Storytelling Through Dance and Movement

Storytelling Through Dance and Movement

Jenny Bopp (Westtown School, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5981-8.ch009
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Everyone has a story to tell, but because of trauma, not everyone can use words to tell it. The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate an arts-based, trauma-informed, hope-infused movement and storytelling curriculum for adults (ages 19+) who are in recovery from various addictions or traumatic experiences. The curriculum was implemented with a group of five people selected by the supervising agency (Kingdom Recovery) to assess whether or not it proved beneficial to the participants. Assessment methods included before/after class experiences, a movement assessment checklist, and an evaluation survey. The curriculum consisted of seven lessons lasting 90 minutes each, and the goal of the curriculum was to promote life-skill building, healing, and hope. At the end of the seven-week time period, subjects performed pieces they choreographed throughout the sessions as a celebration of their accomplishments and hard work. The goals of the curriculum were accomplished successfully and 100% of the participants noticed an increase in their confidence, empathy, and creativity.
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Since ancient civilization, dance has been a form of expression and storytelling containing deep traditions and meaning in many cultures (Kreitler & Kreitler, 1972). Dance therapist David Harris (2007) says, “Dance therapy offers unusual potential for advancing [the] critical healing process in innovative ways” (p. 204). While this chapter is not about clinical dance therapy, it is about the ways in which dance can be used to facilitate healing in an everyday environment. Often, those who have experienced trauma find verbal communication about their experience difficult and potentially re-traumatizing. Dance and movement, among other art forms, offer opportunities for someone to tell their story without having to find words. In this context, movement opens the door for empathy, honest self-expression, and the release of physical tension (catharsis) which can be held in the body for years after a traumatic experience (Dayton, 2007).

Developing a therapeutic movement-based curriculum that is trauma-informed and hope-infused provides a holistic outlet for healing to those suffering from abuse, addiction, and physical, emotional, and mental disabilities. In order to create an effectively trauma-informed curriculum, it is necessary to first understand the effects of trauma upon the brain, the body, and the spirit, and to explore what types of experiences provide therapeutic releases (SAMHSA, 2014).

An effective therapeutic movement curriculum is informed by the understanding of trauma’s effect on the body, mind and spirit, and the outward manifestation of those effects. The author developed this curriculum in hopes of providing an outlet for therapeutic release through dance by becoming informed about trauma and its effects upon the whole person. She simply watched, listened, guided the curriculum’s experiences, and became a witness for the people participating in her study.

Providing safety, opportunities to build healthy relationships, and the development of coping skills (Bath, 2008), are all elements that shape the curriculum’s arts-based experiences. This movement curriculum is designed to give survivors of trauma a way to reconnect with their bodies, and to build empathetic connections with other people in a safe environment. Future-oriented thinking and creativity are re-established through the curriculum’s experiences, fostering new or revitalized hope for a future that could be.

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