EJOTMAS: Ekpoma Journal of Theatre and Media Arts

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An Overview of Somatics (Body-Mind) Approaches in Dance Therapy

Samson S. Akapo


Dance has been a huge part of the human cultures long before civilization, however, with time, extensive use of dance beyond entertainment and ritual evolved, one of which is dance therapy. Dance therapy, a branch of creative therapy, has been a very relevant field of study for quite some time. Aboriginals have always used this medium as a way to help individuals through physical, spiritual and psychological challenges which is evident in shamanistic practices. The field of dance therapy has been expanding and around WWII, the work of psychoanalytic pioneers such as Freud and Jung made their mark on it. Afterward, Mary Starks Whitehouse, who would become a Jungian analyst, developed a process called “movement-in-depth” based on her knowledge of dance, movement and depth psychology. This form of dance therapy is also known as 'authentic movement', a process where patients dance their feelings about an internal image that provides insight into issues in their past or current life. Somatic studies promote claims that the human body and mind work together to form a composite structure. Hence, somatic studies have had significant influence on dance since the 1970s when dancers and choreographers sought newer ways to incorporate “body-mind concept” into dance training which has worked successfully in the area of therapy. Beyond its fundamental function, which is entertainment, this article explores the use of dance in therapeutic settings with emphasis on the approaches of two pioneers of dance therapy: Marian Chace and Mary Starks Whitehouse, stating how their works reside, particularly, within the confines of somatic studies.

Keywords: Dance, Somatics, Dance therapy, Marian Chace, Mary Starks Whitehouse,

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