“Holding” a DMT exploration

How “holding” becomes accessed and developed in DMT;

i.e. how “holding”, a key concept of object relations is translated into an energy model.

Maria Sangiorgi

The Good Enough Poem

I see you

I hear you

you are a good enough child

I am a good enough mother

what do you need?

I can hold you enough

I can hold you as long as it take for you to

walk on your own 2 feet

I will hold your hand if you need

I will stay as long as you need

No rush

One day you will go

I will help you to go


you are a good enough child


I am a good enough mother

Maria Sangiorgi 2011

The act of “holding” a therapeutic dance movement space is full of riches. As I experience this through the work that I do with my groups, I feel a great sense of reverence at being a container, a vessel, a “good-enough mother” to my groups. This particularly applies to my homeless women with schizophrenia, who are very damage, traumatised and marginalised.

“The good-enough ‘mother’ (not necessarily the infant’s own mother) is one who makes active adaptations to the infant’s needs, active adaptations that gradually lessen according to the infant’s growing ability to account for failure of adaptation, and to tolerate the results of frustration.” (Winnicott p 13, 1971)

The concept of holding is very powerful. The word itself says it all, whether it be through a Winnicott framework or simply what it means to hold, which is to support, to contain. For me holding has an alchemical or magical quality.

One of the skills that I received from the Levanthal quantum-based therapeutic model is the intention to hold energetically. This involves my strong clear intention; the things that I do that cannot be seen but are potently directed to the holding of the client. Creating a space to allow the client’s dance to unfold, and then to hold them in that dance, makes the foundation for my DMT practice.

The minute I walk into the building at the Prague house I am holding my intention to hold the group. I am mindful of them. I place a row of yoga dots (rubber coloured circles) along a corridor to the room that I work in, and I also place a dot at the door of each woman, whether they frequent the group or not. Some come all the time, some occasionally and some never. Over time those dots have drawn a couple of women into the room. Through those dots I hold all the women in Prague house. Maybe if I was to be there for a long time I would draw many more to the room with the dots. This is a population that is seldom ready to join in. Simply getting them to arrive is a dance in itself.

I set up the room and play the same tune each time so when they arrive even if I am not there, perhaps because I have gone to find one of them, they know that I am there. The music is like a baby sitter that takes care of them till I return. They know that I will return. Every week I bring organic fruit and home grown herbal teas, with the intention of offering them some high vibrational nourishment that is lacking in their everyday diet. I hold the safe space for them, I care about them, they are women who have not been cared for. This is a time for women only, the door is propped open as they arrive and then closed when they are all in. Through the continuous repetition, the dots, the music, and the food, I have created a pattern and set the environment. These things represent my relationship with them even in my absence

In this safe space of acceptance they can bring their damaged idiosyncratic selves. Two may be physically present and wanting to participate but very lethargic, one may be asleep, one may enter the room, stay for a while, maybe dance, then leave; one may leave when the music comes on, one may sit outside the room for a time, and then disappear. These are the many variables I am holding when I work with these women affected by schizophrenia.

I compare this situation to a mother with five children, each one with different needs and personality. I am the good enough mother who meets then at the place they are at and accepts them, whilst holding my intention to engage them in a dance, a dance that as I become more skilled, I draw from them, not impose on them. In the holding, I am also aware that the more they trust me the more they will play out the damaged part of themselves; they can become demanding, manipulative and aggressive.

In Winnicott’s theoretical writings, he emphasises empathy, imagination, play and, in the words of philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who has been a proponent of his work, “the highly particular transactions that constitute love between two imperfect people”. (Winnicott p 146, 1973)

What a wonderful revelation, two imperfect people. As a therapist it is important to accept that I do not know the answers, but I can be good enough and I am good enough.

In my opinion the following are the entwining of Winnicott’s Therapist’s Presence with the Quantum Healing Dance:

  • listen and learn – I listen to them through their bodies and their movement, I learn who they are and I mirror that back to them though movement. Then I expand that movement so they know that they can reach higher, further, deeper than they thought.
  • the non-intrusive mother who is present but lets her child play – the presence from a place of not-knowing – I am there in the room with them, not expecting anything from them, allowing their dance to develop, and trusting the process.
  • leaving time and space for the Real Self to emerge – The real self comes through time, trust and consistency.
  • the space in between, “a period of hesitation” where the client discovers himself, his play, and the other, and learns to deal with his own anxiety, and builds his new self. – This allowing the spaces in-between is part of the energetic holding, a space for the Quantum Healing Dance to occur. In this timeless place held in the structure, the room, the chair, the Newtonian, I am ready to see and seize the dance, their dance. I follow them, I mirror the dance back to them and they expand it and I expand it and another dance evolves. As outlined in Leventhal’s Chart 1 “Healing = a balance and mix of elements from each paradigm; a journey into the mysterious unknown.” (Lev, 2008 p. 6)
  • the good enough mother, (who does not need to be the biological mother) – in this case the therapist, who makes mistakes but tries to be present, without squashing or shoving, allowing the client’s real self to surface.


Sometimes, with some of them, turning up to the session at all is the dance. If I expect anything else of them I lose them. I do have to wait for them to come to the dance. I hold as the mother who responds to the child and lets the child gradually develop and progress.

Over time I have seen beautiful things happen in that holding. Through the Quantum Healing Dance, the spaces in-between, through my patient waiting, I have witnessed an emergence of the self. These women, with their very limited body expression, have improvised a dance of their own. This was possible because I have provided them with a space where they feel held and safe.




Winnicott D. W. (1971), Transitional objects and transitional phenomena, Playing and Reality, in Routledge Classics 1971, volume 13, page 13.


Winnicott D. W. (1973), The Child, the Family, and the Outside World (Middlesex) p.146


Leventhal, M (2008), ‘Transformation and Healing Through Dance Therapy: The Challenge and imperative of Holding a Vision”, American Journal of Dance Therapy Vol 30, pp.4-23 [modified version of a speech given at the ADTA 42nd Annual Conference, September 2007, Brooklyn New York]



A Personal Dance Movement Therapy Exploration

Describe, outline and communicate, from your personal observation and response to the movement process. Link and analyse, the movement experience of at least one of the Eight Theoretical Principals of Dance Movement Therapy (1995) of Dr Marcia B. Leventhal. Reflect and evaluate the relevance and value of the principles that you have chosen in light of your movement experience, reading, from Dance Movement Therapy theory and practice.


I came to the module in a new skin. I had shed over 20 kilos. I wore my clothes with confidence. I had recreated a body structure that was familiar to me 12 years ago. My limbs moved in a way that I had forgotten. My bones were the same bones but the joints now again, have the space to bend and fold as they did before. There was no longer this feeling of great effort and restrictions that had placed an enormous strain on my mobility. I had shed the layers of fat that had protected me but at the same time taken away my sense of whole self and confidence. As I moved through each of the experientials I found that my theme was centred very much on the issues of my identity, over eating and specifically my intestinal constipation. This became the focus of my primary movement experience, which I have linked, analysed and discussed in this paper. I am using a number of the Eight Theoretical Principals of Dance Movement Therapy (1995) of Dr Marcia B. Leventhal. I have named each principal as I relate to it and describe and give light to my experience. I have reflected and evaluated the value of my chosen principles to give meaning to my experience.


