Dance Therapy




Since1930s, the uses of dance movement therapy (DMT) have been effectivein reducing anxiety and relieving stress. The objective of thisresearch paper is to determine whether dance movement therapy canhelp the modern people to effectively reduce anxiety and relievestress. It also researches on the effective of shape reaction andempathy in dance movement therapy.


Traditionally,dances were linked to healing and the influences in fertility,sickness, birth, and death. According to Ritter and Low (1996), DMTis based on theoretical interdependence between emotion and movement.DMT has a great impact on physical and psychological improvement andcan be categorised in five areas: non-verbal creative expression foremotional expression, reconciliation, and integration within groupsystems, enjoyment through relaxation, and enhanced self-esteem,self- awareness, and body-awareness, and broader movementcapabilities. The following manuscript will discuss aboutDance/Movement Therapy (DMT), and how it is helps the modern peopleto effectively reduce anxiety and relieve stress. In addition, itwill also discuss both the empathy and shape reaction. Further, itwill investigate the effectiveness of DMT in various setting.Additionally, it will inquire the positive effects of dance/movementtherapy in individuals. The thesis of this research paper willaddress the written literature by considering the following:

  1. What is dance movement therapy

  2. Origin of dance movement

  3. Analysis

Whatis Dance Movement Therapy?

Dancetherapy, also dance/movement therapy (DMT) is a type of psychotherapythat uses dance and body movement to support emotional, intellectual,social, cognitive, behavioural, and physical development of theindividual. Dance therapy is also a component of expressive therapythat uses and analysis body-expression and body-experience such asmimics, movements, touch, and mimics, among others. It was founded onthe basis that mind and body are interrelated continuum (bodymind),and the condition of the body has a direct effect to the emotions andmental well being of an individual. Unlike artistic dance thatconcentrate more on aesthetic outward show of movement, dancemovement therapy explore on all nature of movements. Besides, this isa therapy whereby therapist leads clients through movements when heor she empathically points out any kind of disorder. In other words,dance therapy is a psychotherapy whereby the body represents theinstrument, and is the dominant media of the therapy process. Thebody movement reflect the inner psychic life and its relationshipwith the outside world. Further, it is believed that emotional andmental problems are presented in the body, whereas the musclesrestrict the movement patterns. Besides, DMT is an effectivetreatment for people with medical, social, developmental,psychological, and physical impairments. According to Martinec(2013), DMT differs from normal exercise in that its main purpose isto inspire creativity of the client, and in return, promote feelingof well-beings. In addition, DMT installs greater body sense andawareness, healthy understanding of personal relationship, andbroader range of flexibility.

Thedance movement therapists work with different people with differentintellectual deficits, emotional problems, and life-threateningillness. They observe and alter the kinaesthetic movement of thepatient, and help to solve different psychological problems. Theyhelp them develop positive self-image, communication skills, andemotional stability. According to Fraenkel (2010), dance therapistsare employed in psychiatric hospitals, mental health facilities,residential home, inpatient rehabilitation centres, day care centres,prisons, private organisation, and special school with persons withdisabilities. Since every person can make some movement to certainextent, dance therapy can work effectively for any person inregardless of their age, gender, or ethnic background. Besides, dancetherapy help modern people to effectively reduce anxiety and relivestress. Since 1970, clinicians have been publishing research resultsfor the positive effects of dance movement therapy for patients withmental concerns. For instance, Aktas and Ogce (2005) published anarticle “Danceas a Therapy for Cancer Prevention”whereby he explained the effectiveness of using dance movement toprevent cancer. Further, Erwin-Grabner, Goodill, Hill, and Von(1999), documented a positive effect of DMT in reducing anxiety intheir article, “Effectivenessof Dance/Movement Therapy on Reducing Test Anxiety.”

Originof Dance Movement

In1940, Marian Chace started dance therapy as a profession in UnitedStates. She started teaching dancing immediately she left DenishawnDance Company (Chodorow, 2013). During her classes, Chace noticedmost students concentrated on their motions such as shyness,loneliness, or fear, rather the mechanics of their moves. Here, shewould encourage them to enjoy freedom of movement instead oftechniques. Within a short time, doctors in the nearby hospitalsstarted sending their patients to her. Most of these patients wereeither antisocial children, patients with psychiatric illness, andpeople with movement problems. Ultimately, Chace was recruited as RedCross staff at St. Elizabeth Hospital and the first dance therapistby the federal government. She worked with emotionally troubledstudents, some with schizophrenics and posttraumatic stress disorder.Marian went ahead and formed American Association(ADTA) to expand the field of dance/movement therapy (DMT). The ADTAdefined dance therapy as the use of movement that integrates physicaland emotions of an individual.


