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Dance Therapy

 

Something made me look into Dance Movement Therapy again. I follow a blog that often shares videos on this topic, but during the school year I was too busy to follow up on it, thinking, longingly, that it would be a great thing to be able to offer to the clients at my internship, and then when the internship ended, I thought, hey, what about me?

I loved to dance as a kid. I loved music and movement. I hated the wall of mirrors in my dance classes, and having to wear leotards and tights, but you can’t have everything. The problem was that, pretty quickly, I became self-conscious of my body and unwilling to move, and then unable to even imagine moving. The thing I could do least was to express myself with my body. I could follow instructions and do the steps as prescribed, but I couldn’t move as a way of speaking, because I was too afraid of what I would say and how other people would respond.

beatiful animated dancer

I’ve always dreamed of having a dance movement therapist to help me with this. I love talk therapy, and it has worked well for me, but I’ve always wanted a chance to work in other areas, like music or dance or art, because that’s where a lot of my unfinished stuff is hiding. I am afraid of being seen as I am, and being judged as unworthy, untalented, disgusting, ugly, annoying, inarticulate, stupid. The list of epithets gets worse and worse, if I let it.

But even the snippets of Dance therapy I’ve been able to find online make me feel nervous, and alienated, and bring up my insecurities. I watch So You Think You Can Dance and I keep hoping that the language they create with their bodies will help make me more articulate by proxy, that watching them will help me learn how to express things I can’t express with words, but somehow what they do on the TV doesn’t translate into my body. It doesn’t say what I need to say.

sytycd

Cricket has tried to help me with this. She is all body language all the time. She has hundreds of specific facial expressions, and her dance vocabulary is intricate and exhaustive. But I can’t seem to learn these skills from her either. I’m sure part of the problem is that her particular body type and mine do not have much in common, but still.

doing the twist

This is Cricket’s version of the twist

13 - puddle licking

This one is both a tongue stretch and a paw lift, a complex maneuver

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This move cannot be captured in words

 

I can’t even make a plan for what I’d want to work on with a dance therapist. When I try to imagine finally making an appointment and showing up, I feel like I’m going to jump out of a window, just to escape the horror. I don’t know what the horror is, though. I just know that it will be there, somewhere in the air, this miasma of pain and anxiety and self-loathing that I don’t know how to confront without having to feel it all at once, which will kill me.

My magical and unrealistic dream is that dance therapy will make me so free that I will be able to fly. Not for long distances, just for a second, the way Butterfly used to do out in the backyard.

pix from eos 041

Cricket is always free. She stretches as a matter of course and goes outside without her clothes on every day. But, I don’t need to progress quite that far.

IMG_1743

 

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

97 responses »

  1. I simply put on my posing thong and immerse myself in modern interpretive dance with wild abandon. Shall I send videos? No? Well fine. 👅

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  2. Dogs in an environment of love and trust, even abused dogs, will become uninhibited, totally unselfconscious, not even minding if we laugh at their hilarious moves. Like they know we are laughing with love for them. If you find such a person or place for humans either keep it a great secret so it’s not spoiled, or tell everybody. Not sure which.

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  3. Rachel–I laughed so hard at Cricket’s dance moves–what a riot! I can’t dance worth a lick but in my kitchen, by myself–I bust all the moves!! Oh, yeah.

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  4. Rachel, you are such a joy. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to your weekly posts. Thank you 😊 and keep dancing !!

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  5. This is a very moving post. And Cricket doing the twist was hilarious. Thank you!

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  6. Perhaps consider learning one of the tai chi forms. Many years ago I was quite involved with tai chi and did Chen style as well as a sword form and a fan style. I got away from it and ended up forgetting my accumulated knowledge, something I regret. I’ve started again, only this time learning Yang Style, a much gentler and slower form than I used to do. Each movement has a meaning and relates to fighting movements as well. Practicing the form is like doing a moving meditation.

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  7. Yes, well, clothes are good. Really. Too bad you aren’t into horse riding (I’m not either). i hear that it’s a bit like letting the horse do your dance moves for you and you get to feel the thrill! That sounds more enjoyable (because its a horse, of course) and the horse does all the hard work. And if he lays down a ridiculous dance move, you just roll your eyes and say, “what do you expect – he’s a horse!” That way he gets all the criticism and you don’t!

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  8. I think dance therapy would be wonderful. A fabulous release and energizing too. Good luck if you do it. Cricket’s a bundle of cuteness as always!