1. Constructive Rest Experiential

During the Constructive Rest experiential I felt very at home. I always find that it permits me to reinvent myself. It is a rejuvenating process that allows all of the cells in my body to arrange themselves so that I have the opportunity to be in a place of Primary Control. . (Gleb, M. J., 1994 p 44)“ Primary Control is a dynamic ever-changing relationship that functions all the time, for better or worse in every position. Yet some positions of the body are obviously better than others in terms of both their practical efficiency and their effect on functioning.” I can be totally present in my body and mind. It is like a meditation, a spiritual process. I am held in an experience that allows the natural spiralling patterns to work through me and take me where I need to go to heal and align to my “best self” to my free flowing self. From here I can also find Navel Radiation and can move through the Starfish Pattern. I used it as my support through most of the experiential. When I am conscious and in a dance/movement space my perception of Navel Radiation has become nearly second nature to me. (Cohen Bainbridge, B., 1993 P17)“Navel radiation, the second pattern, establishes the navel as a centre through which all the extremities relate individually and to each other.” From here I can find breath, bones, organs, muscles and fluids support. It is this active place of rest that allows me to know who I am and where I need to go next. Through being held by other, which was Jane and the person I was paired with, during the module, I was moved to the source of my healing. A journey that weaves the layers of my “quantum self” between the past, the present and the future. I feel that the first Theoretical principle underpins this process.

Principle One: The body, the mind and the spiritual aspects of our personalties are in constant and continual connection and integration. This three-dimensional state of our deepest essence is foundational and core to all healing and change; insight gleaned on one modality will impact or affect experience, perception and/or movement expression in each others modality.

Action follows thought. This is a spiritual experience that through this right action a divine course of events takes place that creates healing. During the process my body, mind and spirit are weaving and interacting through being held and guided with intention. My intention, Jane’s intention and the connection to the Spirit. In this active still Quantum state that is held with intention is deep healing and change takes place.


2. My Digestive System

From my Journal

My digestive system

Filling my self up

Looking for sweetness.

From child hood no sweetness, abuse mistrust. Worry responsibility.

Filling my self up with the joy of eating.

Eliminating slow to let go, afraid to let go. Hereditary.

Over weight, armouring, family pattern. Over eating family pattern.

Oral obsession Masochistic tendency

Fulfilment in life. Trust myself

The 9 sphincters of the body.


The main movement process that I have worked through and reflected upon is the Digestive system. This process began with the Endocrine Dance. Through the exploration of the Endocrine System my focus was taken into the Pancreas and belly area. The theme that began there became the prelude for the Digestive System dance and continued during and after watching the mothers and babies DVDs. During the Endocrine dance I went into my food issues, the over eating, the taking in and the letting go. Taking in too much and not letting go. Taking in so much that it becomes difficult to eliminate it all. I played with the connection and support that each gland gave to the other, always being mindful of the connection between the glands and the chakras.

The digestive system experiential took me to a deep place. It deepened the eating issues that I had begun to experience in the Endocrine Dance. Taking in, letting go, anger, rage, sweetness, happiness, sadness, watching the journey through each section of the digestive tract as it passed through each sphincter and made its way along the elaborate path from beginning to end.

Taking in through the mouth and swallowing.

I reflected on how much I have swallowed and taken in on the physical and emotional levels. The speed at which I still eat, as if I am being chased and as if it is all going to disappear. The emotional feeling of eating, depending on what, how and when. If I feel guilty about eating, I become tense in the stomach and I want to get it over and done with as soon as possible so that I can move on or move away from the food. The half chewed half digested food reaches the stomach that is tense. That tension is debilitating.

My stomach feels so much.

I danced my stomach. I left my body weight behind but I still carry the anxiety, feelings and challenges. My stomach churns the food and breaks it down and sends it on its way through the rest of the process. I tried to see it, to watch it move through each sphincter through each process.

3. Mother and Babies

From a vulnerable place I watched the mothers and babies DVD that Elizabeth Laughlin has show us as part of the module. I felt the collective experience of the group as they watched too. I began to identify with the mother’s internal anger and rage. As a young mother I had experience depression whilst begin pregnant alone with my second child. I did not parent well at that time. The trauma that I was experiencing at that time awoke in me the memory of being sexual abused as a very young child that had lain dormant until then.

(Pert, 1997, p 273) “When emotions are expressed – which is to say that the biochemical’s that are the substrate of emotion are flowing freely – all systems are united and make whole. When emotions are repressed, denied not allowed to be what they maybe, our network pathways get blocked, stopping the flow of the vital fell-good, unifying chemicals that run both our biology and our behaviour. This is the state of unhealed feeling we want so desperately to escape from . . . .”

I used pot to escape from my pain and felt so alone and unsupported except for my sister, it did not even occur to me to look for professional assistance. Although the Mothers and babies part of the module won’t be written about in this paper, I feel that it needed to be mentioned. It had an enormous affect on me for the duration of the module and I am still processing it now. It is also entwined with the process of my digestive system and all that is being analysed in this paper.

4. My healing dance

What is this dance? What is my new dance and the lightness that I feel?

At a later time I decided to dance my digestive system again. I began in my mouth. Dancing on my soft tongue, exploring the sponginess of it and its mobility and rolling action. I danced the sides of my mouth my gums and I played my teeth like instruments. I gave attention to the time that it takes to chew my food and to feel all the sensations.

Later on when I ate I observed that I had a strong feeling in my mouth of where the food went as I chewed. I observed that if I was not contemplative or mindful I would feel anxiety in my intestine. This gave me a new perspective: it was definitely my intestine and not my stomach that felt the anxiety. I had previously placed a lot of focus on my stomach did not notice my intestine, particularly the small intestine.

As I moved down and through the esophageus I felt ok. It was pretty straightforward. I had a sense of my vocal cords, my pericardium and heart. As I passed by these vital organs I noticed that I was not far away from the emotional, physical, or spiritual state that they were in. These states can be determined by the way that food is digested or situations are digested. When I arrived at my stomach I had to be very clear about opening the door, I did not walk in, I fell in. I began to walk around combing all the filaments, feeling the spongy fluidity of it. Feeling the lining of the stomach, knowing how sensitive it is and that if I eat the wrong food it becomes aggravated. Then I lay down and went into my feelings. I began to weep very deeply; I have had to stomach so much. The times that I have eaten so much and thought to myself how does my stomach handle this? How can I fit any more in? And the parallel in my life experience, how much pain I stomached and how much hurt I have taken in. I stayed there for quite a while and found myself tapping a rhythm on the floor with my hand. I then felt that I needed to dance my stomach to music. I was very clear that I wanted to dance to two particular pieces of music. During the first piece I noticed a pool of tears on the floor. I danced around the tears then rubbed them into the floor. My dance was light, flowing, expansive and lyrical. In the second piece I danced with a silk veil I put over my head and it hung over my whole body and became the lining of my stomach. I pressed into it and turned under it and let it fall and mould itself around my movements. I felt that I could not continue the rest of my journey through my digestive system. The body, mind, and spirit knowing that we could go no further at this point. (Levanthal, M., 1992 p 5) “Dance Movement Therapy works on two tracks simultaneously: 1. The movement – Release and body-self re-education, and 2. The dance – unfolding and creating a new resonation field in which an emerging, larger concept of self may be expressed, realized and gently held”

5. The Intestine dance

In a Dyad the next day I went on. I walked up and down the ascending and descending colon. I walked across and in and out of my small intestine. The Duodenum and the Jejunum. It is a long long journey I thought. But once I got to the first anal sphincter I could not go any further and that is how it is in real life. It often happens that my faeces stop there I can’t let it out, I unconsciously hold onto it as if I want to control it.

