Somatic Revelations Ty Tedmon-Jones' blog devoted to information sharing, professional practices and diversity awareness & multiculturalism in the fields of Dance/Movement Therapy and Professional Counseling
The Dance to DTR Blair Cronin's blog on the wonders, trials, and tribulations of becoming a certified dance/movement therapist in California
The New Mexican mountains are vast and beautiful, far beyond my capacity to capture adequately with my iPhone camera. Traveling in the Southwest desert reminds me of a summer many years ago when I was studying Creative Dance with Barbara Mettler in Tucson, AZ. It was my 2nd summer studying with Mettler, and she was not in a very good mood. The saving grace was hanging out with fellow students, spending free time with Norma Canner and Elizabeth McKim. The image of this native American woman below and her expansive gesture from this poster in the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque reminds me of a well-known image of Norma Canner in another poster, the cover of the dvd of Norma's life and work, A Time to Dance.
Spending the day in this part of the world, I am greatly inspired by the art of Georgia O"Keefe, some of the fabulous rugs by weavers such as Esther Silentman, pottery by Nampeyo, and Apache basketry in the shop called Native Jackets on the Square, and the photography of the Southwest and African safaris by R. David Marks.
Norma Canner loved the Southwest. Her clothing style was influenced by Native peoples. She loved dancing outside in nature and even more so in her later years.
In this photo you can just see my head peaking out to the left of Myron Sharaf, biographer of Wilhelm Reich in what is considered the definite biography, Fury On Earth.
On this, the last day of Creative Arts Theray week 2015, I feel so very blessed to have followed my path to becoming and practicing as a dance/movement therapist these past 36 years. The arts can be a way to allow the powerful energy received from communing with Mother Nature to flow through one.
I've heard it said that the devil is in the detail
God is in the detail.
Thus it behooves us to make our choices wisely. Dance is a moment by moment choice in details brought from the choreographer's vision to dancers' actions.
If you are in the Cambridge, MA area, come see Back Pocket Dancers perform in our infrequent public performance, Thursday, April 23, 7:30pm at the Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St. E. Cambridge. Here's an image from our latest rehearsal.
Our concert, HERE AT LAST, was awarded a grant from the Cambridge Arts Council. The grant also supports an invitation-only matinee (April 22) we're doing for elders from various Cambridge elder venues! Both shows will be terrific and will be premiering a new dance choreographed by Molly Hess as well as other dances from our repertoire. Don't miss it!
I heard from Magdalena Schamberger, Chief Executive & Artistic Director of Hearts & Minds of the new documentary style film called Hearts & Minds : Behind the Nose. You can see the film here. The film offers insight into the development of the characters of the clowns as well as the affect of this positive programming. At 18:28, begins the part about Elderflowers. Professor June Andrews, Director, Dementia Services Deveopment Centre, clarifies that what Hearts & Minds clowns do is not just entertain, but more importantly, finds out what's important to the residents.
Andrews also speaks of researchers often measuring the wrong things when trying to the assess the affects of a program on a person with dementia. Even though the person may not remember what they did, they have a sort of happy hangover. I love that description, as it certainly fits my experience. In fact, yesterday, sadly, I had an experience of contributing to a person's cross hangover. When I wasn't looking, a lovely woman had folded up my playlist and I could see the tiniest bit of it peaking out of her pocket. When I playfully asked if I might see what she had there, pointing to her pocket, she immediately became irritated and left the group. She came by after the group was over and although she didn't seem to remember me, she expressed feeling disgruntled and walked away muttering and calling me names. The experience left me curious if a different approach might have worked, or if my usual ignoring is the only best response.
On another UK front, unfortunately Inside Out of Mind, a play by Tanya Myers about the experience of dementia care will be playing in the UK after I am no longer there. The description looks very enticing:
Touching minds and hearts, nurses and patients search for love, rhyme and reason on ‘the ward with no name’. Dancing inside out and outside in, the play moves between multiple realities where time and identity drift apart.
Anything that helps us bridge the worlds between ourselves and those who perceive the world differently would certainly be helpful. And, of course, that would be anyone who isn't us.
One audience member in 2013 wrote: “Compelling performances from a strong cast powerfully invoke understanding of just how important it is to see people with dementia as individuals with rich life experiences. Everyone should see this deeply moving play”.
You can download the flyer here: Download IOOM Flyer If you see the play, please comment or write and let me know what you discovered. I'd love to let people know more.
