American Journal of Dance Therapy

Published by Springer Verlag
Online ISSN: 1573-3262
Print ISSN: 0146-3721
This article investigates Franziska Boas’s pioneering work as part of the arts program at Bellevue Hospital in New York. During late 1930s and early 1940s, a few modern dancers explored dance as a holistic practice. They believed that movement not only was a way to express emotional states, but that modifications in movement could initiate emotional healing. The profession of dance therapy, a subfield of arts therapy, resulted. Boas was one of the first dance practitioners to work in a hospital setting. She volunteered her services at Bellevue Hospital in New York from 1939 until 1943 as part of an arts program originally funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). At Bellevue, Boas worked closely with the internationally renowned child psychiatrist, Dr. Lauretta Bender, with whom Boas wrote some of the earliest scholarly treatises on the burgeoning field of dance therapy. Resistance to this early incarnation of dance therapy by many in the medical profession and the media illuminates 1930s and 1940s ideas about mental health, therapeutic interventions and child advocacy.
Movement Conveys Gender Roles 
Communication Comparison 
Dimensions of Meaning in Dance 
Since 1962, Judith Lynne Hanna has been on an unending odyssey to understand the power of dance. Adventures in different cultures raised questions that led to research projects. At social dances in Los Angeles, she noticed that Africans had a distinctive aura as they danced. Why? Preparing for African fieldwork, she sought theoretical grounding in the dance therapy field. Yet, aesthetic and psychological theories insufficiently explained her half-century dance experience. Dance research in Nigeria and Uganda, an American elementary school, American theaters, social dance settings, and adult entertainment clubs also resonated with political science, anthropology and sociolinguistics. In addition, the nonverbal communication field and cognitive science explorations of the mind-body interface helped to explain the persuasive dance communication she saw in practice. Findings of how, what, to and with whom dance speaks have implications for dance therapy and its broader acceptance in the health field and wider population.
Weaving together multiple strands of Carolyn Grant Fay’s life and work, publication of the 2008 Marian Chace Foundation Lecture is predominantly a transcription of the documentary film “At the Threshold.” The film begins with a moving image of Carolyn Fay in her studio, her eyes are closed with inner-directed attention as she symbolically enacts a dream. We see her move and at the same time hear her voice-over telling a dream. She turns then to art materials and draws a picture of that dream. As she draws and moves again, she reflects on the dream’s meaning and purpose. Building on the foundation of her inner work, there is a shift to Carolyn Fay’s work with others. Potent sequences from three individual psychotherapy sessions are shown, as well as with a group. Fay’s approach to dance therapy invites movement, sand play, art, clay, music, self-reflection, dialogue and exchange, guided by individual preferences and held by a trusting therapeutic relationship. In addition to the work itself, there is an added dimension of the issue of aging and how Carolyn Fay responds to it through her own self-understanding.
