I’d like to tell you the story of my evolving project.
A shy and clumsy young person, I didn’t imagine myself as someone who would be doing much dancing. The latihan practice* showed me that my aliveness was connected with gesture and movement as well as with words and ideas. I found myself drawn to dance. All kinds of music and culture intrigued me so I got into international folk dances.
But I had no plans to teach dance! My soul prodded me. With training as a school teacher and being a musician I had some foundation to build on. Rapidly my ‘little hobby’ developed into a full-time vocation taking me around the world with my distinctive style of choreography and group work.
This was very fulfilling and I had no plans to start offering dance in mental health settings! Then I was ‘head-hunted’ and my inner feeling was very positive. The idea was a bit daunting but I got great pleasure seeing how much difference dance and music made to mental health. Not only for others. Equally dance was helping me to find confidence, feelings of calm, balance and poise.
For over 15 years I’ve offered dance in mental health settings – fitting this in with my global touring work. To my surprise I was inwardly nudged to focus on the field of trauma, to study it and then incorporate trauma awareness and release into my groupwork. After writing a book on therapeutic applications of dance (now translated into Spanish and Portuguese) I had another latihan prompting. This new direction was not primarily about me and my personal teaching resources, but the basis for a cooperative project. I started contacting and involving other dance teachers with therapeutic training and experience.
The expression of this ‘Aha’ feeling so far includes a dedicated website (still evolving) www.dancewise.org
And a course for facilitators – such as people already teaching dance and interested to gain more tools for working with vulnerable groups and trauma-sufferers.
With great respect for the work of dance/movement psychotherapists it seems to me that the focus is mostly on ‘intuitive’ movement. On the other hand for thousands of years structured dances in circles and lines have provided communities with a built in way of renewing strength, solidarity and shared feeling. The Dancewise approach combines both of these enriching modalities and adds a new category which I call ‘Somatic Dances’. This is based in recent neurobiology studies and provides specific support for those experiencing chronic anxiety or being disconnected from their body. On the website this is fully explained under ‘ASPECTS’.
Susila Dharma Britain had invited me to talk with them about the project and then, after an impressively detailed application process, decided to fund the innovative pilot course in facilitating dance for trauma release. This is a six module series of sessions which my participants completed on 24th April 2023 (yesterday, at the time of writing). I have learned a great deal from the feedback and all this encourages me to continue.
“Stefan’s leadership is gentle, sensitive and aware. I felt a sense being held” (PW: psychologist) “Stefan is warm with his words, has excellent technique and a plethora of experience. An uplifting experience” (AA: dancer)
My appreciation to Susila Dharma Britain and SICA Britain, as well as to Subud** and the latihan for enabling this ongoing vocational adventure.
*latihan is a dynamic spontaneous form of attunement hosted by the international **Subud association