It will be fitting for me to offer this workshop in Tokyo this coming Valentine's Day, 2015. I am posting the flyer in Japanese. I hope to offer one translated into the English at some point soon as well.
Thanks to Sue Lembeck-Edens, Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist and Licensed Massage Therapist for sending me this essay by Yu-Rong Gao, PhD grad student in neuroscience. Yu-Rong participated in some of Sue's DMT groups and initiated a group for the nursing home residents. The essay below is her way of sharing this experience. I am including it in toto.
Dance Evoked Memories: A Dance Practice as a Neuroscientist Yu-Rong Gao
Voluntary locomotion promptly increases neural activity and local cerebral blood flow in certain brain regions, which is the subject I, a neuroscience PhD student, study at Penn State. At the same time, I am a Ballet, Modern and Chinese Classical dancer and practice dance on a daily basis. Personally, I love dance, because it helps me forget sad things and recall good memories. This summer, I volunteered in a Dance/Movement therapy group under the guidance of Sue Lembeck-Edens, BC-DMT, in a local nursing home at State College, PA. I wanted to experience what Dance Therapy was like with older individuals. After several weeks of initial observations in a morning stretch session at the facility, I came up with a dance project for the residents to diversify their daily exercises with dance moves and music. At the same time, I wanted to see how dancing will help with social interaction for the elderly. The main idea of this project was to create a dance by working together with the residents and using dance as a way for people to relate to one another. With some discussion and helpful suggestions from Sue, we decided our dance theme was ‘Summer Memories’ since we would dance three months throughout the summer. We came up with some simple movements, dance combinations, and group activities to encourage the participation. These became the dance frame. In addition, we found some poems about summer to evoke participants’ memories about summertime.
For 8 weeks, there were about six residents who attended the group. The residents are in their 70s-80s, all in wheel chairs. Most of them have age-related dementia (memory loss, trouble to focus and pay attention) of varying degrees and need 24-hour skilled nursing care. The Therapeutic Recreation staff chose the residents for the group based on their knowledge of the resident’s interests and abilities.
Each group session started with introductions and warm-up exercises done specifically to activate the major muscle groups and open joints. As their bodies relaxed and opened through movement, the residents gradually got to know the leaders and opened up about their summer memories. The highlight of the dance came with everybody sharing one of his/her most memorable things about summer and then creating a series of dance movements to narrate the story again with body language. Here are some of the memories and the movement people shared during the group: Mike: “I remember teaching tennis to kids and adults.” Mike actually taught us some upper body movements like a tennis serve; tossing the ball up with one hand and striking it downward with the other as he did when he was a tennis coach.
Pat: “I lived on the water. I personally like sailing. My sailboat was red. We had races. There was room for 2 people in the boat; somebody steering and somebody screaming! In1940 a hurricane came and smashed the boat against the rocks…that was the end of our boat.” Pat described many details about the good time they spent with the boat and expressed the pity that they lost the boat in the storm. Her story brought everyone to an imaginary boat as we waved side to side as if we were in the sea.
Most of the residents in this group were native Pennsylvanians, many from the same local regions. As time went on, residents found that they happened to go to some of the same places or even came from the same communities.
Dorothy: “We escaped from Shamokin and spent summers in Eagles Mere. I swam and played in the sand with my brother Joe. Shamokin Creek was black from coal, as black as the ace of spades.” Dorothy recalled that she thought creeks were black until she married and left Shamokin. Then she realized that not all creeks had coal washed in them.
Anita: “We went to Atlantic City from Kulpmont which is near Shamokin. We walked on the boardwalk.” The group moved their feet as though walking on the boardwalk reminiscing about what they had seen, smelled and tasted, like salt water taffy!
Jeff: “From Philadelphia, we went to Atlantic City in the summer. We ate lunch and played in the sand. My sister Cathy and I helped Grandpop dig for clams. Grandpop cut the clams open with a pocket knife and ate them all!” Jeff’s memory gave the group an opportunity to reach toward the floor as if it were sand and use our hands in a digging motion to scoop up some clams.
The movement experiences offered participants opportunities to connect with one another and share more of themselves with their summer stories from decades ago. There were times when family members participated in our dance and we got some unexpected effects. When Jeff’s daughter joined our dance, Jeff told his story about going to Atlantic City as a child and digging for clams. His daughter was very surprised. That was her first time hearing this story from her father and through this experience she got to know more about him. I also noticed that when there were family members around, residents tended to participate more in the group especially with encouragement and support from the family members.
