Honoring the Women of the American Dance Therapy Association

As dance/movement therapists, we have quite the lineage of women who advocated for the profession of dance/movement therapy. Today, let us honor those women [and men] who compiled their strengths, motivations, efforts and dedication to dance/movement therapy and made the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) what it is today.

Dance/movement therapy was making its mark through the efforts of individuals for several years before the notion of an organization came about. In the early 1960s in Washington, D.C., Marian Chace, pioneer dance/movement therapist, was surprisingly against forming an organization. It was the persistence of Claire Schmais, who proposed the notion to Chace year after year, that opened the door to the formation of a national organization. During this same time, a group of dance/movement therapists, including Marjorie Pasternak, were meeting to organize in New York City, alongside an unrelated group of dance/movement therapists in California; this group included Joan Chodorow, Trudi Schoop, Mary Whitehouse and Alma Hawkins, among others.

After some correspondence and planning, a small committee was formed in 1964 with the motivation to begin laying the groundwork for the field. This committee placed efforts towards collecting information about who was working in the field as well as questioning how dance/movement therapy was being defined. The next year included many more meetings and continued correspondence: dance/movement therapists were sending letters of interest from all over the country.

On October 24, 1965, in Baltimore, Maryland the first conference of dance/movement therapists was held; the participants agreed the need for an organization was imminent. The motion was passed to become an incorporated organization–the ADTA was born.


UntitledThe First Officers of the ADTA, 1966.  Sitting: Marian Chace, Sharon Chaiklin.  Standing: Arlynne Samuels (Stark), Elissa Queyquep (White), Cathy Pasternak.

This was only the beginning; it took the continued efforts of many to manifest the organization as we know it today. Having surpassed 50 annual conferences all over the country, the ADTA continues to represent dance/movement therapy professionally and provides a platform for members to discuss their research and work.

The ADTA was created to: establish and maintain standards of professional competence among dance therapists; promote education; move dance/movement therapy towards a fully accredited profession; and establish effective communication with the public. It is because of the ADTA that we, dance/movement therapists, have training programs, credentials, professional conferences, standards and ethics, a forum for professional discussion, organized research, advocacy on our behalf and incalculable ongoing support in many areas.

Today, dance with gratitude for all the individuals of the ADTA–together we make it happen.

Author’s notes:

March 8th has been celebrated as International Women’s Day since in the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. Find out more about IWD at internationalwomensday.com.

There are far more women and men who have contributed towards making the ADTA happen, both in past and present than can be named here. Let this blog be an ode to the collation of efforts and energies that contribute to the field of dance/movement therapy through the years as well as today. This information for this blog was compiled and summarized from:

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