The terms “dance/movement therapy” and “hospice,” when spoken together often result in raised eyebrows. How can someone at the end of life dance? What will you do with them? In fact, dance/movement therapists can do quite a lot with patients facing a life-limiting illness, ranging from deep breathing and the exploration of micro movements all the way to full-fledged expressive dance. Attunement through physical touch (with the permission of my patient) is also a common form of therapeutic movement I employ.
I recently gave a talk titled “Hard Times Require Furious Dancing,” borrowed from Alice Walker’s book by the same name. Unlike American society, other cultures use dance not only as a form of entertainment or joy, but also as a vehicle to express grief and sorrow. At the heart of the hospice philosophy is that every person is entitled to a pain-free and dignified death. That dignity can come in any number of forms, including the opportunity to express the intimate process of death and dying through movement and all its manifestations. As Walker writes,
who knows how?
the body & the soul
come back together
Editor’s Note: For further information on the intersection of dance/movement therapy and palliative care, we recommend viewing Susan Carey Orkand’s ADTA Talk: Embracing the Unknown.
Walker, A. (2010) Hard times require furious dancing. Novato, CA: New World Library.