Dance Movement Therapy (DMT)

The body says what words cannot. Martha Graham

Unique to each of us is our “Dance of Self”. I am speaking to our daily expressions of our energetic presence made visible through our personal gestures, postures, and rhythms of movement.

Metaphorically, these personal clusters of movement create a body language that can be intuitively interpreted by others. These visual and sensory movements are what creates our ‘Dance of Self’ and automatically shed light on our ongoing non-verbal communications with each other.

We are born with an intuitive sensing of body language. The energy patterns we each project through our body language develop into our own unique personal dance of presence. We read each other’s non-verbal communications before words are even spoken.

Performance dance is different than our ‘Dance of Self’. It is created for exquisite entertainment and is very useful for exercise and pleasure as well. However it is important for the reader to appreciate that the art and skills of performance dance are practiced stylized movement sequences and is quite different than the organic, in the moment, movement expressions we each project kinesthetically as our ‘Dance of Self’.

Functional gestures have purposefully developed across the globe as each culture; neighborhood and village evolved their own expressive movement patterns or survival signals. All cultures, past and present have honored life events through rhythm, gestural and postural movements. Over time these movement expressions have become recognizable patterns/symbols in the dance of life.

Indeed, humanity has a rich history of expressive movement. No wonder our personal body movement patterns symbolically convey to others who we are and where we have come from. In each moment, our selected movements (conscious and unconscious) broadcast how we are choosing to step into the flow of life with its uncertainties, unforeseen changes and relationship challenges.

The silent language of body movement innately encapsulates an individual’s internal process. In the space of a DMT session, a client is provided a safe environment to express these internally felt emotions through words and movement.

These observable physical movements reflect back to each the client and therapist the symbolic expression of our biology, physiology, neurobiology, memory and imagination. Becoming aware of our “Dance of Self,” and being responded to by the dance movement therapist is the first step that initiates the healing powers of DMT.

With this perspective in mind the dance movement therapist perceives walking as dancing, how we each sit in our own unique way as a dance, and of course how we even say hello and good-by through our movement attitudes and gestures conveys our dance with another person.

From a developmental perspective each stage from infancy on has particular tasks emotionally and functionally that are biological, physical and psychological that are necessary to accomplish for cognition and maturity to evolve. Unfortunately there can be major reasons why this doesn’t automatically happen for everyone.

From a relational vantage point possible mismatching of care-taker and child may occur on the continuum from neglect to engulfment, from intrusion to abuse, as well as illness and other traumatic experiences and wounds that may occur. These wounds can create unfinished tasks that may continue to show up over and over as problem areas in our teens, as young adults, and as older adults since discord in our relationship patterns tend to repeat and carry over through each stage of development.

DMT addresses these fundamental life experiences and patterns through dialogue and movement interaction to instill a healing experience for unfinished developmental tasks to be addressed and cared for.

With guidance and encouragement during a DMT session new patterns can and will develop. Both internal feeling states and related movement behaviors are witnessed by the DMT with non-judgmental curiosity and care and are responded to with affirmative creative non-verbal responses. These exchanges continually occur in each present moment of the session.

This multi-dimensional integrative process of DMT simultaneously engages thoughts, feelings and the internal sensations of the client, from the “inside out and the “outside in.” Dialogue with subtle to active movement interactions between client and therapist are steps that when skillfully designed by the dance movement therapist facilitates an opportunity for both an internal and external realignment for the client.

As a client experiments externally with motility of their use of space, efforts and flow, with fast or slow, and can relax into stillness with less rigidity, internal shifts open up to new feelings about Self and others.

Through the framework of the,”Dance of Self,” themes of anxiety, depression, trauma, addictive patterns (thoughts and actions), negative self-image, relationship conflicts and life change choices can be uncovered, addressed and explored and new patterns takes place.

The DMT process purposefully helps calibrate behaviors and addresses the parts of us that have caused pain, sorrow, and overwhelm. Along with embracing these burdens of internal patterns and stuck feeling states the DMT approach of psychotherapy equally supports and helps cultivate the character strengths of the client.

By weaving both the internal and external events of both pain and competency, clients slowly begin to own and become aware of their resilience and natural talents. This supports the transition of Self- acceptance to emerge. A first time experience of “inner knowing” is often the result of this verbal and kinesthetic process.

DMT verbally and non-verbally introduces the client to self-care experiences that improve their ability to accept, manage and regulate inner feeling states. These therapeutic steps create a ‘working through’ process that brings about new feelings about Self. These realignments give support for a deeper balanced internal integration of the ‘unfinished tasks’ of Self-development and facilitate maturation.

As these transitions happen qualities of acceptance and the sensations of pleasure emerge. New neural synapse patterns rearrange as the neuroplasticity of our brains incorporates the effective changes. The inner knowing gained through this therapeutic process moves the client towards a greater capacity to engage successfully with others and make strides towards their personal goals. One’s presence begins to shift and emanate a brighter more open state of potential in the world.