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Dances as Remedies

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I got into dancing not only for the pleasure but also for the help it gave me. In my teens and early twenties I often felt depressed, exhausted and plagued by compulsive thoughts. The very best release was dancing; both energising and balancing. Facilitating dance with all kinds of individuals and groups I witness how powerfully remedial rhythmic movement can be. I have come to see the diverse dances as effective remedies. Some embody specific curative properties for chronic challenges such addiction, anxiety and depression. Under the headings of Cultural, Intuitive and Somatic dances you can find examples. In cataloguing dances and their therapeutic benefits I want to add 3 pointers:

 

1. MUSIC

For most people it’s important to enjoy the music, so the key is to recognise the qualities of each dance but not to feel limited to one choice of song. For example the potent feature of one dance is shaking, while another fosters strong boundaries, and a third helps people to experience gentle ‘flow’ until their breathing slows and nerves are soothed.

 

2. STEPS

Use the choreography as a framework to adapt to suit different groups. For example with blind people it may work better to keep hands connected and leave out turns. For wheelchair users focus on hand, arm and leg movements which can be done sitting.

 

3. CURE PERFECTIONISM

I coined the phrase ‘There are no mistakes, only variations’ and this helps to calm the inner critic. Most people learn better and derive more pleasure from the process with no pressure to compete or perform. Positive outcomes flow from coherent movements. In your own time, your own way, allow capacities to build gradually.

 

Here are some general insights behind the suggested remedial dances:

 

4. ANXIETY: Use cathartic energetic movements including shaking, jumping and stamping. These help by releasing pent up physical and emotional tension. (eg the dance called ‘Hadouni’). Then fluid steps and swaying movements speak bodily to a chronically alarmed nervous system. This teaches the body to self-regulate, deepening the breathing - like a sigh of relief - and restoring the ‘off switch’. (eg ‘Kothbiro’)

 

5. ADDICTION: At the heart of substance dependency and other forms of addiction is often deep and intense emotional pain. The strategy for managing overwhelming feeling has created a temporary feeling of relief and comfort but the payback is long-term negative consequences. The ideal support-dance fills the heart with joy and fosters a sense of belonging. (eg ‘Be United’)

 

6. DEPRESSION: Suppressed frustration and anger along with feelings of disempowerment are likely to contribute to depression. This can be eased and transformed by dances which bodily express personal power. (eg ‘Kozouto’)

 

7. GRIEF: This has different stages and ways of manifesting. It is useful to have dances which don’t require a person to be upbeat and jolly but create a sense of solace; feeling held and supported emotionally. (eg ‘Ay Adaba’)

 

All dances mentioned here are choreographed by Stefan to music from many lands. They can be found under ‘Dance Videos’ on www.worldance.org

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