And yes, dance itself has the power inherent within it to heal, to be therapeutic. Yet we all know dance that has contributed to the dis-ease of those who dance. Perhaps it is the intention, or in some cases the specific culture from which it emanates that make it healing or not.
Dance/movement therapy can make use of any form of dance or expressive movement. What do I mean by dance? I consider dance to be any expressive movement which is perceived by either the mover or the viewer as dance. Watching children on a playground jumping, running, squealing, exploring with their bodies as they negotiate with their peers, I see an authentic dance. It is clear from the many book titles including the word dance that people use dance as a metaphor for withdrawing from or reaching toward life. Dance with Dementia: A daughters memoir about her father, The Last Dance: Facing Alzheimer's with Love & Laughter, and The Dementia Dance are examples. The last is described as
"Getting family members to help Managing the chaos of dementia is like being a partner in a dance of sorts-a dance that works only if you let dementia take the lead while you follow. Whether the dance is slow and graceful or fast and furious, you can learn to cope and even find enjoyment in life."
This is what I mean by dance, and yet I mean the actual aesthetics of dance itself as well. The more deeply I understand in my body, heart, mind and spirit what and how I can communicate through my body's movement, the more effective a dance/movement therapy practitioner I can be. That is why my lifelong learning takes me in diverse directions. Rudolf Laban said, "Movement is the outward expression of the living energy within." Repeatedly I find Irmgard Bartenieff's concept of Inner connectivity and outer expressivity calls me to more deeply understand.
BMC "is an experiential study based on the embodiment and application of anatomical, physiological, psychophysical and developmental principles, utilizing movement, touch, voice and mind. Its uniqueness lies in the specificity with which each of the body systems can be personally embodied and integrated, the fundamental groundwork of developmental repatterning, and the utilization of a body-based language to describe movement and body-mind relationships."
I don't recommend going to BMC work for answers, but rather to experience opening to the wonder, awe and amazement of the body systems and wisdom of the body and questions. I have already experienced significantly greater ease when I took one concept that I learned in her workshop into receiving a massage. The concept was to look without either withholding or reaching. I understood that to be something that I strive for when practicing Mindfulness Based Meditation. Yet my mind seems endlessly curious, sniffing about. Gently repeating to "neither withhold or reach" to myself while receiving the massage made a tremendous difference in the relaxation I was able to experience.
Of course, I can't live my life neither withholding nor reaching; that would be an entirely passive existence that would not honor the gifts that I bring as an individual. I learned through the practice of Authentic Movement with Janet Adler to perceive when I must act. In a day of workshops at Lesley University for expressive therapies faculty and supervisors last month, I had the delightful experience of learning from storyteller Alan O'Hare. He offered an image of our experience together being like a river, and that each of us would toss a pebble in as we were so moved. He was joined my musician and expressive therapist Mark Lipman.
Both Alan O'Hare and Mark Lipman have worked with people with dementia. I look forward to pooling our gifts to make an ever greater positive impact on their lives.
Recent conversations with Ethelle Lord of the recently formed International Caregivers Association (ICA) may result in collaborating by my leading a webinar on embodied relationships in dementia care. Right now I'm contemplating how to best teach such a topic with people in their own separate spaces on computers. I usually teach by having people practice actually relating to one another as a way of learning.