Reflecting – Reaching – Moving Forward

Reflecting – Reaching – Moving Forward

Sundown in sunny San Diego

Sundown in sunny San Diego

After waiting for almost a year, the primary event for every prospective or current dance/movement therapist (in my opinion) had finally come: the annual conference of the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA). This years conference – held in sunny San Diego – marked the 50th anniversary. To honor this incredible number, the theme of this year’s conference was Reflecting – Reaching – Moving Forward. Because I think that this is one of the greatest events to broaden your horizon and to connect professionally, I flew to San Diego to experience 5 days of exciting seminars, dance, learn, and connect to dance/movement therapist from all around the world.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21: I’ve got a feeling…

To be honest, I was not super thrilled by the idea to leave my apartment in Chicago at 5:15am in the morning to catch a flight at 7:15am so that we could spent a day in San Diego before the conference started on Thursday. However, it was totally worth it! We landed in San Diego around 9:30 am (yay to 2h time difference) and were able to hang out at the pool, eat delicious tacos for lunch, spent a couple of hours at the beach, visit the seals, watch the sundown, and have dinner with friends we met at the hotel – and all of that without any urgency. Especially while attending such an intense program as Columbia’s DMT&C program, this day felt like a much needed vacation.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22: Let’s get the party started!

Each year the ADTA is offering optional all-day and half-day pre-conference intensive seminars before the official opening ceremony in the evening. These intensives, which are either 3 or 6 hours long, give presenters and participants the opportunity to dive into a topic more deeply than it is possible during a regular 2h seminar. This year I decided to participate in one of the half-day intensives offered by DMT&C faculty member Kris Larsen and current 3rd year student Rosey Puloka called “Shame and Sexuality: The Fear of Being an Other“. It was incredible refreshing to be able to talk about a topic, which is usually silenced by the public, but, at the same time, so inseparably connected to how we are in our bodies. Even if the main focus was on the LGBTQ community, the content of the seminar can be easily transferred to any population, because the feeling of shame lives in almost all of us and especially in our clients. The day ended with the official opening ceremony, which included a first small dance party and spending some relaxing hours with wine and snacks around a fire place.

ADTA conference materials

ADTA conference materials

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23: Where the hell is my conference room???

The real madness of the conference began on Friday. This means getting up early to attend the ADTA Membership Breakfast Meeting at 7:15am to see what is going on inside the ADTA and to connect to other dance/movement therapists; then looking for the Research and Thesis Project Poster Session to support fellow Columbia students and to get ideas and advice for my own thesis project; the rest of the day felt like a scavenger hunt for the right conference rooms, which were all named after greek islands and, therefore, impossible to remember (thanks a lot Hyatt). Nevertheless, I enjoyed learning about interpersonal neurobiology and dialectic behavioral therapy and how DMT can be integrated into those two concepts. Of course, the highlight of my day was the global caucus meeting, where I was able to meet dance/movement therapists from all over the world. To round off the day we drove downtown to San Diego’s famous Gaslamp Quarter for dinner (tacos seem to be a big thing in southern California…).

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24: I wanna dance with somebody!

The saturday offered three more seminars (“Pioneering the World of Health & Wellness: New Opportunities for Dance/Movement Therapists“; “The Gift of the Embodied Shadow: Identifying and Integrating our Shadow Parts“; “Moving ‘Drivers’ and ‘Stoppers’: A Dance/Movement Therapy Exploration in Transactional Analysis“) as well as the international panel. Even if I greatly enjoyed all my seminars and gained a lot of insight from them, I was looking forward to the banquet at night. The banquet pretty much consists of a really formal looking dinner, a short award session for an outstanding ADTA member, and a crazy four hour dance party until midnight. The beautiful thing about having 500 dance/movement therapists in one room is that you do not have to ask them twice to get up and dance. Within minutes the dance floor was overcrowded with people of all ages, dancing their hearts out to live music, and enjoying themselves and the company of others. This experience was truly cathartic and the most empowering experience of the whole weekend.

ADTA Dance Party 2015 Video

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25: Time to say goodbye.

The conference ended with a beautiful closing session on sunday morning. This closing session is traditionally used to welcome newly certified R-DMTs and BC-DMTs and is extremely emotional and touching. It just feels incredible to become part of a professional family and to feel accepted by each member. I seriously cannot wait until the day I am becoming a certified R-DMT (probably in 2017) and to be welcomed myself. After the conference officially ended, all I had to do was sitting in the sun and being reminded of all the work I would have to do the moment I would be back in Chicago. Farewell, beautiful conference experience…see you next year!

(The next ADTA conference will be in Bethesda, Maryland [DC Metro Area] from October 20 to 23, 2016!)

So to wrap up this blog post, I think it is fair to say that the annual conference of the American Dance Therapy Association is worth the effort of traveling and spending the money. Of course, I can understand that the cost of traveling to and attending the conference might be a barrier. Therefore, I want to acknowledge that my participation in the conference was supported by the Lya Dym Rosenblum Award offered by Columbia College Chicago. I want to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Rosenblum for making the Lya Dym Rosenblum Award possible, for her generosity, and her support.