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Doctors' new prescription: dance therapy

Doctors are increasingly relying on dance to help patients deal with unresolved physical and mental inhibitions obstructing recovery, writes Riddhi Doshi and Rhythma Kaul.

health-and-fitness Updated: Aug 02, 2014 23:48 IST
Riddhi Doshi and Rhythma Kaul
Riddhi Doshi and Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times

Rehan Mohammad (name changed), 15, loves to dance and is among the most enthusiastic dancer at the Indian Cancer Society’s (ISC) annual fund raiser. He joined the society three years ago when ISC encouraged him and 15 other children, between 10 years and 16 years of age, to attend Ranelle Snelleksz’s dance therapy sessions. “In one of the post therapy talk sessions he admitted having survived cancer but didn’t reveal to his friends as he feared rejection,” says Urmila Jain, member, ICS.

“These sessions immensely help children express themselves and help us understand their problems better,” adds Jain.

“The sessions help them regain their lost confidence of dealing with life and creates a support group to help themselves and each other develop a positive outlook,” adds Snelleksz.

New Delhi’s Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) has been conducting dance movement therapy (DMT) sessions for people with spinal injuries for the past two years. The results have been positive.

“DMT is part of the rehabilitation process that includes other therapies to speed up recovery,” says Dr Chitra Kataria, head of rehabilitation department, ISIC.

“It brings down stress levels, improves limb movement, increases muscle power and helps regain strength in affected parts in patients, some of who are seriously injured and even paralysed below the neck,” she added.

The hospital holds classes once in a week.

“We recommend it to patients after initial recovery, and people can continue the therapy for as long as they want,” Dr Kataria said.

The choice of songs can vary, depending on the group’s preference. It can be a catchy Bolloywood number to an English pop or jazz track.

However, experts warn that the therapy doesn’t cure a patient of his or her disability, it may improve symptoms though.

Some therapists, such as Dr AV Satyanarayana, director, Shristi Center of Performing Arts and Institute of Dance Therapy, Bengaluru, claims DMT helps controlling diabetes, obesity, stress through and helps achieve physical fitness.

A dancer, who teaches dance as a therapy, Satyanarayana says, “I have been conducting dance therapy workshops for the past 14 years. More than 3000 people have attended and enjoyed its benefits. It busts stress, generates positive feelings and makes body flexible.” “Dance has a great therapeutic effect,” he says .

The roots of dance therapy can be traced to the early 20th century and the work of dancer Marian Chace, who noticed that some of her students were more interested in the emotions they expressed while dancing than in the mechanics and technique of dance. She started encouraging dance as a form of self-expression.

Snelleksz also conducts regular sessions with rescued trafficked girls of the NGO International Justice Mission. Some of these girls are very hostile to the counsellors as they are brainwashed to believe that the lives they were leading was better.

“These barriers are broken by dance therapy as it creates a space that is non-judgemental for participants to heal, restore and get empowered with,” says Snelleksz.

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