This theoretical paper, the author’s master’s thesis, identified the paradox at the foundation of female sexuality as operationally defined by the field of sex therapy and Western culture. In response, this thesis weaved together the fields of dance/movement therapy and sacred sexuality to create a new perspective on female sexuality and female sexual dysfunction. The result was the establishment of a more inclusive definition of sexuality and the redefinition of sexual dysfunction. The author reframed sexuality as a creative, life-promoting source of vitality located within one’s body. It serves as an interface between one’s inner and outer environment, enabling the experience of pleasure and acting as a catalyst for biological, physiological, emotional, and/or spiritual growth or change. The author renamed sexual dysfunction, sexuality incognizance, which she argues is a lack of perceptual awareness towards recognizing, attuning to, and appreciating the full range of sexual expressions and pleasurable experiences of the body. This thesis proposed a new model for working with sexuality, which the researcher named Kinetic-Embodied Sexuality Therapy (K-EST). The model empowers women, supports them in the cultivation of an intimate relationship with and acceptance of their bodies, and supports them in the expansion of their sexuality expression through the development of sexuality cognizance by way of movement exploration, creative dance, creative projects, and integrative discussion. This thesis proposed a 6-week outcome research study measuring the efficacy of the K-EST model in working with women diagnosed with female sexual dysfunction. In the proposed outcome study pretest and posttest measures of Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) and Quality of Life Inventory (QOLI) would be taken by the 6 participants in the treatment group and the 6 participants in the wait-listed control group, and then compared. The author hypothesizes that the K-EST model will alleviate symptoms of female sexual dysfunction and will improve participants’ overall life satisfaction. Author: Melissa Walker graduated from Naropa University in May 2009, with a Master’s degree in Somatic Counseling Psychology, emphasis on Dance/Movement Therapy. She completed a 12-month counseling internship at the Colorado AIDS Project in July 2009. She plans to establish groups based on her Kinetic-Embodied Sexuality Therapy model, measuring its benefit for women. She can be reached at
This paper reviews the literature on child sexual abuse, discusses treatment issues, and illustrates the use of movement therapy in the diagnosis and treatment of victimized children. The clustering of specific nonverbal exchanges of this population is identified and articulated. Four areas of traumatic impact — relationship patterns, self-esteem, sexual identity, and body image — are described, and effective therapeutic interventions are developed. Case examples are related to each of the traumatic effects. One in-depth case, involving the re-enactment of the sexual abuse within the process, illuminates the viability and value of movement as a modality for psychotherapy with sexually abused children.
This study was designed to examine the effects of and to compare two remedial movement interventions on selected measures of academic achievement, physical performance and socio-behavioral adjustment of first grade children with learning and perceptual-motor problems. The two movement treatments were Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) and Sensory Motor Activities (SMA). Sixty eight pupils were recruited from two comparable schools in the San Francisco Bay area of California and assigned to one of three groups: DMT; SMA; or Control. The two experimental groups received 30 minutes of treatment three times a week over a 13 week period. The Controls engaged in the school’s regular physical education program. The results of Multivariate Analyses of Covariance failed to disclose significant treatment difference among the three groups. Correlation analyses indicated generally low and fluctuating pre-posttest relationships among as well as within treatment groups. In the absence of a significant treatment effect, the unpredictability of group performance over time may have been more an indicator of idiosyncratic pupil performance than treatment efficacy.
Emotional resonance and empathy are the tools of body-based ways of knowing, central to fostering healthy sexuality. As dance/movement therapists strive to provide their clients with comfortable challenges while holding a non-judgmental attitude, it is useful to keep in mind certain identified techniques which are designed to develop healthy sexuality. The activities described can be used with groups and individuals. They include here-and-now exercises, guided imagery, assertiveness training, sensory integration activities, and other experiential elements relevant to the development of body image and self esteem. KeywordsHealthy sexuality–Dance movement therapy applications to sexuality
Mean emotion content of participant responses
t-Test results of subjects
The current study questions whether our emotions change depending on whether we watch a person model postures or, rather, embody the postures ourselves. The posture photographs from the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy Test of Posture (DANVA2-POS) were used as the stimuli by which to rate levels of agreement among participants. Forty-one individuals were randomly allocated to one of two groups (observing or embodying) and invited to rate, in open-ended written responses, twenty-four postures by describing the emotion or feeling associated with each posture. The responses were then coded as happy, sad, angry, fearful, shameful, or surprised. A comparison of means demonstrated that there were no differences in response among all emotions except anger. A significantly higher anger response was shown for the embodying condition than for the observing condition.
Behavioural and Emotional Symptoms in Two Cases Measured with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) before and after Dance-Movement Therapy
Motor Function in the Two Cases Measured with the Movement ABC Motor Test before and after Dance/Movement Therapy 
Function in the Two Cases Measured with the Movement ABC Motor Test before and after Dance/Movement Therapy
This article is based on a pilot study concerning a short-term dance/movement therapy (DMT) for two young boys with symptoms related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The aim was to investigate the effect and value of DMT as an alternative treatment and to describe the process. The DMT lasted ten sessions and took place once a week during three months. In a case study multiple data sources were used to triangulate the data and describe the DMT process. The DMT has promoted a positive change to a certain extent. Two hypotheses, which will be tested in a forthcoming study, are generated from this study. DMT provided in paired groups for a minimum of ten weeks will (1) improve the motor function and (2) reduce the behavioural and emotional symptoms of boys aged 5–7 diagnosed with ADHD.