I also found my liver and I needed to spend a lot of time there. I walked on it and squeezed it and tapped it and rolled over it. I wanted to squeeze it out. I felt the anger. The words “I feel livered” were coming into my head. I know that my liver has had a lot of stress put on to it but it is actually quite ok at the moment. I feel that whatever is happening around the anal area is very important and significant and when I can dance my way through and out something profound will happen.

Re evaluating now the experiences I can see strong links to Principles Five and Six

6. Principle Five: Becoming aware of maladaptive patterns.

In re-learning how to move expressively we are able to expand as well as become aware of maladaptive patterns

A crushed spirit – feeling ¨unseen, misunderstood and rejected.

By expressing myself through movement I expanded my awareness of how I maladapted I have been, how I established a compensatory mechanism of functioning. How I compensate for the lack of care and affection by stuffing my belly with food to fill up the emptiness of the essential real food missing: love, validation and support.

I became aware of how compressed I was by my family and the foreign culture that I was brought into. These two forces, the family and the outside culture both saying, “who are you, you don’t fit in, you can’t be yourself”. I had to stomach, in a redneck country town being bullied, teased and shamed. Being the first child and the only one who spoke English in the family, I had to take on responsibilities that were beyond my capacity and age. This created tension in my belly that I was not aware of.

My authentic self has always felt rejected by my parents and the world I inhabit. This caused an eternal anger, rebellion, irritation, volcanic explosions and a lot of defensiveness. (Leventhal. 1995 M., p2) In order to survive, we adapt – a form of change, psychological, creative, emotional, physical and spiritual. Even in rebellion against an authority, or various dogma, we wish to please to be recognized, supported. Eventually usually at the cost of feeling real joy, real, satisfaction, real love, we have a loosely constituted persona or “self”, which is accepted to our perceived outside world . . .” Like the last part of my intestines I’ve been saying inside: “no I won’t do what you want”, “I won’t be vulnerable”,” I won’t go where you want me to”. “I won’t shit I will hold on.” From a Reichian point of view, Constipation = compression. My internal movement has been severely compressed and the expression of my real self in outside world has been limited. If I am compressed, the soft tissue is compressed and all the digestive and secretive organs. I don’t move for what I want, I resist to outside pressure. There is a lack of free movement that from my core self towards what satisfies me. I don’t let all the motility develop; a lot of energy is trapped inside and not released. This experience of my blocked movements not only affects my bodily functions, my excretions but also my thinking process, how I think about myself and the way that I think about others. For instance, even if I have an understanding of the eight principles and have the perceptions and the sensations, I hold on and keep them inside, they are in my body, but the brain has not found the words to express the meaning.

Motion – Slow       Energy – Limited       Emotion – Suppressed

7. Principle Two

This movement pattern gave me insight about Principle Two: Our expressive and functional movement do express aspects of our personality, our collective unconscious and our own personal development history; thus by letting the body work through and find themes, – traumas, patterns, and blocks can be accessed and healed (Freud, Reich, Kesternberg)

The way I move reflects the history of my development. The work consists of letting my body find and access the blocks and the traumas through movement. I had a lot of outside pressure on me, It was such a heavy weight.

In Reichian understanding; you crumble or you compress under pressure. There is a thickening of the neck muscles and a shortening of the waist, I wanted to express myself but the outside pressure over weighted me. Because I couldn’t break through, I went back in, I held it inside and I couldn’t mover freely. I had to resist or I would be crushed, so I spent my life resisting, instead of pushing forward. So if someone provokes me then I bring my energy out, I get angry when someone insults me offends me and puts me down. I am so used to react if I was able to and not to act. I don’t take my own initiative to move, a lot of my movement is outer directed not inner directed. I feel like I am the victim. I feel that if I fully move and express myself, I will be on my own with no acceptance, no love, no mother. I lived with the unconscious assumption:

submission = love             freedom = no love.

8. Expanding and Re-establishing contact

Principle Six: Re-learning to move expressively helps us re-establish contact with out inner most being or essence causing an integration of our personality at the deepest level.

I explored this principle experientially in another dyad.

I lay on a bed lifting my legs up and down in a running motion and letting them drop relatively hard into the bed. This action lasted about 5 minutes and made me tired and angry. I felt like I was running up a hill, I could not see the end or the goal and I gave up. That is the story of my life it gets too much and I give up. That is the same body story, I don’t reach the end of the digestive system all the movement stops at the last door. I then did it again but much more slowly whilst I dropped my legs there was much more strength and force. This made me angry and emotional. Angry at all the time that I started things and then became self defeated or let myself be defeated by others. I also expressed anger towards a person that had taken something very big away from me a long time ago that was really important to me, I let myself hit at her with my legs and feet and wanted to hit her chest so that she could feel what she had done. I knew my part in this, in that I gave up and gave it away; I had also given up on expressing the anger that I felt about what had happened. I began to use my voice but my voice was not loud and clear it was a muffled. I did allow it to be loud for a moment but then I felt I had to stop, I could not go on, I could not let it all out.

Evaluating this experience it is clear to me that I am still not allowing my potential to be what it is and also prevent the feelings of rightly directed anger to come out all the way, the same way that happens when I defecate. I incorporated the tension that I felt as a child and it deposited itself around the anal sphincter. The girl that has been compressed and repressed, the child that was running wild and free had to be stopped. I could not let go and release, I could not let the peristaltic wave finish its natural course. The masochist holding of squeezing inside causes bloating and weakens the peristaltic movement.

“The dominant, self-sacrificing mother literally smothers the child, who is made to feel extremely guilty for any attempt to declare his freedom or assert a negative attitude.” (Lowen, 1975, p. 166)


My attempt through this essay is to analyse and make sense of an issue that has plagued me for many years, over eating and chronic constipation. What I have discovered through my own healing dance and movement, done predominantly through dyading, has been mind and soul opening for me. Experiencing and observing at a deeper level the movement process has helped me enormously. I was able to integrate and bring into consciousness how I move inside and outside in the world (Principle Four). It has made me aware of certain masochistic traits of my personality, of unconscious attitudes, but mostly it has given me insight in to the potential of my being and of where I need to expand personally and as a dance movement therapist.


I moved my body in an expressive, feeling, guided and spontaneous way. Following my Digestive track as a metaphor for my life


I gained a new momentum. I expanded my movement range and increased my level of energy.


I felt the emotional response to my movement and danced with, through and towards my feelings. I experienced a number of emotional releases and conscious realisations.




  1. Gleb, M. J., (1994) Body Learning, An introduction to Alexander Technique, Part 2 The Operational Ideas, Primary Control, p 44


  1. Cohen Bainbridge, B., (1993) Sensing, Feeling and Action, The Experientieal Anatomy of Body-Mind Centering. Developmental Patterns, p17


  1. Pert, C., (1997) Molecules of Emotion: why you feel the way you feel. Scribner, Chapter12 Healing and feeling. p 273 & 274.


  1. Leventhal, M., 1992 ‘Knowing and Beyond: Out of the Fragmentation and into the Wholeness, Notes on the Dance Event as a Catalyst for Change and Healing’, in Dance in a Changing World JABADAO, Leeds England, p 5
  2. Levanthal, M., 1992 p 2


  1. Reich, W., (1950) Character Analysis.


  1. Lowen, A., (1975) Bioenergetics: The revolutionary therapy that uses the language of the body to heal the problems of the mind, Chapter 5, Pleasure; A Primary Orientation, p 166





















DIVA – The forming of my Dance Movement Therapy model

The forming of my Dance Movement Therapy model.

