American Dance Therapy Association Day of Service 2015

American Dance Therapy Association Day of Service 2015

Last October 2015, the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) held their annual conference in San Diego, California. What a beautiful, bright place to bring people worldwide together in movement and learning. Naturally, I was thrilled since this is my home-base! I was even more ecstatic when I was asked by ADTA Vice President, Margaret Migliorati, to be a local representative for the ADTA Day of Service.

The Day of Service is an event hosted by the ADTA each year on the day preceding the annual conference. In addition to connecting with the local community, its purpose is to introduce dance/movement therapy (DMT) to a few local agencies by presenting a (non-therapy) DMT group with clients and in-service with staff. My tasks as local representative included recruiting volunteers, coordinating sites, organizing logistics (i.e. transportation, music, etc.), creating an agenda and itinerary, leading the group at one site and guiding the in-service during the event. We chose two very different sites for this year’s Day of Service: one was an assisted living facility, and the other was the Monarch School for students who are impacted by homelessness.


The director at the assisted living facility was, at first, apprehensive to have a group of random people come to the home of geriatric adults. I reassured her over the phone that she would see how the work dance/movement therapists do truly benefits anyone. Since there were only a small amount of residents, she requested we do individual non-clinical DMT work instead of a group. As is customary for dance/movement therapists, we adapted and did what was best for the participants, working individually with them. Each dance/movement therapist guided their resident through a series of mind/body integration exercises. After moving with residents, the volunteers provided a brief in-service/discussion for staff who witnessed the DMT work. Following the in-service discussions, the staff stated that it was very eye opening as they had initially assumed we had come to do a “dance class” with the residents or do a dance for their residents. The team of dance/movement therapists who returned from this site reported that they demonstrated how movement, even with older adults who have a limited movement vocabulary, can still dance. I think this is the epitome of what the Day of Service is really about.


The next site was the Monarch School, where approximately 25 students participated in our volunteer led, non-therapy DMT group. The students seemed to enjoy the DMT group; some wanted to keep dancing and others wanted to stay longer at the end! The site also had four staff who stayed for the in-service following the group. The staff seemed to be quite interested in DMT and what it had to offer their students. They affirmed the unique element of mindful movement in DMT that other dance or art classes don’t quite touch on. They also asked about how a dance/movement therapist could get involved in their programming. They told us the Day of Service inspired them to share the importance of arts-based classes with other colleagues at their school.


Sharing knowledge about DMT is important for our field and the Day of Service is a great way to help share our expertise! Each year, Day of Service DMT volunteers reach out to connect and serve the local communities surrounding the host city of the annual ADTA conference. I know I plan to partake each year and look forward to 2016 in Bethesda, Maryland. Support the ADTA 50/50 campaign and help educate our communities! If you would like extra guidance as to how to start speaking about DMT or ideas on how to give a concise description of DMT, visit

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