A short history of dance movement therapy

Dance Movement Therapy is a form of art therapy which uses the body to access internalised feelings, emotions and the unconscious using movement, dance or mime. An underlying principle is that the quality of movement reflects the way we feel.

The origins of dance as a healing art can be traced a long way back into history, and many cultures have practiced dance as a form of therapy to explore relationships and understand the deeper currents of being.  It wasn’t, though, until the 1940s that early pioneers of dance therapy (such as Marion Chace and Mary Starks Whitehouse) began to formulate some of the practices which enable movement to be used in a therapeutic context.

A second wave of dance therapists began work in the 1960s.  They were able to draw on the works of those early pioneers and develop the profession further. Dance therapists began taking up positions in hospitals and schools, and this work continues today.

The profession is nourished through continuing international research, and the number of practitioners grows every year.

The practice of dance movement therapy

Dance movement therapy is also known as dance movement psychotherapy. It is based on the notion that, through dance and movement, a person can engage creatively in a process to further their emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration.

Much emphasis is given to the client/therapist relationship.  By acknowledging and supporting clients via the processes of mirroring and attuning, the therapist works towards the integration of new adaptive movement patterns for the client, together with the emotional experiences which accompany such changes. The use of metaphor and symbolism can be used to help uncover hidden feelings, and help the body navigate paths through difficulties and trauma towards healing.