Maria Sangiorgi 2009

In this essay I am writing from the point of view of myself as a dancer, dance educator and therapist in training.  I will refer to my budding awareness of the terms “Newtonian” and “Quantum”, and their meaning in terms of my personal experience, and the theoretical frameworks presented to me in the reading material and in the tutorials that took place during Module 7.

In answer to the question and the topic presented I have chosen to talk about:

a)   The personal experience of my journey into Middle Eastern Dance, and then towards facilitating dance movement therapy sessions for intellectually and physically impaired populations.

b)   The development of my work with the Sussex Neighbourhood House group.

c)    How I have begun to develop my own Dance Movement Therapy style through my work with the Sussex Neighbourhood House group and through beginning to train as a Dance Movement Therapist with International Dance Therapy Institute of Australia.

d)   The  “creation” and “vision” that is emerging of my own Dance Therapy model, that has “formed” from the acronym D.I.V.A., after having completed Module 7 coursework and reading in Reader 1:Leventhal, M. (2008) Transformation and Healing Through Dance Therapy: The Challenge and Imperative of Holding the Vision, in American Journal of Dance Therapy, Vol 30, pp. 4-23.

For the purpose of this essay I am using abbreviations to indicate

  • Middle Eastern Dance – MED
  • Dance Movement Therapy – DMT
  • International Dance Therapy Institute of Australia – IDTIA

I will also refer to Dr Marcia Leventhal by first name only when I am writing directly about the Module.

I have always been draw to dance and to the arts in general. I sing, draw, paint, sew, crotchet, write poetry and songs. I also love to be creative with food and in my garden. But it has been dance that has formed most of my working life for the past twenty-one years. Twenty-six years ago a psychic told me that I had previously lived in Egypt and possessed the love of dance and of the desert. I thought that she was describing the way that when I danced, I would completely let go and abandon myself and become immersed in the music; in fact I would become the music. It was not until five years after the reading, when I attended my first belly dance class that what she had told me really hit home. This was the beginning of my journey into MED. My training in Egyptian dance, which is my chosen style in the field of MED, leads me to feel and understand it as an “Energy” dance. During the Module, Marcia read from a number of different pages the definitions of energy and commented on energy generally. Some of the definitions given included:

  • Flowing
  • Feeling
  • Organic/inorganic
  • Unseen by felt
  • Changes depending on environment
  • Felt as vibration / wave
  • Source unlimited

She also talked about the flow needing to be unimpeded for healing to take place. This is my experience of Egyptian dance. When I am immersed in the dance, I feel my body change and I become free flowing organic movement and when the dance is over something has changed.

Later as part of a group of Middle Eastern dancers I began working with Jane Refshauge. We explored the Alexander Technique, Ideokenisis, Anatomy, and Body Mind Centring. Along with Jane and my MED colleagues we formed a Movement Research group and invited other dancers to join us. They brought with them, Laban, Authentic Movement, Shamanic dance practices and Feldenkrais to name a few.

From this work I began to draw a connection between the fundamental aspects of Egyptian Dance and the essence and integrity of the human body. The deeper I went into this dance the more I felt a deep connection to what I believe to be the primary source of movement. It is intrinsic to all indigenous dance styles across the globe – the basis being, curves, spirals, waves, circles, shaking, centred, organic and animal like. I also began to explore the Chakric system. (Spatially, Egyptian Dance is made up of circles, waves and spirals that move through an axis. These mimic the double helix of DNA, the spiralling structure of our bones and muscles, the spiralling nature of the universe and the weaving and spinning of the Energy Centres or Chakric Centres of our bodies (Sangiorgi, 2009, p. 24) I felt that the movement of this dance was the physical manifestation of the path of the Kundalini and a play between each of the 7 main Chakras. It also follows the same patterns as what Body Mind Centring calls, “Navel Radiation” and is supported by what the Alexander Technique calls “Primary Control”. I now call my work “Embodied Bellydance”.

In the past seven years I have been facilitating sessions for intellectually and physically impaired disability groups. This began before I did my Certificate in DMT. My entry into working with this population was via Belly dance, which this population loves. I watched myself grow and change as I learnt more about DMT and I developed my own way of working with these groups. Whilst I have moved away from Egyptian dance as my focus in this work and embraced the DMT approach, I come back to the essence of Egyptian dance time and time again.

One of the groups that I work with on a weekly basis is the Sussex Neighbourhood House, Dance Movement Therapy/ Creative Dance group. This group is managed by Sue Harris of the Sussex Neighbourhood house in Sussex St., Coburg, and belonging to the City of Moreland. The sessions are held at the Pascovale Swimming Pool Hall every Monday evening and run for one and half hours. The group is made up of fifteen adults ranging in ages from late twenties to mid fifties. They are mostly high functioning individuals who are quite coherent and responsive and able to participate freely in all activities. I began working with them at the beginning of the year. This job came to me because I would occasionally be asked to facilitate a belly dance session at a weekly event that the Sussex Neighbourhood house  holds called Friday Friends. When the previous dance facilitator left, the manger asked if I would like the position and I accepted. I made sure that she understood that my work would be in the context of DMT and she agreed. This group has been running for over ten years.

Another part of my dance life is what I call “Dance Journeys for the Awakening Heart”. The two main dances include “The Dance of the Sensual Soul” a women only dance that I began in 1999. The other is called “SensingFeelingDancing the Chakras”, which began in 2003. I do not call myself a Dance Therapist when I hold for these dances or any others that I do, but I do say that I have a Certificate in Dance Movement Therapy. What I have learnt thus far in DMT has definitely given me a greater, clearer, holding capacity and intention. I am looking forward to when I can call myself a Dance Movement Therapist in relation to the work that I have created.

The immersion and abandonment that I previously spoke about refers to when I was in my teens in the seventies. My personal Healing Dance was to rock music. Not a Conscious Healing Dance (Leventhal), because I did not have the knowledge of intention, holding and containing, nor was there someone holding for me. Never the less, it was most definitely a spontaneous healing dance and very much in the Quantum realm. It was “a timeless place, where I unfolded, went into the unknown. It was an energy dance that took me into a transformative, altered state of being. I dance my Soul/Self essence and communed with my higher self”, as out lined in Leventhal’s Chart 1 “Healing = a balance and mix of elements from each paradigm; a journey into the mysterious unknown (Leventhal, 2008 p. 6)

In this course with the IDTIA, we are taught to embrace what is called the Conscious Healing Dance or the Quantum Healing Dance. The healing takes place in the Quantum, whilst being held in a Newtonian framework. Newtonian is referred to as “Core” Dance Movement Therapy, bound by time and space. We work with the known, the concrete, through cause and effect. We use theory to support what we do. We hold using the 5-part session and we are governed by the populations that we are working with. The Body processes we work with are body image/boundaries and sensory and perceptual motor skills. We name the range we are working with: force, time, space and flow. We are in the here and now, for example, standing in a circle feeling our feet on the ground. (See chart Leventhal, 2008, p. 6)

I have spent weeks wondering and pondering how to get my head around writing about my Dance Movement Therapy experience and what it means to me and how to give it form through a theoretical frameworks and what is my model. I saw that I had written the acronym, D.I.V.A in very large letters with the word “study” next to it in my journal. This acronym came from the same speech given by Dr Marcia Leventhal, to represent “ that which dance therapist totally embody” (Leventhal 2008, p.16)

The words are:

  1. Daring
  2. Dedication
  3. Involved
  4. Inventive
  5. Vital
  6. Alive

This is what the acronym means to me and essentially represent the making of my DMT model.

