Marginalia, Graduate Blog

A New Way of Doing Dance/Movement Therapy, Part I

Emily D’Annunzio

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First I want to preface this post by clearly stating my standpoint as the writer.  I am a second year DMT & C graduate student studying at Columbia College Chicago.  Emphasis here on student… I am a not a professional with clinical experience.  I have a specific background and have certainly had a specific experience while at Columbia that may or may not reflect other DMT & C programs.

Now that I have cleared that up, let’s delve into the topic, which is (as the way I see it) a new way of doing dance/movement therapy.

When people think of dance/movement therapy, they often get an image of a bunch of people dancing around with scarves, pom pons, or stretch bans (i.e. the picture above).  Hell, maybe they are dancing with all three!  Or maybe they think of Marian Chace, “the grand dame of dance/movement therapy,” and her three outlined stages of a group: warm-up, theme development, and closure.

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As a student and intern (who is trying to figure all of this out), I often feel like the Chacian method is somewhat restricting.  It’s as if dance/movement therapists are searching for something — hoping for something to arise and then jumping to a theme that may or may not be true of our clients, based upon even the smallest movement.  We see our clients touching hands and think, CONNECTION! We must be connecting, let’s all connect.  Can we all grab hands and connect?  (Imagine a nutty dance/movement therapist enthusiastically yelling that.)  I can’t help but feel that sometimes such themes have already been paired with certain movements.

Instead, I am wondering if maybe it serves our clients better to wait and see what arises instead?  It’s like creating a container for clients in the therapy room verses putting a band-aid on their wounds. As an intern, I have been working on how to create a safe environment in the therapy room and following my clients creative process.  Instead of imposing a structure on the clients, I wait and let my clients define the structure of group for themselves.

Now I am not arguing that there is something wrong with the Chacian method, which, as far as I know, Chace did not create herself but rather her students created after she was gone.  The Chacian method is a great guide, but I am wondering if maybe there are other ways of doing dance/movement therapy: like just being with clients versus doing.  Attuning with them and giving them the permission to do what they want to do — to move like they want to move.

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I know this is what Chace, in fact, intended. Quite frankly, she was probably the master of kinesthetic empathy.

As a second year student and intern, I think I am attempting to define what it means to be a dance/movement therapist, and what, in fact, it really is.  Although I know there is one definition (as stated by the ADTA on their website), I feel like the more I learn, the less I know.  The more I learn about dance/movement therapy, the harder it becomes to define.  What I do know is that I have received a specific education about dance/movement therapy and how to do this work.  So, maybe it’s safe to say that whichever way I chose to practice can be considered dance/movement therapy, whether it follows such a specific structure or not. Because I am a dance/movement therapist, I am doing dance/movement therapy, no matter what it looks like.

A New Way of Doing Dance/Movement Therapy, Part I

First I want to preface this post by clearly stating my standpoint as the writer.  I am a second year DMT & C graduate student studying at Columbia College Chicago.  …

Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling MA Emily D’Annunzio,
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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In response to your thought/developing idea: The Chace structure had to be named as all modalities must have some organization in order for it to be acknowledged/measured/studied/recorded/taught. Working in the field (for a very short, but glorious time) as a dance-movement therapist I can say that your idea/developing thought regularly occurs as we see that the “Chacian format” simply doesn’t fly. My patients often “remind” me, in one way or another, to relax, be open and let “it” happen. Maybe some of my groups wouldn’t be considered DMT by the ADTA, but I can tell you that your intention to create a safe, open environment does more for supporting the therapeutic process than any formula or structure can provide. In short, that was the beginning, we are now, and it is up to us to ask these questions of ourselves and discuss what we see and what we do to bring awareness and understanding to the present world of DMT. Yes, you are a dance/movement therapist, and I’m glad what you’re doing doesn’t fit in the Chace box. :)

    Thank for your response, Megs. I agree, I think dance/movement therapy as a profession had to grab on to some type of structure to be able to study and measure our work as a means to give it merit. As an emerging therapist I am wondering if our profession (although still relatively young) needs to do this anymore. As you mention, it is the discussion of the Chacian structure, or the lack there of, that is important. Further, the discussion of what dance/movement therapy is in the present world is important. Personally, I believe that maybe we as dance/movement therapists can begin to present ourselves in different ways, and that we no longer have to “prove” ourselves as maybe we once did?

    Again, thanks for your insight and supporting words.

I read part two before I read part one. :)

I would definitely recommend, as you continue your study of DMT (as we all do, even after we graduate/become registered/board certified) to experience DMT from other perspectives – other leaders in the field. I really recommend taking a workshop from Dr. Danielle Fraenkel at Kinections in Rochester, NY or when she presents at the conferences as she often does. (Actually, don’t know what you’re doing this summer but she’s hosting a week long experience in Corfu Greece in July that I’ve been to before and am returning to again this year. Exceptionally powerful DMT work and I promise you it doesn’t look like Chace work. Would be really informative for you as you are exploring your theory. Plus, it’s GREECE! :)

Keep up the good work!!!

    Thank you for reading and commenting! Unfortunately with thesis work I am bound to Chicago for the summer. I do believe one of my peers attended her workshop in Greece a few years back, and of course said it was amazing. As I wrap up my academic role I am excited to continue learning and educating myself on dance/movement therapy for both my professional and personal self.