Should I stay or should I go now?: Living as a transplant for the sake of dance therapy.

Cloud Gate or "The Bean"

Cloud Gate or “The Bean”

Much like my previous post, I have been mulling over living as a transplant (for dance/movement therapy’s sake) for quite a while.  In fact, I’ve been thinking about this topic since I was officially done with my master’s thesis, signaling the end of my master’s career.  Although I did not have to stay in Chicago (where I currently live) whilst writing my thesis, I decided to stay to be close to valuable thesis resources namely Columbia College’s writing center.  I am not from Chicago but have been living here for the past few years.  This then defines me as a transplant and not a Chicago native; I am someone who uprooted and moved to the big city.  And in my personal experience, this was for the sake of learning about dance/movement therapy.

My initial idea was to blog about dance/movement therapy in Michigan, where I grew up and lived until moving to Chicago based on my choice to attend CCC’s Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling graduate program.  I have previously done research about dance therapy in Michigan as a requirement for a class project and as part of my “post graduation plan.”  I have not looked into it much further since then.  I have, however, daydreamed about moving back to Michigan over… and over… and over again, and somehow landing a dance therapy job there.  If there’s one thing about Michiganders it’s their utmost pride about being from Michigan, whether they’re from Metro-Detroit (ahem, your’s truly), the thumb, the pinkey, or even the Upper Peninsula (and yes, we really do use our hands to describe geographical areas in Michigan).

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, MI.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, MI.

My daydream about one day moving back to Michigan and practicing dance/movement therapy may or may not be possible or achievable.  One thing I do know is that looking through the American Dance Therapy Association website there are not a whole lot of Michigan dance therapists listed in the registry.  There are six dance therapists listed when one searches the state of Michigan, which I will note has increased over the past few years.  This, however, compares to the 71 individuals that pop up when searching Illinois or the 115 when searching California.

The very nature of pursuing a career as a dance/movement therapist promotes the idea of an individual transplanting since there are only six accredited dance/movement therapy programs, mostly in “bigger” cities.  If one does not live in Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Boulder, or Keene, he/she is forced to move in order to study dance/movement therapy (and yes I know, there are alternative routes and summer intensive programs).  This fact is both exciting and daunting, and sometimes I wonder if this is almost purposeful.

Don’t get me wrong, I like living in Chicago and I am thankful I was given to opportunity to move here via dance/movement therapy education and training.  There are definitely aspects of myself that flourish in the big city that unfortunately I don’t think that Michigan could nurture, even in the Ann Arbor or the Metro-Detroit area.  There is such an astounding dance/movement therapy community here, and an amazing Laban Movement Analysis community too.  Each day there are multiple studios offering real adult dance classes (in comparison to adults classes consisting of mostly 17 year olds); these classes sometimes even have a Laban or Bartenieff framework.  Endless amount of dance companies come through Chicago, as do music bands and visual artists.  There is a coffee shop on every corner, as well as a great place to grab a bite to eat.  I don’t need a car to get around and instead use reliable (for the most part) public transportation.  Most importantly, as a dance/movement therapist, there are opportunities to get a job AS A DANCE/MOVEMENT therapist.  A job with that actual title; this might not seem like a big deal but it does to me, someone who is just starting out.  Not only that, but possible employment options may give me the opportunity to work among other dance/movement therapists, and if I am even more lucky, to work among other creative arts therapists.

Despite all these wonderful opportunities afforded to me for living in Chicago (and I’m sure other big cities) what am I sacrificing by living as a transplant?  For me personally, I sacrifice the daily interaction with my family.  Sure Skype and phone calls are great, but I do miss being able to stop in for dinner or going to a Yoga class with my sister.   I miss the opportunity to see and dance with my undergraduate friends.  I miss the opportunity to catch a Detroit Tiger’s game on a whim, or catch a band at my favorite Detroit music venue, the Magic Stick.

Romanticism aside, as a transplant I am also somewhat sacrificing the opportunity to set down roots in a community, unless of course the big city is where I want to do that.  More often than not, I wonder about where I would like to set down roots (I’m not getting any younger).  This is especially heightened since there is no state reciprocity in consideration to counseling licensure.   Further, as a transplant, I have decided to stay within the community that is provided to me in Chicago.  This community was somewhat handed to me as a CCC student and now a Chicago resident.  If I moved elsewhere I could create my own community, which is especially true in Michigan where dance/movement therapy is almost unheard of.  By choosing to stay, I am choosing not to spread my knowledge outside of this community.  Instead of moving away from home, accruing new knowledge, bringing it back home and possibly create a new community, I have decided to stay in Chicago.  Because, quite frankly, the community here is safe and accessible.

I have indeed decided to stay in Chicago and I am excited about the work I will do while I am here, both professionally and as an artist.  That does not mean, however, I have stopped thinking about the pros and cons of living as a transplant, or about the time frame of when I’ll stop being a transplant and an actual Chicago resident.  Lately, I have been thinking about the people I know in the Chicago dance/movement therapy community who have chosen to do the same (I can think of ten off the top of my head).  How do they make it work?  Do they miss home or wonder what it would be like to bring dance/movement therapy to their hometown?  I think about all the people who moved to Boston or New York who I don’t know, do they have these thoughts too?  What about the people who have chosen to move elsewhere after graduate school or when a unique employment opportunity came about?  As of now, in the present moment, I am going to learn all I can from those around me in the Chicago community.  I guess I am not done with the big city just yet.

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About emilyadannunzio

Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist. Movement Analyst (GL-CMA). Researcher. Dancer. Bartender. Detroit, MI.
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