1. Daring

I dare to be myself and embrace all the knowledge and skills that I bring with me to this course and to DMT. I honour that even though the Newtonian way does not come easily to me in my day-to-day living, I do have the ability to combine Newtonian linea elements of DMT. I provide a concrete place, space and time to hold and contain a session. I am able to facilitate in a very practical way for example, bringing people into their bodies and to the here and now. I dare to embrace my intuitive, creative and improvisational skills that allow me to access the Quantum Healing Dance. I often feel that I experience life in a quantum way, especially my creative life. It is like a “fractal.” I am at home in a constantly metamorphosing, changing, molecular structure that is infinite. My limitations are the constraints that are placed upon me by the mechanistic Newtonian world. I have the gift of connectedness to something deep inside of me that is the essence of all my dance experience. It is a part of the flow of the Implicate order, that I am a part of what Bohm calls “life-energy” (Dossey, 1982, p. 182) and that is where the healing takes place.

“Belonging to the Implicate order – the unseen totality” that, says Bohm, “underlies the external world of things and events . . . in which all things are grounded . . . health is the result of the harmonious integration of all the analysable parts which comprise the explicate order-the cells, tissues, organ system and the entire physical body . . . health and harmony, a quality ultimately grounded, as all living things in the totality of the implicate order and not in the particulars themselves.” My perception is that the flow of the Implicate order is the infinite the Quantum and the particulars of the Explicate order is the structure of the Newtonian.

When I am facilitating a session with my disability group I can respond to them on both levels. We stand in a Circle and engage in structured activities that involve physical movement. I dare to take my cues from them or what the moment presents, the Quantum. At a recent session with the Sussex Neighbourhood House group there were a number of participants running late. As we waited for them I asked those present to sit in a circle with me and I pulled out the shakers and rattles that I had brought to be played for our performance piece. I gave them one instrument each and we sang the song that we would be moving to after the warm up. When all had arrived we stood in a circle and I asked them to keep shaking. I had no tangible idea where this was going. I asked Sandra, one of the participants to walk around Jen, another participant and to keep shaking. One of my reasons for using the shakers and rattles is that I feel on a deep cellular level, the sound that they make through the bodies rhythmic action touches something very primordial and shamanic; this simple instrument can shift energy. I asked the others to do the same as Sandra and Jen had done. I then noticed Mark, who is often away from the circle and on this day in the corner. I decided we were all going to go where Mark was and do what he was doing, still shaking the instruments. We all stood against the wall like he was. Mark responded well to this; he smiled. I stood very close to him and asked him gently if he wanted to move. After a few moments without any verbal communication, which is the way Mark is, he suddenly moved into the room and I asked the whole group to follow. From there I chose another person to lead and to move how they wanted and encouraged the others to follow. It was like a crazy samba parade. I would call out someone’s name and we would all turn to follow the person. Each individual got to lead the group. This spontaneous molecular experience got the whole group moving, engaged, connected and happy. This “warm up” had moved into the “release” of a 5-part session before the “theme”, which is the dance piece.

During the module I arrived with a personal theme and that was to be in the NOW. I was greatly inspired by the recording of the book by Eckard Tolle the “Power of Now” that I was listening to daily. It was my personal unfolding, watching my internal dance of focus and distraction. This was the beginning of the exploration of my “Enlightened Discomfort”, which Marcia defined in the Module as “to go beyond the comfort zone to a place of unfoldment; to develop the capacity to ‘hold’ the anxiety until an answer or an image comes to mind”. She also discussed that; “in Shamanic training – you have to be ‘dismembered’ in order to be put back together again … Anxiety can cause a shattering, or things “falling to pieces” that can indicate a changing of patterns: the body’s pattern can soften and drop into new things”. Daring to go deeper into myself into my “Dynesphere”, which Marcia describes as, “what is particular to me, to be still and listening to myself”. I wrote in my journal “I am looking for the NOW, I danced it, found it, I got lead astray and came back”.

2. Dedication

I am dedicated to following my own healing journey and to facilitate, share and teach others what I know in myself to be true and good. For the past 21 years I have been dedicated, devoted and self-motivated to researching and exploring the connection, between the somatic modalities that I wrote about, Egyptian dance, the Chakras, Esoteric Healing, Energy dance and DMT.

In the module during the experiential I found myself going into Egyptian dance. This greatly interested me because it does not always happen. I often avoid it so as to not go into technique. When I facilitate dance journeys I try to steer trained dancers away from technique. This is because they often hide in their technique and don’t allow themselves to go deeper into that place of “enlightened discomfort”. What I experienced in the module came from a place deep inside me. I heard a voice say “this is your healing dance, your home.” This was very important to me.

I fully embrace the dedication of the IDTIA to ensure that the course and its content are relevant and progressive; that we learn and achieve high standards that will take us into the psychotherapeutic realm. I am inspired by the dedication of those involved in DMT to take it and present it as a therapy that stands on its own with its unique qualities that set it apart from other modalities such as Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy.

3. Involved

I need to be involved in the process of my own dance evolution. I need to partake in my professional development, so I can be consciously and clearly involved and present as a skilled dance therapist. I aim to be totally involved with my groups and appreciate and use whatever they bring with them when they enter my space. They are at times, involved in decision-making. Earlier this year I was feeling somewhat dissatisfied with the interventions that I was facilitating with my Sussex group; there was something missing. I asked them to tell me what music they liked. They gave me a varied assortment of old and new rock n roll and pop songs. I diligently found as many of the requested songs and artists as I could, downloaded them and arrived the next week with a good selection of their requests. We met in the circle as usual but instead of a warm up without music, I put the music on, they were so happy and I improvised from there. Some of the tunes are now in our end of the year concert repertoire.

My involvement with the other members of the Advanced Diploma is essential for me to be able to experience the work. This ongoing involvement and interaction with the group will enrich my experience and support my learning during the course. I spent the first movement process of the module very much in my own space, noticing how I did not want to venture out to connect with others. When I engaged with my personal theme of being in the NOW that I mentioned earlier, I saw myself feeling a mixture of emotions: relief, satisfaction, fear, joy and sadness. Before I could meet my fellow dancers I needed to be involved in my own healing dance, to feel and explore those emotions, whilst I was being held and witnessed by Marcia, I was also holding and witnessing myself. Toward the end of the experiential I organically began to unfold and to connect to the group and to any individual in the group that came my way.

I am thrilled to be involved in the revolution of Dance Movement Therapy, this preverbal ancient healing dance, that through my experience thus far I feel intrinsically connected to. Leventhal in her article expresses, “Dance in it healing capacities is one of the oldest forms of healing interventions and experiences known to humankind . . . the power of ritualistic movement, trance excitation and community exultation and release were forms generated and integrated into a culture’s social organization” (Leventhal, 1993, p. 257)

4. Inventive

Inventiveness is what I need to keep my work fresh and alive. I need to be able to pull the rabbit out the hat, to go into a session with a plan and to be able to throw it away and reinvent it on the spot. Usually, this is when the magic happens when suddenly a theme evolves into something rich and satisfying for all. It sometimes feels like God has stepped in and arranged the molecules to create this moment of perfection and it is never to be repeated again. By God I mean the “universal source of all’. Along with inventive I would like to add another I, Inspiration. I feel that the two are close relatives. Breathing in the possibilities and breathing out the inventions.