This study had two major purposes: (1) To determine if severely and moderately retarded adults could be trained in progressive muscle relaxation (2) To determine if skin temperature biofeedback could be used to provide physiological evidence for the relaxation response through increased skin temperature in the fingers. The authors worked with five retarded adults at a day treatment center in New York City. The clients were taught progressive muscle relaxation. Biofeedback measurements were recorded before and after each training session. The results show that the majority of the subjects benefited from relaxation training, as demonstrated by behavioral observations and physiological data.
Dance therapists assume that feelings change in dance therapy, but no published research has been found to support this notion. Therefore, two pilot studies were designed to compare the effects of participation in a dance therapy group versus a control group and versus a T-group. The subjects in the first experiment were female student nurses; in the second, they were female occupational therapy students. A Feelings Questionnaire to measure affect was completed before and after each group met. Data for each experiment were analyzed by Multivariate Analysis of Variance covarying for the prescores. Significant results were found for the following factor scores in both experiments: Erotized Affection, Anxious, and Somatic Distress. In addition, the first experiment found significant changes for the Depressed factor; the second experiment found significant changes for Confident and Inhibited factor scores. The clinical relevance of these findings and indications for further research are discussed.
The use of personal space to develop a working alliance in dance therapy is investigated. Research studies of personal space and cultural differences, developmental issues, age and sex factors, personality correlates, and psychopathology are reviewed. Using the results of these studies, clinical applications are presented. Suggestions for the therapeutically productive use of personal space are outlined.
Since its inception in 1966, the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) has worked to develop standards of professional training. The initiation of a registry procedure was the organization’s first attempt to identify and set forth standards for clinical training. This task was often difficult due to three important factors: (1) the lack of in-depth training opportunities during the early years of the association; (2) the desire and motivation of the ADTA to establish a professional identity; and (3) the lack of a clearly defined body of knowledge. The emergence of graduate programs in dance therapy has positively affected the quality of training, lent credibility to the profession, and facilitated the discovery and exploration of a body of knowledge. This paper traces the historical development of dance therapy training in the ADTA.
On May 19, 2002, Andréa Rizzo, an aspiring dance/movement therapist, was killed by a drunk driver. In the midst of their grief, colleagues, friends and family created The Andréa Rizzo Foundation, to assure that Andréa’s dream of helping children with cancer and special needs through dance therapy would become a reality. Instituting dance therapy programs at both Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and in public schools throughout the Northeast, The Andréa Rizzo Dance Therapy Program continues to touch lives and broaden the spectrum of creative therapies recognized by doctors, nurses and educators alike. This article will highlight the programs that The Andréa Rizzo Foundation has instituted and funded since its inception in September 2002, as well as the Foundation’s recent developments and achievements.
This pilot study explores the control issue of anorectics through an analysis of the movement behavior of female anorectics (ages 17–22 years) as compared to non-anorectics and as a reflection of their Internal-External Locus of Control. This personality construct is an operationalization of Bruch's ineffectiveness dimension of primary anorexia nervosa. Five hospitalized anorectics and five non-anorectic controls were videotaped individually while performing three standard movement sequences and the Reid-Ware Multi-dimensional Locus of Control scale was administered to each participant. Movement videotapes were analysed by two Certified Movement Analysts in terms of the anorectic/non-anorectic distinction, the total locus of control scores, and for each of the subdimensions. While there were no significant differences between anorectics and controls in terms of the locus of control scale, a cluster of movement parameters was significantly reflective of the anorectic disorder. These movement behaviors were indicative of a lack of sense of centre, lack of flow control and a distorted sense of time, space and weight. The study concludes with a theoretical interpretation of the movement findings for anorectics and a discussion of implications for treatment.
