J-Term Performance As Therapy

J-Term Performance As Therapy

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After having participated in my J-Term course this week, Performance as Therapy, I took away a stronger understanding of what performance is and why it can be therapeutic.  Prior to taking this class I had experienced performance as having a therapeutic quality for me personally, and I wanted to gain a stronger understanding of how to bring about the therapeutic elements of performance as a dance/movement therapist.  What I have taken away from this course is that it is not necessarily the end product of the performance itself but the culmination of the creative process in combination with the performance that can create a therapeutic experience for clients.

What I had learned from my professors  Lisa Goldman and Kris Larsen is that performance can be looked at as a part of a paradigm that can be separated into four separate stages:  request, claim, promise, and execution.  Each one of these steps plays an integral role in the eventual creation and performance of a piece. Using authentic movement, I can tune into my body to explore the request or specific issue that may be emerging from my impulsive movement.  For example, I may notice that I am circling my head, which may lead me to think about how recently I have been getting a lot of headaches.  Upon further exploration, I may realize that this is due to stressful situations, and I identify my request as needing to relax. I can then make a claim or statement to myself to make time in my schedule to de-stress and then enter into a promise with myself to work towards finding a resolution.  In this final stage of execution, I can bring this resolution to light by creating a piece containing choreography that is reflective of both deepening my breathe and easing tension in the neck.  The execution of the piece then allows for relaxation and relief from headaches.  However, this is a process that can not only be used in an individual setting but also in a group setting, as well, depending on personal need.

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In my personal experience of using this paradigm, I worked with a partner.  I found this to be particularly valuable because this experience illustrated the therapeutic role that interpersonal relationships can play in working through a piece and then performing it together.  My partner and I were drawn to each other based on the fact that our claims, which we wished to fulfill in our piece, were very similar.  In identifying this, we chose to work together on the piece we presented at the end of the class.  In our work we were able to learn the importance of collaboration rather than compromise.  In choreographing our piece, we made sure to use movement and expressions that stayed true to both of our claims.  As we reached points that were emotionally straining during each of our creative processes, we were able to support the other and progress through moments of difficulty.  The beauty in creating a piece using this paradigm as a model was that, in developing the piece, my partner and I were able to creatively find our own personal resolutions throughout the creative process.

It is this experience in combination with the final product of performance that I found to be personally impactful and therapeutic. Once I had found meaning and resolution during my creative process, I was then able to share this with others in the audience on the last day of class.  As I felt the power behind being witnessed, I understood the personal benefits that performance as therapy could truly have on a client.

My creative process allowed me the opportunity to explore different possibilities and to problem solve, while the final performance gave me the opportunity to share these thoughts and feelings with others and be witnessed.  This is ultimately why I found performance to be therapeutic and why I hope to bring about a similar therapeutic experience in future clients using this technique.