Dance uses movement to physically develop self-awareness, coordination, and bodily expression. Dance has also been found to minimize emotional stress, improve mood, and foster creativity. It is so effective that dance is now approved as a therapeutic treatment for anxiety and depression!
Dance Therapy or Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) endeavors to “use movement and dance as a means of improving the individual’s emotional, cognitive, physical, and social progress in the world.” These therapy sessions focus on the alleviation of anxious and depressive symptoms by forcing the participant to simply engage, first with themselves and then others.
Musical interpretation hones individuality and creativity by repackaging visceral responses into positive and healthy functions. Dance is therapeutic in that it provides an ease of emotional conveyance that participants often find cathartic. Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance adds in the movement and sensory responses.
In group settings, dance develops trusting instincts between participants. Social spaces decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness while simultaneously developing interpersonal relationships. These shared experiences teach vulnerability in a safe space, which lowers anxiety and encourages participation. Participants learn to translate their feelings into movement- their emotion into motion.
Dance forces the participant to physically emote. The body becomes the voice, the mind adjusts and emotions can simply flow through the body. Body language is the base of all communication, and dance uses this instinctual form of messaging to capture, interpret, and redistribute emotion. Nonverbal communication, especially as expressed through dance, is advantageous for developing emotional focus and control.
Dance also functions as an excellent medium of exercise, which has numerous positive effects for the body. Dancing teaches coordination, which improves confidence and body carriage, self-esteem, image, increases energy, and improves cardiovascular endurance. By using dance as an exercise, participants also release serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain- the same positive neurotransmitters that depression and anxiety medications seek to increase!
While dance as therapy should not replace consulting a medical professional, it can certainly be the first of many steps taken to convert your emotion into motion!
- Kimberly B.