The aim of this article is to highlight dance/movement therapy students’ learning process as they integrate and apply dance/movement therapy concepts. Three current students present vignettes on how they were able to use dance/movement therapy principles and techniques after their first year of dance/movement therapy graduate studies. The vignettes illustrate dance/movement therapy and Kestenberg Movement Profile approaches that are applied as students test out their new knowledge in real world settings with a child with autism, an infant, and parents of a three-year-old. Woven through the students’ stories are dance/movement therapy intervention techniques, successful approaches to communicating with nonverbal infants and prevention techniques to guide parents through difficult developmental phases.
Characteristics movement pathology as symptomatic of schizophrenia has long been cited in the literature. This pilot study postulates that these movement features are particular to the illness and distinct from medication side-effects. In conjunction with the National Institute of Mental Health's study on individual responsiveness of schizophrenics to neuroleptics, this study compared movement pathology across neuroleptic and placebo conditions. The videotapes of seven subjects were analyzed according to the Movement Diagnostic Scale, Version B. Of the five movement features postulated to be symptomatic of schizophrenia, and therefore predicted not to differ across medication conditions, integration, posture/locomotion, and spatial complexity showed significant differences. Of the three movement features predicted to reflect medication effect, only mobility was found to be significantly different. The results support a relationship between fragmentation and large number of hospitalizations. Hence, the study suggests that some extrapyramidal effects of neuroleptic medication remain unrecognized and that the distinction between motor symptoms related to the illness or due to neuroleptics is blurred.
Test anxiety is a multidimensional problem which can lead to undue distress for the individual. The objective of this pilot study was to investigate if dance/movement therapy (DMT) might be an effective intervention for reducing symptoms of test anxiety. Twenty-one participants, all of whom were students at an urban university, voluntarily participated in this study. Participants were both graduate and undergraduate students with a mean age of 29 years. Volunteers completed the Test Attitude Inventory (TAI; Spielberger, 1980) as a pre-test measure of test anxiety. Participants were matched for pretest scores and gender before being randomly assigned to either the control group (n= 10) or the experimental group (n= 11). Individuals included in the experimental group participated in four movement sessions, 35 minutes in duration carried out over two consecutive weeks. DMT interventions were structured around themes of test taking situations. Upon completion of the DMT sessions, both the control group and the experimental group were re-administered the TAI and those involved in the movement sessions were asked to provide written comments on their experiences. Results showed that the
Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths in older adults (Murphy 2000), and they can lead to fear of falling, reduced quality of life, withdrawal from activities, and injury. Changes in joint ranges of motion, strength, sensory processing, and sensorimotor integration all contribute to reduced balance stability with increasing age and these changes are paralleled in those with Parkinson Disease (PD). Interventions, such as traditional exercises tailored specifically for seniors and/or individuals with PD, have addressed balance and gait difficulties in an attempt to reduce fall rates with mixed, undocumented results. Argentine tango dancing has recently emerged as a promising non-traditional approach to ameliorating balance and gait problems among elderly individuals. The goal of this study was to determine whether the functional mobility benefits noted in elders following a tango dancing program might also extend to older individuals with PD. We compared the effects of tango to those of traditional exercise on functional mobility in individuals with and without PD. We predicted that the functional mobility and quality of life gains noted with Argentine tango would be greater than those noted with traditional strength/flexibility exercise. Thirty-eight subjects (19 control and 19 with PD) were assigned to 20 hour-long exercise or tango classes that were completed within 13weeks. Although all groups showed gains in certain measures, only the Parkinson Tango group improved on all measures of balance, falls and gait. Moreover, upon terminating the program the Parkinson Tango group was more confident about balance than the Parkinson Exercise group. In psychosocial terms, both groups largely enjoyed their experiences because the classes fostered community involvement and became a source of social support for the members. Our results suggest that Argentine tango is an appropriate, enjoyable, and beneficial activity for the healthy elderly and those with PD and that tango may convey benefits not obtained with a more traditional exercise program.
