Dance therapy: A paradigm shift

Neerja Singh

Neerja Singh is a retired scientist of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Her interest is in phytochemistry and non-conventional therapies benefiting the patient. She has practised many such therapies like yoga, dance etc.

Dance is an art wherein you can express yourself and have a therapeutic experience. Dance movement therapy is an old concept but needs a grip in India. The author shares her experience on how dance therapeutically heals her mentally and physically.

What is DANCE?

It is not just a form of art wherein you move rhythmically to music for entertainment. But, it is also a type of therapy. Here is how?

The purpose of dance is to express one’s emotion freely and take pleasure in performing it. If one is angry, cheerful, melancholy, afraid or feel strongly about something, one may choose to show it through eyes, facial expression, and body movements in dance.

There is nothing new about dance. It is well known that dance benefits our body and mind. People have been dancing for centuries or you can say since childhood for entertainment. However, dance as a type of therapy was recognized back in modern dance movement of 19th century. During this movement, it was realized that dance could go beyond simple entertainment, and can be used as a form of expressions. By mid of 20th century, dance therapy developed in US and Europe which added observation, interpretation and manipulation of dance elements into the practice. In 1966, a professional organization, the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) was established. Dance movement therapy (DMT) in USA, Australia, and dance movement psychotherapy (DMP) in the UK is the psychotherapeutic use of movements and dance to support intellectual, emotional and motor functions of the body,as a form of expressive therapy.

DMT uses movement and expression with the skills of psychotherapy, counseling, and rehabilitation to help individuals to achieve both physical and mental health, stress reduction, disease prevention and mood management.

 

Following are the benefits of Dance Movement Therapy –

1. Improves cardiovascular endurance
2. Improves balance and coordination
3. Improves muscular strength and flexibility
4. Improves body posture and mobility
5. Reduces muscle tension
6. Reduces stress and anxiety
7. Mood elevator
8. Improves expression of feelings
9. Builds confidence and get over shyness

What is dance

Following are some recent research which showcases that dance therapy can be effective in the treatment of mental health issues like eating disorder, depression, and anxiety.

A study from the Journal of Arts in Psychotherapy (2007) found that dance therapy had a positive effect on participants experiencing symptoms of depression.

A study from Alzheimer’s care (2009) suggests that DMP improves memory recall in people with dementia.

American Journal of Dance Therapy indicated that DMT may be a treatment option for children on the Autism spectrum.

Also, it can be considered as a treatment option for childhood obesity.

At my golden age with silver hair and a young heart, I must say, dancing helps me feel a lot better. I did all sorts of exercise, yoga, meditation, walking, jogging, etc. but I didn’t enjoy any of it and discontinued it sooner or later. Then, I realized that my body moves with emotions and expressions whenever I hear beats of music. I become thoughtless, feel happy and energetic. My mind connects with my body and soul, it’s like meditation to me. It therapeutically heals my aching joints and stiffness of body due to lifestyle diseases, much better than any physiotherapy ever could. This article is not some kind of scientific research, as lot of research on this topic has already been done all over the world. It’s only my insight and personal experience after joining a dance class. A group or couple dance class helps motivate you to do better each day and builds your confidence.

Some people might think, “A dance class? At this age? ”. Yes, I know it is uncommon but why not. One of the reasons that people of my age do not turn up at dance classes is because they are shy. Many North Indian families in earlier days did not appreciate dancing and did not allow girls to dance as it was looked down upon. I was never allowed to dance but allowed to do higher education in those days.

I will not tell you how to move your body or on which song you should dance or how you should dance…… No. I am only going to tell you to move your body and express your feelings as we all know that dancing makes us feel light, joyful, releases happy hormones such as Seratonin, Endrofin, Dopamin etc. Dance moves can predict our feelings like if we are anxious, or self-conscious while dancing, it will show through our moves. You can do any type of dance i.e. Ballroom, Ballet, Tango, Zumba or just wiggle slightly, do what you love or what you feel comfortable with.

Dance like no one is watching and just let go of yourself is the secret of good health. You do not have to be a dancer to get benefit from dance movement therapy. Do not let shyness, age or stamina come on the way. Let your heart dance with joy and happiness, your eyes will dance with emotions and your body movements will improve motor skills. The concept of DMT is new to India and needs more attention. India being the motherland of traditional and modern dance forms can be the new platform for DMT. A new concept like beer yoga is becoming a fad in our society wherein I feel DMT is much more scientific and effective in gaining holistic health. So be happy, enjoy and destress yourself, have a good diet and get better sleep. That is a secret of a happy and healthy golden age.

If you wish, sometime instead of sport shoes, put on your dancing shoes…Hey…..Come on…..Dance.

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One thought on “Dance therapy: A paradigm shift

  • February 15, 2018 at 6:15 pm
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    Different versions of dances have multiple health benefits:
    1. Bhangra/Zoomba dances or equivalent dances are equal to 70-75% of Maximum Heart Rate( 220-age) this is considered excellent cardio -respiratory endurance protocol ,enhances life of individuals by conditioning Telomerases , enhances immune system , improves musculo -skeletal dysfunctions , can effectively control Diabetes , Hypertension , Metabolic Syndrome ,Obesity.
    2. Smooth Soothing Dances are antidepressants , craving control , prevent addiction to alcohol/smoking/habit forming drugs & antistress.

    Reply

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