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Paley, A.N. (1974). Candidate Contributions: Dance Therapy: An overview. Am. J. Psychoanal., 34(1):81-83.

(1974). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 34(1):81-83

Candidate Contributions: Dance Therapy: An overview

Ann-Marie N. Paley, M.D.

There are aspects of modern dance which may be used collectively as a facilitative technique in group psychotherapy. First, consideration will be given to the origins of dance therapy. Then original work by Chace and Rosen (Dance in Psychotherapy, 1957) will be presented and compared and contrasted to newer psychodance techniques of Fine and Daly (Group Psychotherapy 25, 1962). Finally, an attempt will be made to show how the psychiatrist could use dance therapy to enhance verbal psychoanalytically oriented group treatment.

Dance therapy springs from three roots: modern dance, art therapy, and group therapy. “To dance is to live,” Snoopy proclaims. Even those who do not share Snoopy's enthusiasm would not dispute the primacy of nonverbal modes in the development of human communication. Before the infant learns speech, he knows movement; before the human race acquired language, it had dance.

Kees and Ruesch (Nonverbal Communication, 1964) point out that dance is “the first of all the arts.” No one knows exactly how dance began. Sachs suggests that primitive man imitated the circle dance of the apes, while Langer believes dance originated in the vital gestures of man. However dance started, by the early twentieth century it had developed “a standardization of form, content, and technique far removed from its natural expressive origins” (E. Rosen).

The modern dance revolution begun by Isadora Duncan and brought to fruition by Martha Graham broke stereotypes and reestablished dance as a vehicle to explore and communicate human experience. Stilted movements were discarded and the body's own rhythms — contraction and release, fall and recovery — became the object of artistic concern.

While Duncan and Graham were emancipating dance, psychiatry was taking anew look at the graphic productions of the mentally ill. At first these were used for diagnostic purposes, but gradually the emphasis shifted to treatment.

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