What is Dance Movement Therapy (DMT)?
DMT is defined by the European Association Dance Movement Therapy (EADMT) as ‘the therapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical, spiritual and social integration of the individual.
“It takes courage to stand where we stand simply as we stand”.
Bani Shorter Jungian Analyst ‘Border People’ 1982
As Dance Movement Therapists (DMTs) we are all border-people and we work in liminal spaces, on edges, on borders and with people of all ages and cultures in transition from illness to wellness. The numbers of people crossing inner and outer national borders at this time are quite unprecedented, giving many opportunities for us to rise to these new challenges in skilled, embodied and psychotherapeutically informed ways. This stimulating conference in the heart of Athens, will address both the inner and outer border crossings that we do in ourselves and with others in the course of our therapeutic work on a variety of themes. It will also offer an opportunity to share and celebrate some of the most innovative and important DMT work going on throughout Europe and globally, at a time of profound change and also opportunity.
It is significant that this year’s conference is so close to the migration routes used by refugees and asylum seekers fleeing torture, war and ethnic cleansing. It is also of great significance that ΦΙΛΟΞΕΝΙΑ in traditional Greek culture is about taking action by ‘being a friend to the stranger’. Might this idea also be true of the DMT as friend to the stranger, working with and through trauma, up-rooting, identity-loss and trans-cultural issues in DMT? What are the underlying issues of theory and practice that inform work in this area? What are the outcomes or results? To what extent is this work extending, developing and also challenging us as DMTs? How might further work in this area grow and develop? These questions inform this theme which is designed to open up dialogue and give a platform in our community about issues of major societal concern.
As DMTs we are all border people meaning that we work in liminal spaces, on edges, at borders and with people of all ages and cultures in transition from illness to wellness. This theme takes a seminal work by Jungian Analyst B. Shorter (1982) as its inspiration, which highlighted the importance of a border as not only a place of transition, but also a place where you are investigated by way of your passport or your identity, and that existing permanently on borders is not healthy, as there exists a ‘no man’s land’ in that place. A place that is neither here nor there, that exists paradoxically both in and out of time. We as DMTs work in this territory, in the space between the ‘known’ and the ‘not yet known’, we work in the present moment with the person in the context of the ‘therapeutic relationship’ (Chaiklin & Schmais, 1986). This theme also includes transitions in life, coming to terms with a different sense of who we are becoming, whether caused by illness, by disability, by ageing and/or a mental health problem. In addition, there are also major societal concerns such as oncology, neuro-degeneration (including dementia syndrome and parkinson’s), psychiatric and substance abuse issues and medically unexplained symptoms.
Technology today in video and digital form makes it feasible to cross the border from working in real to virtual/cyberspace. Immediately a question arises about how technology contradicts or not one of the pillars of DMT, which is embodiment: the teaching of, bringing awareness to, assessing body language? Is it a contradiction to use technology in our profession or where does it function and work well and in what particular areas? Importantly, what effect has it produced? We create and use webinars and learning for training, clinical practice and in giving or receiving supervision. The skills knowledge and experience we apply in our work, puts us in a unique position in relation to “psyche” and the ‘therapeutic relationship’ (Chaiklin & Schmais, 1986) whether in real or virtual form. How does the use of cyberspace help us navigate border crossings? What are the ethical issues which arise, and how do we work with them in these liminal and in-between spaces?
Shorter, B (1982) ‘Border People’, The Guild of Pastoral Psychology, Guild Papers, Lecture No: 211
Chaiklin, S, and C. Schmais, eds. (1986) ‘The Chace Approach to Dance Therapy’, in Bernstein, P., ed. Eight Theoretical Approaches in Dance-Movement Therapy, Dubuque, USA: Kendall/Hunt
Beardall, N. et al (2016) Creating the online body: Educating dance/movement therapists using a low-residency model. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 38(2), 407-428