Dance Therapy and the Alexander Technique (Linda Murrow)
Thanks to ‘Direction’ for the use of this article
Dance/Movement Therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to help further the physical & emotional integration of the individual. Dance therapy is based on the Art and Science of human Movement. It offers movement experiences which, extending beyond the purely functional, engage both body and mind. Drawing on the therapeutic elements inherent in dance, therapists aim at restoring balance and integration in the areas of physical function, feelings and cognition. The work of Dance Therapists is applicable to children and adults in diverse settings and can be adapted to the needs of clients with a wide range of specific and non-specific disorders and disabilities.
I came to the Alexander Technique with a background in dance/movement. I began having Alexander lessons in 1983, motivated by a desire to find a way of looking after my scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. At thirteen, I had been told by a surgeon that I suffered from Adolescent Idiopathic Progressive Scoliosis, and that I needed surgery immediately to prevent a medical catastrophe. This came as a shock to a physically active and fully functioning teenager with no physical pain or limitations. After opting to not have surgery, I knew it was my responsibility to attend to my scoliosis. I was also aware that the physical pulls in my body reflected psychological pulls, and I wanted to understand their relationship and source.
So in 1984, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Creative Art Therapies. I specialised in dance/movement therapy and eventually became registered with the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA).
Throughout this process, I was compelled to draw, dance, and explore various means of giving form to the experience and aesthetic of my scoliosis. Despite feelings of fear, anger, confusion, despair, and powerlessness over
this perceived monster that had invaded my body, I also felt I was being challenged to remain open to what my scoliosis might teach me.
Working in Boston as a dance therapist, I encountered a number of highly stressful work environments which placed enormous demands on me physically and emotionally. Though I found the work fascinating and creative, I became aware that my attention was being drawn out into the need of others i. e. the patients, the hospital, the clinical team, etc. I was not finding it possible to balance the demands of my job with looking after myself. I began to exhibit signs of ‘burnout’ after only three years in the field.
I knew the Alexander Technique offered a unique and lasting approach to the kind of self-care and approach to ‘helping’ I needed, so in 1990, 1 decided to train. Although the practice of AT and DT appear very different on the surface, the underlying philosophy and working principles are similar.
THE ROOTS OF DANCE THERAPY
Dance therapy as a profession is born from the modern dance movement in the United States and Europe during the earlier part of this century. The work of a few individual dancers, including Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham and Mary Wigman, led to a non-verbal exploration of the human condition through body movement. Marion Chace (1896-1970), and other students of these early pioneers, began exploring, experimenting, and discovering the power of movement as a vehicle for self-expression and communication.