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  9. This made me laugh remembering when I was in college years and years ago. I took a modern dance class for one of my gym requirements. We had to wear the leotards and slippers and we learned about Isadora Duncan and had to make up routines to perform in front of everyone else. I hated it ( notvyo mention it met 8:00 Saturday morning; no cuts allowed!) I always felt so self conscious. I’ve outgrown my self consciousness now that I’m in my 60s but I’m sure I couldn’t move like I used to. LOL!

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  10. I say sweats are a good way to get past wearing a leotard. First you give yourself permission to move, later you worry about appearances.

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  11. I need therapy but dancing might not be enough.

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  12. Tribal belly dance helped me break through some of my body image issues, but I am blessed with a teacher and troupe that is super supportive. Finding the right teacher can make a huge difference. 🙂

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  13. I recommend Tracy Anderson dance/cardio dvds. I rock out in my living room every morning 🙂

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  14. I too love dance.. I was a wannbe ballet dancer.. I loved listening to the Nutcracker suite but also loved the old musicals too. I took a workshop on Davidic dance or maybe it is Messianic. Anyway so enjoyed it. I think some kind of folk dancing would be fun. Anyway, go for it…

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    • My dream was always to become Cyd Charisse.

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      • Yes, such a classy dancer. I liked all of them. Do you know who the Busby Berkley dancers were? You may be too young.. but loved watching them.. so talented and so different than the shake it and more kind of dancing these days…

      • The kaleidoscopes! I made a point of watching every musical I could find black and white or color. I fell in love with Gene Kelly when he roller skated through Xanadu with Olivia Newton John, and I had to go back and see everything he’d ever been in. And then everything Fred Astaire had ever been in, and so on, and so on.

  15. Until recently, I used to dance on a regular basis, and it was fun!

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  16. I do hope you can love yourself enough

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  17. This is a lovely post and so well expressed. I had belly dance lessons once, and had all those thoughts but I loved it even though I was rubbish at it. I reckon we should just get on with it like Cricket!

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  18. My favorite thing about your posts is your ability to find the words. I read them and think “yeah, that is how I feel also!”

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  19. Intuitively you are on to a need. The right therapist will understand your concerns about movement releasing too much too fast. “Little by slowly” works in any body centered work. Peace and happy Rosh Hashana this coming week.

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  20. Please go for it Rachael!, dance movement is very freeing, reaches deep in to held tensions and gives confidence to help overcome obstacles. When I went to my first yoga dance workshop I was sooo nervous and self conscious but then having felt the freedom that he movement gave me both physically and emotionally it gave me strengths to face life and evens I did think I had. xx

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  21. Sorry my ‘T’ keeps sticking on my keyboard, meant to type life and events I didn’t think I had !

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  22. Dancing is beautiful. Just do it. Go out into an open space and dance with not a care in the world. Who knows maybe, just maybe you’ll give someone else the courage to do it also.

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  23. Don’t let the Horror stop you! I know how you feel, though – I, too, am familiar with the Horror. I often wonder how it can be in so many places at once.

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  24. http://soulkitchendance.org/ecstatic-dance-an-article-in-rachels-words/
    http://ecstaticdance.org/guidelines/ – after I read your blog I remember my friend talking going to a place where they did the ecstatic dancing and she found it incredibly therapeutic! I do it in my backyard almost every day as a way to help my spirits when they need lifting and it’s also great exercise without seeming like regular exercise. Keep us posted on this!

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  25. Please forgive me if this comment is a duplicate – couple things I found thinking about helping you find a way to incorporate dance into your life: http://soulkitchendance.org/ecstatic-dance-an-article-in-rachels-words/
    http://ecstaticdance.org/guidelines/ – my friend used to go to a place in Dallas TX to do this and she loved it. I just do it in my backyard!

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  26. At least you understand your own limitations and are kind to yourself, not forcing something that feels unnatural to you. Too often we humans force issues that a sensible dog knows better than to attempt. I think perhaps your ‘voice’ is in writing…you share beauty and poignant moments that way; share pain and joy; and ‘dance’ beautifully. I used to dance (not professionally of course, I had my own limitations); and I find the idea of dance therapy so very intriguing. Of course these days I’m mostly metal below stairs (my hips and knee) and arthritic and doing leaps or twirls or trying different ballet moves is beyond me. I miss it frankly. I’m sure you will find your own version of dance therapy – and maybe you already have, but just don’t realize it. Look to Cricket. She knows about that stuff…

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  27. I never thought of it as dance therapy. But you got me thinking. I loved to dance too, went to ballroom dancing for a bit. Gradually, I stopped dancing though – life was not exactly allowing me time. After we moved here, and I lost my husband, I stopped completely. A few months ago, I started, sort of, again. I am dancing my myself to the music that is not specific to dancing at all – mostly to words, like those of Vladimir Visotsky

    I cry all the way though a dance. And then, yes – maybe because there is no more strength or emotions left, I am quiet. It may be dance therapy, indeed. Thanks for reminding me that it exists.

