy and contact improvisation communities. In addition to her background in many different types of dance and figure skating, she has experience with many somatic therapies such as Feldenkrais, massage, and Somatic Experiencing, which inform her work.



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