Accordingto Ritter et. al., (1996), anxiety is a multidimensional problem thatleads to distress to an individual. According to statistics, tenmillions students in pre-college and fifteen percent experience testanxiety. Generally, anxiety is unpleasant state of mental uneasiness,apprehension, nervousness, and obsession about due to uncertainevents. Individuals with anxiety often evaluate test-taking events asthreatening.

Historically,test anxiety research only focussed on measures to reduce anxiety,and providing models for the study. On the contrary, the currentresearches are focusing on the dance treatment to reduce anxietyhence improve academic performance. According to Fraenkel (1983),several researches were conducted a research to find out variousstrategies to reduce strategies. They found that combined studyskills and relaxation has a great impact on anxiety and performance.Furthermore, numerous studies have showed positive effects ofrelaxation techniques to reduce anxiety. For instance, self reportedtest anxiety was reported to have reduced after progressiverelaxation training. Martinec (2013), found that physical exercisesuch as aerobic dance accompanied with relaxation reduced testanxiety. He also found that meditation and relaxation were equallyeffective for reducing anxiety among students.

Previously,no researcher had investigated dance movement therapy (DMT) as atreatment for anxiety in individuals. Dance movement therapy isprimarily based on the connection between the mind and the body, andthe interrelationship between muscular sequencing and psychicattitudes. By accessing and activating this interrelationship, dancetherapy has changed the perceptions of behaviours and cognition byattending them on the body level. Although dance therapy is holistic,it can simultaneously integrate and address cognitive, emotional, andphysical aspects of an individual behaviour and experience. Inessence, dance therapy provides structured experience, positiveself-concept, and self-efficacy. It creates physical groundedness anda sense of self-control arising from one’s response. Besides, DMTprovides constructive atmosphere for discovery of socialinteractions.

Thereare several ways that dance movement therapy reduce anxiety andreduce stress. According to Erwin-Grabner et. al., (1999) research,there was positive effect of dance movement therapy. However, thequestion is, how does dance movement work? Is it effective? In whichfield is it more effective? Does it reduce anxiety and stress? Theanswers are dance movement therapy reduce several situations thatcorrespondingly reduces anxiety, as well as stress.

Firstly,dance and movement therapy is effective in treating wide range ofpsychological difficulties and disorder. Erwin-Grabener (1999),further and gives an example of a therapist who implemented a DMTprogram to a patient who had previously been diagnosed withattention-deficit-hyperactive disorder. After several therapies, thepatient was found to have greatly reduced both the behavioural andemotional symptoms, as well as improved physical functioning. Inaddition, he states dance and movement therapy as a good treatmentfor physical and psychological ailment. For instance, most countriesare using dance movement therapy to treat post-traumatic stressdisorder, personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, andattention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Besides, DMT is beneficialfor patients with symptoms of psychopathology such as schizophrenia.The therapy uses techniques the focuses on body-ego boundaries,structuring, and movement expression.

Secondly,dance movement therapy is an effective treatment/ therapy for thetortured, abused, and neglected children who are under stress.Neglect and abuse are physical phenomenon while dance is a physicaloutlet that allows healing experience. Chodorow (2013), urges thatdance and movement are more effective, unlike verbal therapies totreat maltreated children. Physical torture affects affect bothpsychological and physical being of the tortured individual, whiledance and movement provides the individual with a chance to regainsafety sense within one’s body, as well as give an opportunity toreconstruct relational capacity. Martinec (2013), also stated dancemovement therapy as an effective treatment for tortured teenagers indeveloping countries since it fosters recovery and resilience.

