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Finding Caterpillars - Emerging as Butterflies

Freeze! Try not to move anything but your eyes as you read this paragraph. What shape is your body making right now? Are you curled up? Are you stretched out, or are you lying on a sofa? Do not move! What body parts are touching? How is your head supported? Were you aware of your breathing while you were reading? Now move, change your posture. Change the way you hold yourself. Change your breath. WE ARE, IN FACT, ALWAYS MOVING.

There has always been magic in movement, but in such variety and in so many places, that it is hard to know where to start talking about it. Dancing can be seductive, enchanting, coquettish, demure, innocent or haughty -- there is no limit to the subtlety of this form of expression.

But what is dancing anyway -- it has rules, for sure. It has steps, movements of the limbs and it has logic and reason. Don't we all want to become nature itself, be the sky, the wave, the breeze -- at some point of time?

Dance is an intensity of spirit, a passionate compulsion. Thrown into the world of dance, amateurs gradually develop movement, incredible precision and superb grace. Rudolf Laban, encouraged running about in bare-feet improvising self-expression.

The city of Bangalore. A little figure waddles into one of the rooms. From the look of her, she seems distressed, confused and in pain. "only when I move do I feel," says the lady -- a statement best understood by dancers and therapists.

Words alone are not enough to express the totality of experience.

Dance movement therapy had its beginnings in the 1940's and was based on the premise that mind and body are inseparable, that what is experienced in the mind is also experienced in the body.

Movement is a meaningful part of many different treatment modalities. Although physical therapy, "fitness" programs, creative movement and dance movement therapy all use movement, each modality has its own goal.

A woman paralyzed on one side said, "We get together to be together. Then we do as much as we do. It's okay." That was a perfect statement. Physical limitations need not prevent participation in dance therapy. An accepting, non-judgmental atmosphere in which people feel free to function within the limits of their own capabilities is essential. In such an environment, activities such as making sounds, singing, telling stories or simply touching one another is especially meaningful.

Dance therapists, the world over, feel that the language used in guiding a group is a critical factor. Feeling unable to participate, certain individuals may drop out or resist. If directions are offered as suggestions, it is less likely that people will feel excluded. Therefore, a wise dance therapist will wait for the group norms to develop, and lo and behold! The participants themselves come up with suggestions that include individuals with physical limitations.

Dance Therapy (DT) provides an opportunity to mobilize feelings of loss, anger and frustration and express them through group activities and gain support and validation by sharing the feelings with others.

Jung, the renowned psychologist suggested that expressive body movement is one of the numerous ways to give form to the unconscious. Creative art therapies have come a long way and are now recognized as beneficial and significant.

Creative movement, that is widely used in hospitals and offices share some of the goals that characterize fitness programmes. But there are additional aims such as encouraging emotional responses, facilitating social interaction. Movement activities are not the primary goal of the group experience, but rather a toll for creating a therapeutic environment.

Satish "has a chronic psychological problem", diagnosed the doctor. His friend took him to a DT session where emphasis was given to a consistent orienting environment. Since Satish was often on anti depressant medication combined with structured interpersonal milieu, he gradually began to show adaptive functioning that prevented further social withdrawal and repression. Satish is now a terrific mover and does stage shows!

Drugs aren't always the solution. Some health problems can be managed with natural treatments, so welcome to DT!

Exhaustion, headaches, swollen glands, digestive disorders, inability to concentrate, memory loss repeated infections, and depressions -- all have their remedy in DT. Gentle but gradually increasing exercise is normally recommended because avoiding all activity can make the situation worse. A program of pacing activities is devised so that sudden exertion does not set you back; and allows time for relaxation. DT helps learn what you can do on a daily basis without exacerbating your condition. Here's a lovely warm up exercise before the commencement of an actual therapy session. Start by standing or lying down. Imagine a small puddle of oil in palm of each hand. Move your hand around so the oil can get deep into the joints, muscles, knuckles and fingertips. Let the flow be easy, continuous, sinuous, no sudden starts or stops. Let the oil proceed up through the wrists, lower arm and the elbow. Then onto the shoulder with smooth continuous movement. Once one part of the body gets oiled it continues to move in the same way, it does not stop. Likewise, oil the rest of your body with the sustained flow and move a little faster, then faster still. Do not get jerky; keep the sense of ongoingness.

Try and have fun!

Your purpose for dancing will be personal. As you dance memories and emotions and ideas will be triggered. Your capacity to sense the world will become more acute. You will see more, heal more, feel more and generally be more alive to your world. Patterns, postures, gestures --- is that all dancing connotes? Come observe the movement and stillness (!!) of dance. Feel your imagination run amuck and blissfully enter the world of therapeutic dancing.

Joanna was an ordinary happy-go-lucky girl. At the age of 14, after a bout of glandular fever, she once again fell ill. Sleep did not refresh her; her head ached constantly. Her throat was sore and she suffered from strange panic attacks, accompanied by a racing pulse. Doctors brushed it off casually saying it was yet another case of school phobia. Jo remained home.

Till she discovered Qi Gong (also spelt as chi kung) Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese system of breathing, gentle movement and visualization, which is said to generate and improve the circulation of "qi" (life energy) in the body. Joanna got hooked to Qi Gong in a big way. It helped her restore health and harmony in the flow of energy. Joanna is now back at work and is in perfect tune with her body. DT has broader goals integrating physiology, psychology and sociology. Such therapy gives meaning to movement through the development of images, encourages emotional responses and processing of both positive and negative responses, facilitates and supports social interaction.

DT involves a whole gamut of empathic movements developed by pioneer dance therapist, Manan Chace. Therapist do not come to a session with a preconceived plan of activities, but rely on verbal and non-verbal cues from the group. Suggestions rather than commands characterize this approach; so that the therapist serves as a catalyst not a teacher.

The piano was playing. Ketaki sang. "Here we go, into the wild blue yonder." Adesh who could not walk due to a stroke, stamped his feet rhythmically, Laila moved her feet despite a fractured hip. The energy level increased in the room and there was dance all around

Welcome to real life!

Some DT Techniques

Circle: A wide formation contributes to the feeling of group unity and increases opportunity for eye contact. Because everyone is visible, even those with hearing difficulties are able to participate by following others. Visually impaired individuals can be seated next to the therapist. Although participants may move into other spatial formations such as lines or spiral or scatter around the room, the circle is desirable for beginning and ending groups. It is particularly important for physically challenged or disoriented people as it facilitates touch and communication.

Music: With clear rhythmic beats. Allow the music to tap into your natural inclination to respond to rhythm. Let there be variety -- perhaps some Jazz, Blues, Rock, Indian classical, Folk melodies or even wacky African beats.

Visualization: Most DT sessions are vocal. The movers make sounds while moving a "hum", "ah", "wee" --- these sounds stimulate breathing, circulation and central body movement. Any sound that a personal group offers can be incorporated.

Props: To stimulate activity and interaction, certain props such as balls, colored scarves, various lengths of a material are particularly useful. These objects can be used to motivate movements such as squeezing, punching, tugging and throwing.