Dance and mental health

Dance/Movement makes mental health accessible to everyone

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Traditionally, resources focus on hotlines and 800 numbers that people can call if/when they feel like they have nowhere to turn for support. What about support for people who cannot speak? Do their mental health needs not matter? While not everyone can speak, everyone can move in some way, shape or form. 

Whether it is through eye movements, breathing or our heartbeat, the potential for movement as a form of expression is possible for everyone. Dance and movement is a form of communication, and for those whose language skills are compromised, not yet developed or inaccessible, that form of communication can make all the difference between having hope and feeling hopeless.  

healing power of dance

The healing power of dance: talking about it isn’t enough

Sarah* entered the studio eager to move but very aware that dance, which once brought her joy, was very difficult to engage in or initiate. I invited her to merely walk around the space and explore her connection to her movement and body. She began to walk quickly with intensity and a bound energy in her upper torso. I asked her to identify how she felt in this walk, to which she replied, “This is what I do. I push through things and just keep going. This feels familiar, but I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to move forward, but I’m not sure what that looks like or how to do that mindfully and in a healthy way.”  

I invited her to find different ways to walk through the room. Sarah began to walk backward. She mentioned that this actually felt safe and that she could trust herself. She then began to move sideways and slowly began to roll her shoulder with each step. When asked what this movement represented, she said, “My creativity.” This sparked a discussion about her connection to creativity. She was discouraged from indulging her creative side and made to feel like she was an outcast and the black sheep of the family. She didn’t allow herself to be creative.