I enjoyed Marcia’s inventiveness and inspiration during the module. I loved her reminding us that she was working in a Quantum way, allowing each part of the module to unfold whilst being able to deliver what we needed to explore.

5. Vital

Dance Movement Therapy is a vital Primary Therapy. It works with the body and through the experiencing of movement and dance, tapping directly into the deep held emotions that create disease. Therefore psychoanalysis alone does not work, because it is all in the head. The scientist, Candace Pert states in an interview with Lyn Grodzki that: “ The raw emotion is working to be expressed in the body. It’s always moving up the neural access. Up the chakras, if you will, but really up the spinal chord. The need to resist it is coming from the Cortex. All the brain; rationalizing and pushing the energy down . . . The cortex resistance is an attempt to prevent over load . . . The real true emotions that needs to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated. That is why I believe that Psychoanalysis is in a vacuum and doesn’t work. You are spending all your time in to cortex, rather than in your body. You are adding to the resistance (Grodzki, p.4).

.It is Vital that we breathe, when we stop breathing we stop moving. Therefore it is very important to have an awareness of how we breathe and to develop techniques and strategies that help client groups to access a deeper flow of breath in an easy way.

Another vital part of DMT is Authentic Movement. I am excited by my own journey in this over the years, as I watch myself unfold both as the Witness and the Mover. I am becoming much more attuned to the Witness in me. It is extremely important and necessary that I am able to hold and to witness with very clear intention, focus, empathy, neutrality and presence as I can. I enjoy the silence as the witness when the mover speaks at the end. This act makes me feel that I am with the mover on a deep vibrational level that is preverbal and in the Quantum.

Movement is a vital part of our lives, required for the continuation of life. As the slogan says, “move it or loose it”. Vitality, is what I feel when I have moved something deep inside me after a dance.

6. Alive.

Dance Movement Therapy is alive. Dance has been a part of mankind forever and when people have been in the depths of despair, dancing has often been the answer. My mother told me that when there was no food during the Second World War and they were hungry and afraid they would dance. The aliveness of my breath that supports my beating heart, which moves billions of blood cells through my body and no matter how still I am, there is always movement. The awareness of this can become a dance of aliveness. My body knows it all. My body holds the key to all of me and all that I am. We are alive until we stop breathing. While we dance we live and thrive.

To conclude this essay I would like to say that from the process of writing this essay that I have begun to develop my DMT model with much more clarity, conviction and intention than I had before. I have also realized that I am much more Newtonian than I thought I was. I can now consciously and fully embrace the importance of the integration of the Newtonian and Quantum paradigms of which I previously innately and intuitively followed. I look forward to putting all that I have used into practice. I aim to use my knowledge, wide experience and adventurous approach to assist inspire and allow all those who participate in my DMT sessions to realized their own special potential and quality of life.


  1.  Sangiorgi, M., (2009) ‘SensingFeelingDancing the Chakras, Dance Movement Exploration’, Dance Therapy Association of Australia Quarterly, Volume 8, No’s 1 and 2, 2009, p 24 – 26


  1. Leventhal, M., (2008) ‘Transformation and Healing Through Dance Therapy: The Challenge and imperative of Holding a Vision”, American Journal of Dance Therapy Vol 30, pp.4-23 [modified version of a speech given at the ADTA 42nd Annual Conference, September 2007, Brooklyn New York]


  1. Dossey, L., (1982) ‘Health and the Implicate Order’, Space, Time and Medicine, Shambhala Publication, Chapter 2 pp. 181-189


  1. Leventhal, M., (1993) ‘Moving Towards Health: Stages of Therapeutic Unfolding in Dance Movement’, Current Research in Arts Medicine, MedArts International. A Capella Books, USA, pp. 257-261


  1. Grodzki, L., (undated) ‘Approaching a Theory of Emotion – An interview with Candace Pert, Ph.D’, The Primal Psychotherapy page [ON-line] http://primal-page.com





DMT, Homelessness & Schizophrenia

DMT, Homelessness & Schizophrenia

Dance Movement Therapy used with a group of homeless men suffering form Schizophrenia 

Maria Sangiorgi 2005

This paper describe the movement characteristics and life challenges that may be faced by a group of homeless men suffering from Schizophrenia. It discusses the special contribution that dance therapy makes and the methods can be used and theoretical framework that support my ideas.

This work aims to explore the relationship between a number of theoretical frame works and their application to the sessions I was involved in with during my eight week placement. The frameworks applied were firstly Humanistic, as this framework gave the group essential care and a place to “be”, the use of creativity and the opportunity to experience their greater potential. The Phenomenological framework which places emphasis on cultivating awareness of who they are as a whole person by creating awareness of direct moment experiences, giving real feed back and encouragement. Object Relations helped them to come out of their isolation and gave them a sense of familiarity and safety enabling them to share experiences and open them selves to the Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) sessions.

I spent my placement in a hostel for homeless schizophrenic men called Prague House situated in the leafy green suburb of Kew, Melbourne with Dance Movement Therapist Elizabeth McKenzie. It provides personal care and assistance for men who are over fifty. It is run by an order of nuns, the Sisters of Charity. Their mission is to provide a secure and peaceful environment, holistic care and to enhance the dignity of each person. Some of the men also have alcoholic acquired brain disorders, dementia, depression and bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness of the brain, which manifests as a disorganisation of brain function. The brain makes inappropriate connections and misinterpretations, which creates hallucinations. Those suffering from schizophrenia think other people are communicating with them. They hear voices and are divorced from reality. Because they are constantly preoccupied with their own mental and emotional worlds they suffer from chronic isolation, loss of motivation, lack of organization and depression. They lack insight and self-awareness, have a poor sense of body parts and sometimes lack self-confidence.

As a rule their behaviour is very introspective, they are not very physically active, communicative or social. I was often greeted by a row of men slumped in armchairs, who may or may not look up to see who had walked into their space. They generally would not greet me or engage in communication unless I initiated it. ‘The head bowed down’ was an indication of how chronic their condition was and that they were preoccupied with their own inner dialogue.

Because of their inability to socialise or communicate there were very few attendants at the DMT sessions. Out of the 35 men who live at Prague House we had an average of 2 who attended the sessions. I was able to work with the larger population on the rock’n’roll days, of which there were 2 during my visit. The Rock’n’Roll days are held in a public area, a large out door veranda contained by rows of armchairs. This is where the majority of communal activities take place and also where many of the men who are chronic smokers sit all day. The DMT session are held in the TV and recreation room that is a more private area. The sessions were held on Thursday afternoons.

During the first session of DMT I participated in, Elizabeth took me to the room and introduced me to a man named Quentin. He was sitting in an armchair against the far wall with his head bowed down. Elizabeth went to find the men who had said would come to the session. The numbers would have dwindled to two. The problem with the inconsistency was that it was difficult to create a group bond making the kind of spontaneity that allows for group movement that can flow from one week to the next almost impossible. There were two other factors that influenced the number of men at the sessions. One was that a Nun ran a bingo session at the same time and the other was illness. One of the regulars was hospitalised twice during my time there.

The two men Elizabeth returned with were Michael and Frank. All of the DMT sessions began seated and in a circle. Elizabeth would always invite Quentin who remained seated in the armchair to join us. He would always decline and resume his head bowed down pose. Elizabeth later told me that he used to leave the room during the sessions but now stayed for the duration.

