Meaning In Motion

Dancing with the mind in mind

The Dance of New Patterns

Moving forward in a New Year: words from a Dance/Movement Therapist

A New Year. It’s that time. The exercise gyms are packed. The weight loss programs get an influx of new members. All of us begin to reflect and think about how we can jump-start this year to turn over a new leaf. I myself, posting to this blog for the first time, am setting an intention to take more risks, examine my own vulnerability, and find more personal and professional balance. But how does this happen? How do we establish new patterns?  How do we move forward and make changes and adjustments in our lives that become integrated as a new way of being in the world? 

These changes often don’t just come from a place in your mind where you cognitively make a decision to “change.” In fact, there is a connection between emotions and body action. According to the American Dance Therapy Association, dance/movement therapy is based upon this belief that there is a fundamental interconnection between the mind and body, underscoring the assumption that whatever is impacting the body will reciprocally impact the mind and vice versa.  When there is a lack of mind-body integration, individuals may suffer from a variety of psychological disorders. Also, examining our own movement preferences or range can open a new door for us to study our coping strategies and personality configurations. Therefore, if our own movement range or “movement vocabulary” expands, so does our range of abilities to communicate our needs and desires.

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So what does this mean for us, as we want to literally and metaphorically move forward this new year into new action? The intention of this blog is to provide more knowledge about this mind-body connection and to build increased awareness about emotional benefits of dance and movement, from the lens of a dance/movement therapist. Also, I want to invite discussion about the exploding research advances supporting the core constructs of dance/movement therapy and the inclusion of movement interaction for health and healing. 

Dance/movement therapists view movement of the body as both expressive and communicative, and utilize it both as a method of assessing individuals and the mode for clinical intervention.  Therefore, movement can not only make us physically feel better, but it can serve as the common language for building communication, establishing relationships, and learning more about our own emotional challenges. 

As I move forward with the completion of this first blog entry, I invite you to actually explore for yourself the dance of advancement with your own action-oriented goals.  Regardless of what your New Year’s resolutions are, begin to try-on movements that move you out into the space around you.  Embody the experience of forward motion first.   Dance the experience of taking steps out into the unknown within the safety of your own home, try a new pathway to work, or even to allow someone to witness and move with you on a new movement pathway.  As you do this, pay attention to your own pacing and timing of such advancement and let it inform you as a metaphor for your own emotional process.  Sometimes our goals are too ambitious and we haven’t actually experienced them fully within our body at the pace and timing that is actually appropriate in order to allow these new patterns to become integrated.  The more you experience, in body action, the emotional, social, and cognitive adjustments that you’d like to make, the more they will become familiar practice for your body and brain.

To learn more about the practice of dance/movement therapy, please visit the American Dance Therapy Association

Christina Devereaux, Ph.D., BC-DMT, is an Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical training in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling at Antioch University in New England.

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