Jack: “Back then there was Raystown River. When the water was low we could walk across. The water was up to my neck. We would take the row boat out and sometimes we saw friends taking a bath in the river; they even brought their own soap!”
Among all the participants, Jack stood out as a former tap dancer. He was very excited about telling us his interesting stories about being a tap dancer. During the dance movement activity, he volunteered to teach some basic tap steps to all of us. We realized that tap is a perfect dance form for those people in wheel chairs as its very rhythmic and involves the use of the feet and legs. Jack described the opening of a dance piece he had done before when all the dancers walked onto the stage in a line. Therefore, we reproduced this opening in our dance with people walking in wheel chairs either with or without assistance in a line. It turned out to be a very powerful opening, as everyone was excited to be involved. In one of the last sessions, Jack was so excited during the dance that he suddenly stood up from the wheel chair and danced for one minute with some assistance, although he suffers some leg problems. As a dancer myself, I was so touched and empathized with Jack at that moment. I can imagine I would feel revitalized if I got a chance to dance and to teach others dance when I am in my eighties.
My experience this summer illustrated for me what we now know in neuroscience about the importance of dance. Scientifically, dance has been known to be the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia1. Dance involves the integration of music rhythms and coordination, requiring complex somatosensory-motion system activation and synchronization of many brain regions2, such as superior temporal syrus for hearing music, frontal lobe for motion planning, cerebellum for motion coordination, and basal ganglia for motion prediction and so on. Dance generates new neural networks helping to maintain and improve our mental intelligence. Combining dance with other social activities, as we created in this program can improve cognition in older adults.
1.Verghese, J. et al. Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. The New England journal of medicine 348, 2508-16 (2003). 2.Brown, S., Martinez, M. & Parsons, L. The neural basis of human dance. Cerebral cortex 16, 1157-1167 (2006).
Author: Yu-Rong Gao is currently a fourth year PhD student at the Pennsylvania State University majoring in neuroscience, minoring in statistics. She started dancing at age four and trained in pure Chinese Classical Dance for ten years. After she came to the United States in 2011, she resumed dance but included ballet and modern dance and co-founded a Chinese Dance Club at Penn State. Her interest is in benefiting people with/without neurological diseases by means of dance and music, and her belief is that arts, especially dancing, are the source of happiness without boundaries. Contact email: email@example.com
Advisor: Susanna Lembeck-Edens is a graduate of Penn State University and of the Goucher College Dance/Movement Therapy program. Sue’s background in Creative Modern Dance serves her well in working as a Dance/Movement therapist, a licensed massage therapist and a wellness educator. No matter which “hat” Sue wears, she specializes in working with older adults; engaging and enhancing the physical, emotional, spiritual and social aspects of life. Sue believes that through movement and dance, opportunities for real connections are made and meaningful experiences are shared. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Vanden Bosch created a resource list with wonderful suggestions for some of the best videos, documentaries, books, and websites I've seen and learned from. I think most of these would be on my list of what I think it most important to know when Caring with Persons Who Are Living with Dementia.
Joan Green's improvisational dance class begins tomorrow evening.
Where: Massasoit Elks Lodge, 55 Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge MA 02139 When: Wednesday evenings from 7-9pm September 10, 17, (no class 24 Rosh Hashonnah) October 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, November 5, 12, 19, (no class 26 night before Thanksgiving), December 3, 10. Fee: 12 classes - $264 6 classes - $132 If you choose the 6 class option, you may add more at $25 per class.
Focus this semester will be on devising simple structures that work well in improvised performance.
Info: email@example.com Joan Green is a dancer, choreographer and visual artist who currently directs Back Pocket Dancers, an inter-generational dance company performing at schools and elder venues. She has taught an on-going workshop in dance improvisation since 1992 called Dancing Outside the Lines. Joan's priorities in teaching dance are deepening connection with self, expanding creative responses to stimuli, building skills in group dance and creating community. Joan enjoys challenging the stereotypical notion of what kinds of dance are appropriate for elders, and expanding the horizons of her students in both music and dance.
The Octaband™ is a fun, interactive tool which promotes individuality and group cohesion through movement for people of all ages and abilities. As a dance/movement therapist, Donna Newman-Bluestein was motivated to design the Octaband to stimulate movement in the elderly with dementia. The stretchy material, bright colors, and innovative design stimulate self-expression, spontaneity, and awareness of others. The center circle provides a strong visual focus, and the 5 1/2" hem at the end of each arm allows those with limited grasping ability to participate. Go to www.octaband.com to learn more.