In each session Elizabeth would ask the men to become aware of their breathing by introducing some kind of breath awareness exercises. She also constantly referred to the Sacrum, and the use of their abdomen. The feeling of their feet and legs on the floor. In one warm up and release she asked the men to bounce a ball to each other using a lot of strength and making a” ha” sound. The focus on the breath and the sacrum related to the work of Liljan Espanak. (Levy,1988)

“Breathing as the most natural rhythm in ones life . . . Breathing is closely interconnected with both physiological and emotional changes in the body . . . In normal locomotion the sacrum performs a small wheel-like movement which allows a smooth and relaxed change of weight form one feet to another. In case of disturbance this wheel-like-action will be hampered and the execution will be jerky or rigidly inactive “

This exemplified disturbed function of the Sacrum because they had very restricted movement qualities and coordination and they also had difficulty engaging in steady rhythmic deep breathing. By engaging with their breath and becoming more aware of their breath they had the opportunity to disengage with the preoccupation of what was going on in their minds. Their attention moved to the activity and they then became more present and aware of their physical bodies, which also created a greater self-awareness.

In another warm up and release the men were asked to imagine that they were moving sand with their feet by brushing the side of the foot one way and then the other alternating legs. This apparently simple exercise was very difficult for them and their interpretation was indicative of all their very restricted movement qualities. They moved very slowly often unable to move through the whole movement range of the lower leg and foot and became very fatigued in a very short time. In Laban terms they move with bound Flow, using a light Weight and little sense of centre. Their movements in Time are slow and sustained with no acceleration and their relationship to Space is indirect and multi focused.

In another session the men were each asked to initiate a movement from a different body part. The aim of all these activities was for them to focus on finding strength in their bodies, create body awareness to increase a sense of presence and feel gravity creating a relationship to the earth. This would allow them to have sense of themselves, making things more concrete and giving them the opportunity to move away from their preoccupation with their minds. It would bring them to the reality of the here and now.

The imagination was used but with concrete ideas. Elizabeth used suggestive and affirming language. Every time they did something she would validate their choice or discuss how the movement felt or what it did. This is supported by the humanistic theory. (Halprin, 2003)

“Exploring human potential meant identifying optimal conditions which foster creativity and growth, developing models for exploring what a fully functioning human being might be, and generating methods for investigating the whole-parts dynamic”

She always explained things clearly and concisely using simple ideas and metaphors. Elizabeth’s use of weight also corresponds to the vertical axis, which corresponds to the sense of “I”, representing the power of upright self which for men who spent so much time slumped, sleated and looking down was very important.

After talking to Elizabeth I brought some percussive recorded music to the sessions. For one of the themes we used the music to stomp to the drumbeat moving in a circle.   This promoted a sense of strength in the men’s bodies. To continue this theme we then used sticks. One person would hold their stick horizontally and assume a strong supporting pose, while the other held the stick vertically and pushed against the first persons stick. Again Elizabeth asked the men to use their whole body and to feel the strength through their torso, feet and legs. This was a very focussed activity that required a lot of concentration and use of sustained strong weight. Next the men again assumed a strong supportive pose while another person pushed against the others sacrum, using their body weight. The men were encouraged to feel the strength that is needed to resist being pushed.

In another theme session Elizabeth asked the men to position themselves any where in the room. The men had the choice of floor, or chair, or table. Elizabeth then asked everyone what they could see from where they were positioned. Then they were asked to change positions.

Throughout the sessions I observed the men often pausing and reiterating the instructions before attempting any given activity, as if they had to compute the instructions before attempting the activity and that every instruction or event outside of their immediate personal world was so far away from their internal reality they had to really work to understand it. This characteristic exemplifies to me their great sense of aloneness, (2002, Jason Stuart Ratcliff)

Ratcliff’s study suggests that “They do not share a belief system with others, but are the sole inhabitants of their own belief system . . . they lose the ability to comprehend how others see them, comprehend their place in a social system, and in consequence build a personal belief system to replace this only increases their loneliness.”

The use of a Phenomenological therapeutic framework with the emphasis on direct experience, giving real feed back and encouragement – what and how does it feel? Bringing the body to the here and now. Creating interactions and experiences that enhance a physical, spiritual, social, evolutionary and moral growing which validates the sense self. An opportunity for time to develop a sense of relationship to others, and to engage in a communal activity, that physically expands their bodies and also their minds and eases the sense of aloneness. (Halprin 2003)

“Phenomenological approaches call for immersion in actual experience, defined not as “reality as such,” but as how the person actually experiences reality – what she thinks, feels, senses, and imagines in the moment. For the humanists, the shaping of the felt experience through full expressiveness to be shared with others became another important step in the therapeutic process.”

It was very important to communicate to each person individually so as to help him or her become a part of the community. Even Quentin in the armchair who did not directly participate other than being in the room was always asked if he enjoyed the sessions. (Halprin 2003)

“the therapist must create a relationship with the client based on warmth, unconditional positive regard, and caring”

One of my favourite centring and closures was sitting in a row in chairs and giving one another a shoulder massage. Elizabeth then placed 3 sticks on the floor and asked the men to jump over the sticks and run out of the room. This closure helped to establish awareness between the transition from here to there and was also a very direct, strong and purposeful way to end the whole session. It was also a very simple and playful ending and it was a way to bring play into the lives of men who are not very playful, small leaps out of the room. It was also a way to insight “felt sense”; if it was a felt experience it will become a pure experience that is embodied in their soul memory, a moment of pure being. This is be another example of the use of Phenomenology, the value of a lived experience

Michael and Frank attended The first session I facilitated. I began the warm up by getting the men to roll a soft therapy ball about 20 cm in diameter, with small protruding knobs around their bodies. They moved this up and down their arms and across their shoulders. I did this to promote upper body mobility and to develop feeling the sensation from the softness and knobbiness of the balls. Frank found this very challenging and strenuous. He found it very difficult to raise his arms even slightly over his head but never the less he did it. I then gave them small dense soft balls, the size of tennis balls and asked them to roll the ball under one foot at a time. Frank wouldn’t take his shoes off so he felt no new sensation. Michael said that his feet felt different. I did this to increase the mobility in the bottom of the men’s feet. I then asked them to come forward on their chairs, so that they could bend forward to roll the therapy balls to each other between their legs. I did this to mobilise their hips and spines. Frank did it for short while then began to kick the ball.

I then asked them to roll their shoulders. Michael was slouching back in his chair and I suggested he move forward or he would not be able to do the movement. Elizabeth later said it was good that I affirmed everything that the men did and that I got Michael to sit up out of his slouch. She suggested that when Frank began to kick the ball, perhaps I could have changed the activity, but that it was still ok because we did not loose the flow.

During both theme sessions I facilitated rhythm and percussion were involved. (Lumsden 2002)

According to Lumsden “Rhythm can influence body rhythms such as heart beat and breathing. Different rhythms also arouse different emotional reactions”

“Boas emphasized that by playing percussive instruments, the therapist could help to direct the flow of the emotional expression through the use of crescendos, accelerandos, ritardando, and diminuendos” (Levy 1988)

The first session, which was a continuation of the above, I introduced them to finger cymbals. They were delighted with this exercise, and both became quite animated especially Frank who was the most disengaged of the two. I gave them 2 cymbals each, one for each hand. I showed them how to hit the cymbals to get the best sound. Frank really responded to this and was very concerned when his did not sound right and he really tried to make a better sound. They both had a good sense of rhythm but very different styles. We then tried 2 fingers on each hand, which is the way they are traditionally played. This was very challenging for both the men, particularly Frank as he had the shakes. Nevertheless focusing on the cymbals helped Frank to stabilise his hands. I suggested he go back to 2 cymbals, which he could manage better. We took it in turns to lead a rhythm. Frank became more and more animated asking me where I got them. Quentin also enjoyed the cymbals and he kept looking up and smiling.

