Dance Therapy…Hunh?

I don’t know what to say…
I am a dance therapist and I truly love this title. It took me several years to claim this role and recognize the value of what I do.
Firstly, no one, I mean NO ONE, knows what a dance therapist is. Most people that I have told I am a dance therapist defines this job role as literally the title: I’m a dancer that is also a therapist. Since dance is a physical thing most people assume that dance therapy is teaching someone dance while giving them physical therapy, but this is not what I do. I am a clinician that uses dance as an outlet to explore psychosis. So basically I use dance to learn and support others in understanding the choices they make and how these choices have affected them as well as their relationships.
At first I didn’t really understand the difference between dance therapy and dance. I mean dance itself supports others in having a voice and exploring what that voice is trying to say. Sometimes words are never enough, as it doesn’t always convey what you really want to say. But dance, dance is special in that there is so much to be understood in the way we move.
If you think of the first dance you have ever seen and how it made you feel, whether you loved t, it inspired you, or made you hate dance altogether, it created some kind of visceral feeling that you could not truly put into words, no matter how much you tried. That is the power of dance.
DSC_0253 copy

Anginese Phillips in movement at Harlem Summer Stage.

Dance therapy, however tends to go a little further than just allowing you have those feelings, in that it allows for you to process those feelings and explore where they derive from. There is a reason why seeing a dance made you feel a certain way as well as moving and dancing made you feel a certain way. Dance therapists are able to guide you to those feelings based on the movement and dance created or seen and explore what experience it brings up for you.
Most experiences are body based…What does that mean? Well, it is like muscle memory.
Your body can remember how to ride a bike physically. But your body also remembers how it feels to ride the bike and based off those feelings and experiences whether you would decide ever ride a bike again. So if you can imagine all of the experiences you’ve had in your lifetime, all held in this one vessel, the vessel not only contains those memories but your feelings connected to it. These memories and experiences are what made you who you are without you even really recognizing it. Because of this, you as well as your body react to certain things or resist certain things based on what you’ve learned from your past experiences. This is where dance therapy comes in. A dance therapist can support you in exploring what you may have resistance with based on your movement style and why these resistances have affected your present choices and relationships. Of course dance therapy isn’t for everyone, but it provides a different form of insight that encompasses the entirety of someone’s experiences, verbal and nonverbal. Movement has always been our first language after all. Otherwise how would we understand a baby’s needs besides the fact of the baby crying. We are all beings that first expressed ourselves through movement before verbal language and because of this our bodies tend to communicate more than our mouths do. We just have to take the time to listen.