Dancing heels: How to groove all your troubles away
One of the most creative forms of expression can also help cure a number of health conditions; we get experts to tell you all about dance movement. therapy.health and fitness Updated: Apr 12, 2016 18:23 IST
Most people see dance as a means of expression, but not many know that it can also help in healing the mind and the body. Recently, students from Rajasthan University learnt stress management through dance therapy. The seven-day workshop, which was conducted by dance guru Saswat Joshi, enabled students to learn body conditioning through Natya Shastra (a book on performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music).
The concept of using dance as a healing technique was initiated by Marian Chace (one of the founders of modern dance therapy) and Franziska Boas (an American dance therapist) in the 20th century. The Association For Dance Movement Therapy (ADMT) in the UK defines it as “the use of expressive movement and dance as a vehicle, through which an individual can engage in the process of personal integration and growth”. The association also states that “dance therapy is founded on the principle that there is a relationship between motion and emotion”.
“Dancing or moving one’s body creatively encourages one to be more open and expressive. One doesn’t need to train in it, since it comes from within. When a person dances from his or her heart, their body movements help express their inner feelings,” says Namrata Dagia, clinical psychologist.
Use dance to stay healthy
“Dance is a way of expressing oneself physically. This improves the state of your organic being as well as your immunity. It soothes and heals you,” says holistic wellness guru Mickey Mehta.Ballet as well as Sufi and Tibetan dance cultures have influenced the healing techniques developed for dance therapy. People who suffer from hypertension and blood pressure are usually recommended soft and gentle movements.
Baby steps towards dance therapy can be taken by simply encouraging people, who are feeling low and depressed, to gently bounce to a rhythm, with their hands moving up and down. “The body’s physical movement creates a new, vibrant energy. In fact, it is as beneficial as yoga, or any other form of exercise,” says Dagia.
Dance therapy also boosts confidence, and enhances positive emotions like joy and contentment. It also improves memory and cognitive skills.
What does a dance therapist do?
To apply dance as a therapeutic modality, the therapist first identifies the problems faced by an individual, and how the person’s body reacts to a specific problem. The next step involves exploring specific movement techniques to normalise the breathing pattern, increase blood circulation, reduce muscle tension, etc.
As part of the therapy, footwork, hand gestures, movement props and facial expressions are often mixed and matched with creative movement ideas. Sometimes, a series of asanas are also used. “For instance, if a person has performance anxiety or social phobia, he or she is asked to participate in group activities. This will help bring him or her out of his or her isolation, and also create influential social and emotional bonds. It will give him or her the confidence to interact with others. At the same time, the body movements will help release anxiety and other negative behavioural patterns, and will lead to increased positive emotions. It will also promote well-being,” says Dagia.
Steps involved in dance therapy
Tripura Kashyap, the co-founder of Creative Movement Therapy Association of India (CMTAI) decodes the steps involved in a typical dance therapy session, which lasts for about an hour:
Preparatory exercises (10 minutes)
Slow-paced movements are used to prepare the participants mentally and physically for the more complex movements of the session. The warm-up exercises include moving, bending and stretching certain body parts in isolation as well as moving the whole body. These can be done lying down, sitting, standing or while moving from one place to another. They help enhance the body’s awareness levels.
They also increase flexibility and energy levels. Moreover, they help individuals attain movement precision, and also sense each other’s pace and mood.
Theme development (45 minutes)
This is the core of dance therapy. Here, the therapeutics of dance unfold through specific movements that are carried out individually, in pairs or in small clusters. Therapists use directive and non-directive approaches to invite themes, verbal expression of feelings, and thoughts and ideas of participants. Therefore, people are constantly urged to be in touch with their feelings and express themselves as authentically as possible. Theme development is also used to achieve a therapist’s short- and long-terms goals.
Cooling down (5 minutes)
The third part of a session often concludes the movement segment. In this phase, movements slow down and people are asked to concentrate on their breathing while stretching their bodies gently. Slow-paced movements help calm the body’s energy levels. On the other hand, the entire group could also go through different communal movements by holding each other’s hands, which then becomes a ‘goodbye’ dance.
Closure (15 minutes)
In this last part, the participants are encouraged to share their feelings. They are asked to talk about what they enjoyed the most, and what they found the most difficult (physically or emotionally) during the session. The facilitator moderates the session, and ensures that all the participants get a chance to express themselves.
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