The next session I facilitated was with John G and John O. This was a very short session. John G’s response to each of the warm up activities was to recall something from his memory. He gets lost in the associations and in-between he would slump back. The activity that stood out was when I gave each one a set of ankle bells to put on their arm. We all tapped out a rhythm or took it in turns to instigate a pattern. The rhythmic pattern and sound of the bells made John G remember a Nursery rhyme “Sing a song of sixpence”. We then all began to piece together the words of the song and sang it together a number of times. John G then slumped back into his chair and became introverted, gave his apologises, said that he had to go and left. Elizabeth said he probably became self-conscious; John G normally doesn’t join groups so it was a great thing that he came. .

John O, who also has dementia and is very slow and forgetful. He was only at my session because I walked him to the room. John O’s experience in that session was very moving for both Elizabeth and myself. He talked about and lamented the loss of his amputated finger and told us that it was “a stupid accident” that happened when he worked on an assembly line. Because of the focus of his hand with the bells and singing the nursery rhyme he was able to recall his hand and to bring the experience to the here and now. The Humanistic framework again supports this experience, what Carl Rogers call the “empathetic listener” (Halpin 2003)

“the therapist must create a relationship with the client based on warmth, unconditional

positive regard, and caring.”

Through all the kinds of listening that took place. Listening rhythmically, so as to be able to copy and to take turns all playing. Listening to the nursery rhyme, listening to Johns story about his lost finger, we were able to bring about this very special moment that gave John a voice to be heard. (Fran J Levy 1988)

“Even severely withdrawn patients could be mobilised by the contagious aspect of rhythm, with safe and simple rhythmic sequences providing a medium for the externalisation of otherwise chaotic and confusing emotions”

What also struck a chord with me particularly to do with this session was a something Maslow said, (Maslow 1993)

“Self improvement is partly a consequence of criticising the experience that one has allowed to come into consciousness. Schizophrenic people experience many insights and yet don’t make therapeutic use of them because they are to much “totally experiencing and not enough “self observation and criticising”

Here the therapist is the catalyst that brings the internal world and insight into the reality of now this is where that humanistic statement links to the object relations theory.

(Weiner 1997)

“schizophrenia is distinctively characterized by a withdrawal from object relatedness . . . The person who as a result of unfortunate learning experiences fails to develop such techniques, experiences an inordinate amount of anxiety in his interactions with people and is likely to protect himself by withdrawing from the human environment . . . there is little question that withdrawal and disturbed object relationships are salient features of schizophrenia”.

John sharing his story with us was a poignant moment because he felt safe enough to tell us this moving and meaningful personal story from his past.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is also one of the most essential theoretical frame works that supports this group. If this group were still homeless they would be completely out of reach and inaccessible to the dance therapist. They are provided with the most basic physiological needs, food, shelter, clean clothes and body cleanliness and they a given a placed to “be”. They then have the opportunity to participate in real and rewarding life activities such as DMT.

The other important sessions that Elizabeth organized were the Rock’n’Roll days. These sessions allowed the men who chose to physically participate to partner dance with us and other members of the staff. This was important because it was a way for the men to experience physical contact in a safe controlled environment that is something that is lacking in their lives. This again relate to Maslow hierarchy of needs. It was also an opportunity for us to relate to them one on one and to be involved with the larger population. I developed relationships with a couple of the men who were the chronic smoker that I had mentioned earlier in this piece. I spoke to them on each visit, during the Rock’n’roll sessions I would always invite them to dance and they always declined. This became a jovial banter. Again Object Relations comes into play here. As they got to know me, see me, talk to me, they began responding with more familiarity and trust. Another one of the therapeutic framework that emerged in these sessions was Mirroring. During the partner dancing I was able to mirror their movements and alter the quality of the movement to be less erratic and more rhythmic and in time with the music being. Often the dances also involved a lot of swaying, which was soothing and calms the central nervous system. The effect that these sessions had on the men and the staff was that it made everyone happy. The intentions and the skills of the Dance Therapist also created a container that embraced everyone there, even if they weren’t dancing they were still participating and being included. (Bernstein, P. & Singer, D. 1982)

“When initiating a therapeutic contact, it is necessary to traverse the defeat-strewn pathways of the individual’s psyche with a sense of faith in the human spirit and the personas ability to exist in that moment . . . attuning to the being who is to be engaged in a therapeutic dialogue. This provides the “holding container necessary to sprout the seed of trust”.

I conclude that the most essential therapeutic framework is the Humanistic framework, beinging with Maslows Hierarchy Of Needs; without shelter food clothing and basic care there would be no platform to even begin to work with these men. With these basic needs taken care of we then have the opportunity to enter their mentally and emotionally preoccupied worlds and meet them where they are at. This gives them the opportunity to expand there body moments and in turn their minds in a safe and creative space we. This if followed by Object Relations; by offering them constant supportive and safe relationship we become familiar and trustworthy. This opens the door to a trusting environment that we can then enter together. The Phenomological framework is also important. This is evident In the DMT session where we are constantly wanting them to tell us how what they were experiencing felt in that moment, to help bring them to the hear and now.

My time at Prague house was very rich, rewarding, and challenging. The inconstancies of this group were a very important lesson for me. I came to learn and to acknowledge that, even though the therapist may not be dancing she is always holding the therapeutic space. This skill produces a container that holds all of those that the therapist comes in contact with. This space can be developed on a deep and subtle level and have a constant and healing affect on the population, without being obvious to the untrained person, except through the end result. Through the experience of DMT the world of those suffering from Schizophrenia can be made more concrete and immediate which then affects all other interactions in their daily lives.


Fran J. Levy 1988, Dance/Movement Therapy A Healing Art, Liljan Espenak ,P 57

Daria Halprin 2003, The Expressive Body in Life, Art & Therapy, Chapter 4, P 49

Jason Stuart Ratcliff 2002 The Egocentric world of the Schizophrenic, The Angelhaunt Library Schizophrenia and Human Nature

website www.anglehaut.net/schizophreina/sandhust. 25/11/05

Daria Halprin 2003, The Expressive Body in Life, Art & Therapy, Chapter 4, P 45,

Daria Halprin 2003, The Expressive Body in Life, Art & Therapy, Chapter 4, P 49

Malvern Lumsden, Ph.D Moving Together in Transitinal Space: Dance Therapy Rehabilitation, Oslo, July 2002, PDF file Web 17/4/06

Fran J Levy 1988, Dance/Movement Therapy a Healing Art. Marion Chase, Page 29

Daria Halprin 2003, The Expressive Body in Life, Art & Therapy, Chapter 4, P 49

Fran J Levy 1988, Dance/Movement Therapy a Healing Art. Marion Chase, pioneering Lituery Contributions to Dance Therapy, Franziska Boaz, Page 114

Bretha G. Maslow 1993, Abraham Maslow’s The Farther Reaches of Human Nature Author, p 21 The Creative attitude

Irving B. Weiner 1997 Psychodiagnosis in Schizophrenia. Page 149

Bernstein, P. & Singer, D. (1982). The choreography of object relations. Thoughtful theoretical overviews and examples of clinical applications.