Thirdly,dance and movement therapy is effective in hospital and schoolsetting and other psychiatric institutions. According to Aktas, (2005), patients with psychological disorders records improvedtolerance, gratification delay, and socialisation after they undergoDMT program. Besides, dance movement training is effective forpatients with autism, drug dependencies, and Down syndrome.Additionally, it is also effective treatment for children withdevelopmental delays and mild mental retardation. Further, it is alsoeffective for the withdrawn and responsive youth who are sufferingfrom stress. Since dance consists of intellectual self-study andphysical activity, it has positive impact on physical and emotionalstatus of an individual.

Kinaestheticsense of the body boundary, shape, is another technique of dance thatreduces stress and anxiety. It stimulates self-discovery, relates tolocus of control and boundaries, as well as identifies development.Fraenkel (2010), uses different shapes such as jumping shapes andwaling shapes to draw out the concept of dance expression. Dancemovement therapists commonly use the word sharp to refer to differentmeans that people use to deal with the environment. On the contrary,LivingDance-LivingMusicdoes not use the word shape to refer to the effort-shape.Nevertheless, it meaning as effort-shape resonate to dance movementclients. Shape reaction has also played a major role in fightingagainst stress and anxiety. While dancer practise various differentshapes in dancing, they experience positive emotions, self-smoothe,and they feel at “home,” a place where the dancer’s body feelsconnected to exhalation and inhalation. In the meanwhile, the pulse,which is the unaccented beat in music, relates to feeling ofeffectiveness and locus of control. Eventually, the muscle affectsand reduces the level of tension hence reduce anxiety. The muscleconnections then build somatic bridge that connects the experience ofbreathing with the sensation of shape. Then, the shape guides thesearch for autonomy, intimacy, and confidence hence, holds oneselfduring stressful situation. Fraenkel(2010), goes an example of Katherine and Richard who used shape as asource of improvisation. According to Chodorow(2013),an internalised sense of shape gives an individual the ability totransform to the system they belong in regardless of how stressful asituation can be.

Ritter(1996), gives an example whereby children a chance to explore theirbodies, discover capabilities for movement, express personality,enhance self-esteem, and promote social contact. He focused more onretarded children with poor background. He found that DMT reinforcedthe connection between emotion and body. He observed there werepsychological changes that increased creativity, expressiveness,sensitivity, and leadership skills. In addition, he recorded a greatgrowth among the disabled children. Moreover, DMT was found to beeffective in reducing poor comprehension and learning difficulties.DMT gives psychiatric patients an opportunity for non-verbalcommunication, interpersonal contact, as well as pleasurableactivity.


Insummary, dance is a powerful effect on the body, mind, and emotions.Dance therapy combines dance movements with self-expression to comeup with a physiological response that give healing dimension. Itintegrates the connection between the body and mind to seek healing.Erwin-Grabner et. al., (1999), states dancing as a successfultreatment for anxiety due to its non-verbal communication andself-expression. Many credits go to Marian Chace for her insightfulbackground test on the effect of dance on anxiety. According toMartinec(2013),mind and body must be interrelated in the dance movement therapy tobe effective. Dance therapist believes emotional and mental problemsare in the form of muscle tension found in the human body.Additionally, they believe that the status of the body affectsfeelings and altitudes, both positively and negatively.


Aktas,G., &amp Ogce, F. (2005). Dance as a therapy for cancerprevention.&nbspAsianPacific Journal of Cancer Prevention,&nbsp6(3),408.

Chodorow,J. (2013).&nbspDancetherapy and depth psychology: The moving imagination.Routledge.

Erwin-Grabner,T., Goodill, S. W., Hill, E. S., &amp Von Neida, K. (1999).Effectiveness of dance/movement therapy on reducing testanxiety.&nbspAmericanJournal of ,&nbsp21(1),19-34.

Fraenkel,D. L. (1983). The relationship of empathy in movement to synchrony,echoing, and empathy in verbal interactions.&nbspAmericanJournal of ,&nbsp6(1),31-48.

Fraenkel,D.L. (2010).Shape: A Kinesthetic Approach to Building Healthy Boundaries.&nbsp101Interventions in Group Therapy,339.

Martinec,R. (2013). Dance movement therapy in the concept of expressivearts-therapy.&nbspHrvatskarevija za rehabilitacijska istraživanja,&nbsp49(Supplement),143-153.

Ritter,M., &amp Low, K. G. (1996). Effects of dance/movement therapy: Ameta-analysis.&nbspTheArts in Psychotherapy,&nbsp23(3),249-260.