Guest Blogger: Sondra Malling’s recap of the ADTA 2013 Confrerence

2013 ADTA Banquet/Dance Party. Photo by Anson Relick.

2013 ADTA Banquet/Dance Party. Photo by Anson Relick.

I wanted to write a blog post about the 2013 ADTA Conference, but seeing as I was unable to attend this year I couldn’t really do that.  Not honestly, anyway.  So I decided to commission the help of a fellow friend, Sondra Malling.  Sondra is a Registered-Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT), who currently works with Deaf Adults with Mental Illness.  She is also a Graduate Laban- Certified Movement Analyst.  In addition to her work in dance/movement therapy and GL-CMA, Sondra is a free-lance editor and American Psychology Association (APA) ninja.  Let me repeat that, an APA ninja.  She can recite the page number that will answer pretty much any question you have concerning APA style.  I’m not kidding, I have seen this first hand.  Also, she was recently published in the American Journal of Dance Therapy.  Dig out your July 2013 issue and read her work titled, “Choreography and Performance with Deaf Adults who have Mental Illness: Culturally Affirmative Participatory Research.”

So without further delay….

Hello readers! I’m thrilled that Emily has asked me to guest blog here. I’m a big fan of her writing, and I’m glad to be a part of this space. She asked me to write about my experiences at the recent American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) conference, so here we go!

I attended the 48th annual conference of the ADTA in Brooklyn, NY in October. It was a whirlwind five-day trip, packed full of dance/movement therapy learning, experiencing, and dancing. The conference is exhausting; you are always running around going to different seminars, meetings, performances, panels, and events. I wish I’d had more time to really take in NYC, but if you want to get your registration fee’s worth at the conference, there isn’t very much time for exploring. Instead, I spent most of my time in the conference hotel with over a thousand dance/movement therapists from all over the world, catching up with some of my favorite people, and immersing myself in “the work.” This year, I learned about such topics as the ethics of touch, challenging cultural assumptions in dance/movement therapy, and positioning dance/movement therapists in the public health sphere.

I am a huge research nerd, so my favorite seminars were on that topic. I attended a collaboration between the Multicultural and Diversity Committee and the Research Sub-Committee of the ADTA. In this interactive workshop, we used dance as data to investigate how people/groups of different cultures might make connections or disconnections. Long story short, I shared a beautiful movement moment with a fellow dance/movement therapist from Puerto Rico, and this moment sparked discussions about healthy relationships, cross-cultural or otherwise. This workshop reaffirmed my belief that, although our field has a long way to go to in the way we handle diversity issues, there are people out there who are trying to make change happen in exciting ways.

Me at the Research and Thesis Project Poster Session, one of my favorite events. Photo by Laura Downey.

Me at the Research and Thesis Project Poster Session, one of my favorite events. Photo by Laura Downey.

My next favorite workshop was about quantitative research, specifically systematic reviews.  This was a panel presentation featuring some of my dance/movement therapy research heroes and their work towards measuring the efficacy of dance/movement therapy. It was fascinating, if a little over my head. Quantitative research, with all its fancy numbers, often fails to capture the spirit of dance/movement therapy.  But it is critical for the growth of our field as we move forward—impacting everything from grant funding to job creation in evidence-based treatment facilities. These researchers are doing important work, and it was inspiring to see how hard they work to promote what we do.

I would be remiss to describe the conference and not mention the AWESOME PARTIES that go down. Columbia’s alumni gathering involved makeshift iPad karaoke and, of course, dancing at a bar near the hotel. The annual banquet the next night involved the most packed, hyped-up dance floor you will ever experience in your life. There truly is no party like a dance/movement therapy party. Every year, the band leader comments on how this is the craziest gig they have every played, and I believe them. Imagine a couple hundred dance/movement therapists jamming for hours on end… and there was an open bar this year! I kid you not, I saw middle-aged women doing contact improv and handstands to Motown.

  Singing “Hotel California” with my friend Maria. Photo by Bethany Brownholtz.


Singing “Hotel California” with my friend Maria. Photo by Bethany Brownholtz.

If nothing else, come to the conference for the parties. But if you don’t care for parties, come anyway!  The Chicago dance/movement therapy community is going to put on something really awesome from November 6-9, 2014. I’ll be there, and I hope many of you will, too!

Thanks, Emily’s readers.  See you in Chicago!


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About emilyadannunzio

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