Hands, Music, the feel good hormones and the importance of the process in dance movement therapy
Dancing in a circle implies touch and eye contact, simple connections that are often missing in the client’s daily lives. These connections generate health and wellbeing on many levels. The emotional energies and qualities of these connections are directly transferable to relationships with others outside of the dance (Serlin, 2005). The circle is one of the universal forms used in dance movement therapy that allows people to be with each other. (Chace, 1964) The founder of dance movement therapy started as a choreographer and worked a lot with structure related to the circle. Perhaps it was the rhythm of the circle dance that enabled Martin to show himself within the therapy space as well as in this choreographic process. As a trainee dance therapist, I agree with Marian Chace when she says:
“The dance therapist is not teaching dance in order to develop performing artists, but is using her technical skills and personal creativity and spontaneity to enable people to become more aware of them on a human, realistic level.” (Chace, 1964: 46)
Rhythm according to Chace organizes individual behaviour and creates solidarity and a feeling of contagion; she saw it as a therapeutic tool for communication and body awareness. (Lewis, 1979). It is possible that the music applied with the movement could have had a beneficial therapeutic effect. ‘Simply the best’ a very powerful song was chosen with very vital dance moves. Dr Julia Stewart Clark, consultant clinical neuropsychologist talks about music, movement and emotion being linked within the neural network of the brain and how music and rhythm provided the missing impetus to move in dementia patients. (Clark, 2011) The dance inspired by the music, consisted of direct sustained movements that used different levels and expressions of the creative energy in each client. It showed how one must move in order to appreciate its full power and meaning (Laban & Lawrence, 1947) as from seemingly earthy, grounded efforts the dance had a powerful quality that became evident as we moved together.
Eye contact and touch which produce positive effects in the brain helping vital connections to be made were very present in the dance (Sunderland, 2006). Endorphins the feel good hormones are released when warm connection is made between people (Sunderland, 2006); they are the body’s natural painkiller, central in the responses related to desire and motivation. It may be useful to note (as the clients are in recovery programme) that addiction happens by drugs playing with the body’s natural high by stimulating the dopamine – endorphin response. Repeated exposure fools the brain into wanting these substances, which highlights the magnitude of the work of these hormones within the organism (Pettus, 2006). Similarly suggests how important stimulating these natural substances is for health and wellbeing because if we produce them naturally through dancing perhaps there would be less need to search for them outside of ourselves.
Paolo Cohelo in his book “The Witch of Portobello” tells of a little girl who has suffered so much but when she dances all her power comes back to her (Cohelo, 2008), the clients could have been experiencing these powerful connections as their dance suggested. The clients within the choreographic process were witnessed. Being witnessed as their creative self emerges boosts self-esteem and confidence and gives the person value for who they are. Carl Rogers describes this as a process of awareness (Rogers, 1995) that comes from genuine acceptance and empathic understanding. When this happens within the therapy space it is within a therapeutic context of being held by a congruent therapist, who is prizing the client and being empathic, the conditions needed for a successful relationship and ultimately to self-actualisation (Rogers, 1995). This strengthens the belief that process is more important than outcome as can be confirmed by personal experience with an Art therapist. On being invited to tell a story about where I was in my life using the sandtray:
I made up a story very quickly, not really being inspired by anything. I was using different materials, and all the time aware of feeling anxious that I had to produce something, and that I had no idea of what was expected except that it had to be a work of art. When asked to verbalise the story I could not, feeling disconnected from the piece and worried I had done the whole task wrong. The most enjoyable aspect for me was the placing of the objects into the sand and just feeling the soft texture as they went in. (Personal Journal February 2011)
I learned about the importance of the process here and how the creative expression that is witnessed by the therapist is not something that manifests itself at the end of the journey.
“The process of creating is as important as the end result e.g. how people choose what to add, whether it is done in silence or talked through and how / if they choose to comment at the end.” (Arts Therapies hand-out on 07/02/11