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