Afro-Caribbean Dance Healing System – Connection. Meaning. Power: An ADTA Talk

As a board certified dance/movement therapist and educator, Maria E. Rivera highlights the use of Afro-Caribbean dance as a cultural healing system. “Historically, some music and dance from the African Diaspora have given voice to communities of color, acting as a unifying source of cultural pride, of communal knowledge, and of communal healing.”

In her ADTA Talk, Rivera discusses historical oppression for communities of color and the need to acknowledge the continuing psychohistory of trauma. She states, “It is through culture and tradition, we give our clients the tools to gain a sense of connection, meaning and power.”

Bridging western dance/movement therapy training with knowledge of Afro-Caribbean dance, Rivera offers this lens to clients of all backgrounds.

She describes this healing system as accessing four levels of empowerment:

  • The Self-Body Power – dancing to activate healing energy and internal resources focused on liberating oneself physically, emotionally and cognitively.
  • The Collective Power – creating a safe holding environment for collective and/or group expression to support clients in engaging in meaningful relationships.
  • The Socio-Political Power – participating in historical dances while engaging in a cultural revolution of empowerment.
  • The Spiritual Power – accessing the internal resources that govern, transform and provide insight to individuals.

Dance/movement therapy as a practice is focused on the integration of the individual or group on multi-levels: social, emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual. Rivera’s work to integrate Afro-Caribbean dance is discussed as a meaningful tool within her dance/movement therapy work. She highlights the importance of working with the entire individual, through all of their parts.

Rivera ends with encouragement of “a therapeutic paradigm that is culturally, socially and politically sensitive; and one that is open to culturally distinct ways of conceptualizing health and healing.”

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