A Dance/Movement Therapy Lesson in Joy

Recently I began my first full-time position as a dance/movement therapist.  In the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing the ups and downs (and the overall craziness) of doing this work full-time.  It was my clients who gave me this much needed lesson of joy, an appropriate lesson for this time of year.

It was kind of a strange day.  It was one of those days you step outside and you can just sense the strange energy in the air.  My intuition was affirmed by events on my morning commute to work (a lady fell on the bus and then proceeded to yell at the bus driver; upon exiting the bus a biker whizzed by me while yelling at a driver on the road.)  The energy inside my work place was no different- something was off.

The strange energy at my work was evident, as I was seeing and sensing it in my dance/movement therapy groups.  On Tuesdays my second group of the day is a dance and drumming group.  Clients usually choose music to dance and drum along to, each individual then choses if they would like to dance, drum or both.  On this particular day the group seemed unengaged.  Many group members listlessly drummed along to the music and were not present in the room. I too was unengaged in the group process, getting lost between redirecting clients behavior and overall boredom in the group process.

“HOLY CRAP!” I thought… what was happening?  My clients were apathetic.  I was apathetic.  Unengaged and uninteresting were two appropriate words to describe this specific dance/movement therapy group.  It was one of those moments in group where I was wracking my brain for an appropriate intervention.  Should I change the music?  Should I start clapping even louder to wake people up?  Hell, I even considered grabbing a koosh ball from the closet to toss around (all jokes aside, transitional objects are actually appropriate and engage my clients).  And while I was ransacking my brain for an intervention, internally freaking out, I skipped over the most engaging intervention of all and, in my opinion, the most powerful- my own internal joy for movement.

Joy.  Internal joy. My own internal joy for movement… DUH!  I realized that there was something blocking me from truly expressing myself in group and that maybe this was true for my clients as well.  At this point, I said to myself, “Screw it!” and began dancing with a sense of joy (I’m sure Madonna’s “Vogue” helped me with this.)  Once I began to express my joy for movement there seemed a to be a shift within group.  Clients began drumming more enthusiastically, some were even smiling.  Other clients began striking poses, some even voguing if you will.  Some members began interacting with each other by engaging in eye contact and using the same drum.

As group closed, I had a sense that group ended up turning out okay.   Who can really say what clients glean from groups though, as this is an internal experience?  We can only notice shifts in bodies and emotions, and intuit the overall energy in the room.  This is especially true when clients are nonverbal, like many of the folks I work with.  Regardless, I felt that group had shifted from something that started out listless into an engaging creative process.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not taking total credit for what happened in group.  It wouldn’t be fair to say that I was the sole reason the group had shifted.  But what I will say is that this group taught me the importance of accessing personal joy and how that can be a guiding light for clients to explore their own internal joy, or really any feelings about expressing themselves through movement.  Further, this experience taught me that for as much as my clients need me, I need them.  My clients were bored, I was bored (heck, maybe I was bored first… maybe I checked out of the room first).  Through their boredom, they were telling me something- that something needed to change.  And when I changed my energy in reaction to theirs, it produced a change in their energy, which then changed my energy, which then changed….   In honoring my own personal joy for movement, which I hope is fair to say that all dance/movement therapists have, my clients were given an opprtunity to access a deeper sense of themselves, which is a valuable lesson learned.

About emilyadannunzio

Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist. Movement Analyst (GL-CMA). Researcher. Dancer. Bartender. Detroit, MI.
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3 Responses to A Dance/Movement Therapy Lesson in Joy

  1. Susan says:

    Dear Emily,
    What a beautiful reminder of the heart of our work; the love for movement and dance. It is the ‘spirit’ that moves us and hence others. I’m ‘joyful’ that the spirit moved you at this time of year and you made it explicit for all of us to be reminded!
    Thank you!

  2. I totally recognise that feeling! When you experience something, the rest of the people conscious or uncosciously can usually feel it and viceversa, as you said…
    Thanks for sharing so honestly and fresh 🙂
    I hope you all the best!

  3. Thank you Susan and Maria for reading and commenting!

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