This study examines the management functions of the dance therapist as a group leader. These functions, which include 1) maintaining the external group boundary, 2) mediating the level of complexity in the group’s tasks, 3) controlling the group interaction, and 4) tolerating ambiguity and uncertainty, are often unexamined aspects of therapeutic technique. Leadership styles of three dance therapists were analysed by the Structural Analysis of Movement Sessions in videotaped sessions with normal, schizophrenic, and character-disoriented groups. Each diagnostic group preferred, and participated more effectively in, sessions led with the particular leadership style which best matched group members’ attitudes toward symbiosis or separation. The authors conclude that the structure of the group environment and its management by the therapist evoke patterns of response from group members based on the degree to which the group corresponds to internalized configurations of early parental care-taking. An awareness of one’s leadership style and its effect on different populations can increase the level of sophistication of the dance therapist’s group interventions.
Scores for difference pre-and post-test of True and Ideal Sex Role Perception 
This study examines changes in the attitudes towards sex roles, needs, and obligations of Arab women studying early childhood education, and changes in emotional awareness of both Arab and Jewish women and men studying education. The intervention experienced by 94 students over the course of one or two semesters is a multidisciplinary approach called Beyond Words. The participants were measured at two points—a week after the beginning of the course and two weeks before its completion and were compared to a control group that did not undergo the intervention. Significant differences were found in the first part of the study dealing with attitudes towards sex roles both in the before and after measures and in comparison with the control group. Women in the experimental group became more confident and more liberal in how they viewed themselves and their ideal role model. The qualitative questionnaire findings clearly indicate the emotional change experienced upon the completion of the course. According to these personal testimonials, it seems that the course significantly increased emotional awareness and flexibility in thinking and feeling as well as acceptance of and empathy for others.
Dance/Movement Therapy, like all psychotherapies, is in need of assessment methods that meet the demands of managed care. Through Laban Movement Analysis therapists are able to assess dynamic qualities of movement, known as Effort elements. This study introduces the Moving Story Effort Assessment (MSEA), a movement assessment for preadolescent children, which uses imagery as a catalyst for Effort production. The assessment was administered to 31 healthy children aged 8–11years, and the movement rated by 3 trained observers. The findings suggest that the tested images consistently result in eliciting a specific Effort quality. The data collected from this study may therefore be used to assist dance/movement therapists in the assessment of children by comparing this study’s normative results to the child being assessed.
Participation in and development of Authentic Movement practice has captured my interest and study for the past 20years. However, for some time I have questioned the, to my mind, problematic label authentic. Whilst the term has particular historical origins and rationale, it can appear misleading in contemporary practice. A claim to authenticity may imply a hierarchy between those who can move authentically and those who cannot. Thereby it might set up unrealistic expectations in those newly attracted to the practice. The label authentic can disguise the essentially participatory core of the practice. In this article I share my reflections on the name Authentic (Movement) and my reasons for replacing it with the new term MoverWitness exchange. This paper illuminates one aspect of my research included in my dissertation, Shared habitats: The MoverWitness paradigm (E. Goldhahn, University of Plymouth and Dartington College of Arts, Devon, UK, 2007).
