In her article “Movement as Dance: A Journey Backward”, dance educator Jo Leissa Dickinson discusses the benefits of creative dance for achieving higher awareness of one’s own self. She observes that most people limit the range of their movements as they grow older because of their increasing alienation with their physical self. Dickinson suggests that process-oriented creative dance can enhance the quality of communication between people, as well as the internal harmony between their selves. She contrasts creative dance with choreography, which is more imitative by nature and thus often brings anxiety rather than pleasure. Relying on her personal experience as a teacher, Dickinson shares her observations of the numerous benefits creative dance provides for one’s psychological well-being and discusses the particular techniques she uses in teaching.
Movement is something that brings us immense pleasure from the first days of our lives. However, with time we tend to limit our movements to the particular tasks we have to accomplish and focus on the development on our mind. However, for a person to feel happy, they should pay equal attention to their mind and body: if only one of these domains is being developed, it usually leads to internal conflict and anxiety. The article by Dickinson made me realize that creative dance can help people regain the natural harmony between their selves, while also enriching their expressive means.
When reading the article, I was primarily intrigued by the idea that being fully in touch with one’s own physical self is the necessary prerequisite of being fully in touch with someone else. When a person cannot come to terms with their own body, their receptors cannot adequately perceive the environment, so that they may not be good in understanding the feelings and needs of those around them. It seems to me that these people may also be excessively self-centered as they feel a lot of anxiety and tension, which is not released in the movement. While I have never thought of it before, dancing can make us more empathetic and more attentive to others by improving our nonverbal communication and widening our channels of perception.
The idea of the author that resonates with me most is that choreography cannot be as effective as creative dance in promoting self-cognition and self-expression. Choreography is imitative and product oriented, while creative dance allows a person to feel the freedom of expression and to enjoy the very process of dancing. When I started dancing, I often felt annoyed with the need to imitate the movements of others many times in a row, while I had my own ideas that were not any worse. When I was reading about the excited feelings of the author’s students, I remembered how happy I felt when dancing in the complete darkness of my room, making my body follow the movements of my soul. I was not trying to memorize the movements or to appeal to the spectators, so these were the short moments when I could really be myself.
I know that one can never become a professional dancer without learning to imitate others: but I also feel that one can never become a great dancer without learning to express one’s own ideas. In my view, an important implication of the article is that improvisation should be incorporated in dancing curricula from the very first classes, for the students to develop their creativity. Moreover, the observations of the author reveal that creative dance can be effective as a way of treatment for many psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression. In its effect, dancing is similar to deep meditation as it also enables people to concentrate on the movements and perceptions of their bodies, letting go of their fears and obsessive thoughts.
Today, people tend to set priority on their intellectual development, regarding their bodies as secondary or insignificant. However, keeping our bodies dynamic and flexible is important to feel internal harmony and to be successful in understanding and communicating with others. The article by Dickinson demonstrates how dancing improvisation can make people happier, calmer and more affectionate. Thus, the article has major implications not only for the field of dance, but also psychotherapy and promotion of well-being.