Recently, I had an epiphany for what I’d like to do with my art in the future.
Last month, I went with my wife to the annual American Dance Therapy Association conference, which was in Brooklyn this year. My wife has been a registered Dance Movement Therapist for most of the nearly 10 years I’ve known her! Nevertheless, I’d never quite “got” dance-movement therapy.
Sure, I knew it was a creative arts psychotherapy used across all age spans “to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.” I knew it wasn’t a “dance class”, as I’ve often heard from people asking how dance-movement therapy ‘looks’. But I still didn’t get Dance-Movement Therapy on a deeper level.
Though I was out and about in New York City while my wife was in workshops for most of the weekend, I still made an attempt to attend whatever I could that was open to the public. When we first got there, I attended several talks given by Dance-Movement Therapists (DMT’s), similar to how TED talks are given. In one talk, the DMT told of his experience working with teenagers who were former child-soldiers in Sierra Leone. Since the boys had witnessed their families murdered, and then were forced to murder others, as well as witness and commit other atrocities, they had essentially separated their minds from their bodily experiences. By processing their personal histories through movement, the movement and dance forced the integration of their minds and bodies together, thus creating a whole being again. This made a lot of sense to me.
Then something happened that helped me make even more sense of dance-movement therapy, without actually witnessing any actual therapy. On the 2nd night, there was an evening banquet at the conference, with a live band and dance floor.
It was the best dance I’ve ever been to.
There were about 700 people there…and there were about 700 people dancing! Real authentic dancing and moving, not the structured stuff you learn in dance classes. This was pure expression. The hotel employees were taking pictures and videos…some even joined in! The band said that the ADTA conference is the best group they ever play for. From this experience, I could understand how simply dancing integrates your emotional, cognitive, physical and social self.
When we were traveling home from NYC, my wife and I were talking about the dance at the banquet and how fun it was. I mentioned how some hotel employees joined in the dance and how they were so elated to be there dancing with everybody. She said something about how with their type of work, the dance and emotions are present one moment, and gone the next. Whereas with visual art, the art is always there. At that moment, it clicked that I could use visual art to paint the emotional expressions of dance from your everyday person. Then, it would be there to stay.