Children who exhibit autistic features, or who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, are not necessarily autistic. Some of these misdiagnosed children employ autistic defenses to protect themselves against abuse or neglect, keeping outsiders, even those close to them, at a safe distance. This article reviews current research to better understand how etiology and individual factors have an impact on a child’s integration and understanding of relationships. The use of dance/movement therapy identified Lisa’s interactive patterns and focused on providing her with a safe environment to experience relationships and to reach her maximum potential. KeywordsAttachment-Trauma-Autism-Dance-Parenting-Mother–child-Object relations-Spectrum disorder-Defenses-Therapy-Child development-Milestones-Diagnostic criteria-Autistic defence-Self regulation-Mind–body connection-Single subject design-Case-study-Special needs-Movement
Balance is an important concept in Chinese culture. Holistic health in Traditional Chinese Medicine is defined by a balanced and integrated body, mind and spirit. Although the importance of living in a state of balance is implanted in Chinese people, the concept moves into the background, becoming ignored or disturbed, when an individual becomes overwhelmed by physical and psychological distress, such as a diagnosis of cancer. Dance Movement Therapy (DMT), which works at both the physical and psychological levels, also asserts that total well-being is a function of the interconnected body, mind, and spirit, making it a particularly suitable and potentially powerful intervention for Chinese clients who find themselves out of balance. This paper demonstrates how a mix of eastern approaches such as meditation and tai-chi like movement, eastern philosophy such as living in the moment and nonattachment, and DMT’s western emphasis on spontaneous movement and expression, can help Chinese clients, accustomed to containing expressive behavior, regain and embody the traditional wisdom of balance. Steps in this approach include acknowledging the influences of Confucianism and traditional education, loosening the established controls and disciplines, awakening the traditional wisdom of mind-body interconnectedness (as well as the ‘sentimental side’ that lies inside), and regaining the sense of balance of body, mind and spirit.
This paper discusses a dance action-research project developed with elderly people in Brazil. The meanings of ballroom dancing and its benefits are explored for 60 elderly Brazilians through participant observation and questionnaires. This study adds to the growing number of dance projects and research for older people, responding in part to evidence that dance is a form of therapy for its valuable means in augmenting mental, emotional and physical well-being and to counteract social isolation. The dance project took place through the Third Age Club, which was founded by The Viçosa County’s Social Assistance Department and the Federal University of Viçosa. At the end of one year taking the ballroom dance classes, the senior citizens were asked to answer a questionnaire in order to provide subjective information on the meanings of ballroom dancing and its benefits for them. The outcome of this inquiry was analyzed under a qualitative approach, phenomenological hermeneutics. Five major categories of therapeutic meanings of ballroom dancing for participants are: ballroom dancing is fun; it brings health benefits; it brings back good dancing memories; it allows participants to establish cultural connections to the larger Brazilian dancing culture; it provides opportunities for socializing. The article ends with reflective analysis of the researchers’ observations and field notes by suggesting that the ballroom dancing classes created a culture of inclusion that embraced both understanding and acceptance among senior citizens, which in turn might improve their quality of life.
This literature-based study generated a clinical dance/movement therapy program intended for patients with gynecological cancer to run concurrently with the high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy treatment. A ten-week clinical model combines elements from established dance/movement therapy practices to specifically address psychological and psychosocial issues relevant to the targeted patient population. In order to develop an appropriate intervention, the movement tasks and themes chosen were based on findings of their effectiveness in various studies. Dance/movement therapy has been shown to directly address psychological issues, such as self-image, anxiety and depression, through a holistic approach which serves to aid the healing process of the individual by strengthening the mind–body connection. These psychological issues occur as secondary stressors to medical conditions, such as cancer, and may reduce a patient’s quality of life and abilities to cope with their illness. For patients diagnosed with gynecologic cancer these secondary stressors may include altered self-image, sense of isolation or betrayal by one’s body, anxiety, depression, and complications related to sexuality. The following article correlates the efficacy of dance/movement therapy applied to patients with gynecologic cancer being treated with HDR brachytherapy.
Infant psychotherapy (also known as infant initiated activity), embodying a theory and technique which may enhance the quality of infant/caregiver interaction, is described. Case studies, employing effort/shape notation of infant/caregiver movement patterns to evaluate the presence of synchrony during activity sessions, are discussed. Implications for dance therapy research and clinical work are presented.
Top-cited authors
Susan T. Loman
  • Child Development Research
Sabine C. Koch
  • Alanus University Alfter, RIArT / SRH University Heidelberg
Ilene A. Serlin
  • California Institute of Integral Studies
Robyn F Cruz
  • Lesley University
Päivi Pylvänäinen
  • Tampere University Hospital (TAUH)