A Dance/Movement Therapy Moment

As I was training to become a dance/movement therapist, there were two phrases I constantly heard: “trust the process” and “breath is movement.” As I advanced in my training, I began to understand that dance/movement therapy (DMT) was not about dance as I knew it – grand sweeping movements, leaps, turns, etc. I slowly sensed it was more about connection, the flow of movement in relationship, attunement, and kinesthetic empathy. Simultaneously, I became aware of my own physical sensations, learned how to listen to my body intuitively, and trusted my ability to guide and respond to a client or group. For me, this resulted in creating safety, containment and trust, which are the cornerstones of the way I practice.

Photo by Tjook
Photo by Tjook

Some time ago, I worked with an eight-year-old boy with a history of abuse and a diagnosis of Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One day in the classroom, another student was being escorted out in a partial hold, yelling and kicking over desks. As I scanned the room for damage control, I noticed this boy, crouched behind his desk, hiding his head in the cubby hole, and holding onto the top of the desk so hard that his knuckles were white. I walked directly over to him in a straight, slow path. My body and intuition told me when to stop, how far away I should stand from him, and when to approach further. I knelt down, while my upper body remained alert and upright. My body was open, and I used my physical and intuitive presence to surround and contain the student so he would begin to feel safe. I did not mirror his concave shape or match the tension he was experiencing in my own body. I sensed he was nonverbally communicating, through his excessive bound flow, his fear and the desperate need for protection and a place to hide. When I felt my presence was received, not rebuffed, I began to breathe more audibly. Soon, I saw his shoulders drop. Instinctively, I knew that was my signal to speak. I said, “hey, you doing okay?” He tentatively said, “yeah.” I sensed physically changing his space would be a good, much needed, and welcomed transition for this student, so I asked him if he wanted to leave the room and take a walk. He said sure as he was already unfolding himself from the desk and walking toward the door. He led the way out into the hallway and I joined him at his side. I matched his rhythm when I could, respecting his need for quiet and space, stayed present, open and available to receive any words he might utter.

Reflecting back to that moment I spent with my student, I was grateful for the ways I have been guided to listen and trust my body and intuition. To be able to see, hear, and respect another human being in a non-judgmental way, regardless of age and behavior, is a gift to anyone who chooses or happens to work with a dance/movement therapist.




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