Dance Therapy – The Mind and Body Connection

by Pat Wetzel on January 1, 2014

This article was originally published by the Anti-Cancer Club in their Life Balance series.

DancerAlso known as a “movement therapy”, Dance therapy focuses on the connection between the mind and body to promote health and healing. Dance therapy can also be considered an expressive therapy. It is based on the belief that the mind and body work together to help identify and express hidden emotions caused by illness and stress. Ultimately, this expression can lead to a sense of renewal.

The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.

Considered a complementary method of reducing stress of caregivers and people with cancer and other chronic illnesses, dance therapy can provide exercise, improve mobility and muscle coordination, and reduce muscle tension.

The History of Dance Therapy

Reflecting back in history, dance has been an important part of self-expression in ceremonial and religious events, as well as health in most cultures. Native American Indian tribes used dance as part of their healing rituals. The use of dance as a complement to conventional Western medical therapy began in 1942 through the work of Marian Chace. She was asked to work at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. after psychiatrists saw therapeutic benefit in patients who attended her dance classes.

In 1956, the American Dance Therapy Association was founded to establish and maintain high standards in the field of dance therapy. There are now more than 1,200 dance therapists in the United States and abroad. In 1993, the Office of Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health provided a research grant to explore dance therapy for people with medical illnesses.

How does Dance Therapy Work?

Exercising and physical activity can increase special neurotransmitter substances in the brain, called endorphins, which in turn creates a sense of well-being. Total body movement also affects body systems such as the circulatory, respiratory, skeletal, and muscular systems. Regular aerobic exercise helps with glucose metabolism, cardiovascular fitness, and weight control. When done regularly, movement therapy can produce the same benefits as other types of exercise. Moderate to vigorous exercise for thirty to forty-five minutes can reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Watch the following video from the University of California entitled,” Healing through Dance: When the Body Speaks and the Spirit Moves”. Anne Krantz, a University of California San Francisco Clinical Psychologist and Dance Therapist, explores the healing properties of dance. Dr. Krantz discusses her work using the art of dance for creative transformation, as patients revitalize, express, and renew confidence in their bodies to address physical, emotional and spiritual challenges of cancer.

More Reading

Dance Movement Therapy for Women with Breast Cancer [DVD]

This is an 11-minute educational DVD about the use of dance therapy in a 12-week support group for women living with breast cancer. Sponsored by the California Pacific Medical Center’s Institute of Health and supported by the Marian Chace Foundation of the American Dance Therapy Association. Ilene Serlin, PhD, ADTR

Dance as a Healing Art: Returning to Health through Movement and Imagery
By Anna Halprin

Anna Halprin, a famous dancer who created revolutionary dance forms since the late 1930s, wrote this book to provide healing guidance for life after cancer. It serves as a guide to understand the emotional processes of a health crisis and acts as a guideline for those who may be caregivers and family.

The Art and Science of Dance/Movement Therapy: Life Is Dance
By Sharon Chaiklin and Hilda Wengrower

Over the past several years, there has been a gradual recognition of the importance of the interrelationship of the “bodymind” and how it affects human behavior – psychologically, physically and socially.

About the Author

ACC-logo-final-magnetaPat Wetzel is the founder of the Anti-Cancer Club. In 2009, she was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma. She closed down the investment fund in which she was a partner and focused on dealing with her cancer.

Pat created the Anti-Cancer Club to shorten the learning curve for others and provide quality, actionable information for crafting a sustainable, anti-cancer lifestyle, one step at a time.

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