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  28. Dancing a waltz with my husband transcends time and space.Yes, I feel like I a soaring through a make-believe world. Your insights into yourself as well as your ability to express them through words and pictures of Cricket just blows me away.

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  29. Dance as though no-one is watching you 😉

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  30. I loved to dance, and always wanted to learn how to jive. These days we don’t go to events that warrant slow smooches that Hubby and I share. But then he will dance with me in the supermarket aisle if the mood takes him.

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  31. You might like the “Shimmy” belly dance videos that were put out by a Canadian company. They are only half an hour long, they go over the steps many times (I really need repetitive instruction when it comes to dance), and the dancers are of all ethnicities and body types. They emphasize just moving for the joy of it.
    I am not coordinated at all, but I really enjoy following along with these videos, to the limit of my capabilities. I don’t move well and I would not do this in front of anybody, but I tell myself that it is not even the body exercise that counts, it is that it is good for my brain to learn new things and to work areas of it that are not my default modes of thinking. 🙂
    The set of videos is pricey but less than a dance class, and maybe a library near you would have them. And I guarantee that for the 30 minutes you spend trying to follow along, you will get a mental break from everything you normally think about!

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  32. I know what you mean about what people might think but hey, who cares what they think? Just dance like no one’s watching, let yourself have fun, feel good positive energy running throughout your body, and live 🙂

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  33. I love your blog Rachel and that’s why I am nominating you for the One Lovely Blog Award, details on my site http://www.happyhautehome.com Congratulations!

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  34. hairytoegardener

    Those photos of Cricket are so funny. I’m gonna’ try the tongue stretch and foot lift maneuver myself.

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  35. I never knew about dance therapy but it sounds great! I hope that you will try it! Can they do it without mirrors in the room? Would that help? Or maybe find a song you really like that makes you want to move and dance in your living room with Cricket! I bet Cricket could shake her but real good!

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  36. I don’t know where you are, but here, look at this: https://nianow.com/geofind/classes find a class. If dance therapy is what you want this might be right up your alley. It is a class so you won’t be put on the spot. Everyone is focused on their own dance. You might like it. At least look it up on the internet 🙂 Nia.

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  37. Dancing is wonderfully health-giving, spiritually and physically, so I do hope you get in to doing some more of it. Do you have ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ over there (is it called Dancing with the Stars?)? It’s a national; obsession from now until Christmas, and brings hours of joy to us Brits! Shanah Tovah for tomorrow, by the way and enjoy the holidays. Pip and the boys

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  38. Reblogged this on Popular on WordPress Blog and commented:
    This is Awesome 🙂

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  39. Cricket has some great some great moves. Love, Cricket!

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  40. I love the picture of Cricket with her prancing foot and tongue out. A great place to start is at home with your favorite song turned up high and a mirror with Cricket and Butterfly as your audience. Like Madonna says “get into the groove” or that other song “I hope you dance” that says “dance like no one is watching”.

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  41. As a dance/movement therapist I can say that most everyone I have ever worked with would be hard pressed to dance at their own wedding let alone anywhere else. And, I think of it as more movement than dance. Dance often connotes technique, form, and skill. Movement is something we do all the time, through gestures, postures, walking or wheeling.

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  42. Lovely, thank you! I wish you well with the dance therapy.

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  43. Wonderful post Rachel. My chiropractor says he can tell the kinds of emotions people are not expressing through the tensions in their body. I understand about movement releasing overpowering emotions because it happened to me in a martial arts class. I sometimes recommend to clients Tai Chi to very gentle music, like a slow waltz, or any kind of music they find soothing. It seems to make the action happen in a “safe” place.

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  44. amazing! may be you can read my blogs too..sometimes.. 🙂

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  45. Prayers for you to fly like a bird…even if only for a moment at a time. God bless.

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  46. She looks like a darling, and a great companion. ❤

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  47. Hysterical, in a sweet way. Hysweeterical?

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  48. Sometimes we take birds, like Greater Sandhill Cranes as our muse. I don’t dance anymore but wish to tell you that I took an award-winning charcoal sketch of dancers that won a student art contest that my father bought for me. It was in a horrible frame. I chose delicate yet emphatic framing to bring one’s eye to the work.I wanted him to have a photo of it before he died, It was done two days after his funeral over the holidays. Live. Be free. Dance before it’s too late to do so, Dad was chairman of a ballet company before he died. He headed the Joffrey years earlier. Do not doubt yourself.

    Reply

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