Healing through Dance
What is is about dancing, in a group, with an intimate other, or alone, that can give us that mystical rush and promote wellness on so many levels? Is it the pre-cognitive memory of the rhythm of the heartbeat keeping us safe? Is it the emotional-spiritual connection to the natural world we feel when moving pleasurably in our animal body? Is it some atavistic source of healing from our primal days?
Throughout our history, dancing has functioned as a healing and balancing component, a form of social communication and transcendent spiritual ritual. Though patterns and forms vary, expressive rhythmic movement is a very basic means of relieving emotional tension and has from the beginning been associated with religious ritual and healing. We celebrate by dancing at weddings and festivals, and join others in dance as the quintessential romantic experience. Dancing alone, feeling the rhythmic sway and getting in touch with the extension and contraction of muscles in a pleasurable context, is uplifting, healing. Dancing definitely helps to bring up one’s mood and promote more sane reflection. Getting so caught up in the dance that we no longer feel separate from the music and can move within it seems to free something very profound within the human being.
I’m playing with this concept, visualizing and feeling, spirit moving within the physical form; spirit moving into its free-flowing expression; moving into healthful, vibrant, vibration of well/whole functioning; mediating emotional chemistry; moving into euphoric, joyful, ebullient self-affirmation. It is about letting the spirit free to move into its natural space, to animate the body, to untwist the kinks and move the flow of life-energy into every cell, every thirsty neuron, every starving cut-off part, freely moving and diffusing the spirit’s natural strength throughout to heal, inspire, enthuse, embrace the positive movement of the self into its own natural shape and way of being.
My work is based on the intuitive feeling I have been developing for quite some time about dance. There is something very primal, very basic in regard to our species and dance, involving healing in the holistic sense and the intrinsic energies of life/form/time. In every culture there has been an emphasis on dance in not only entertainment, but as a healing force. And, then, entertainment is of course part of healing and cultural unity.
I am developing a theory about healing and dance, which I feel that I am very close to realizing/understanding. It has to do with dance being a natural regulator of emotion/balance/homeostasis for humans. I have been researching dance as it relates to ritual, to ancient/historical/present day spiritual practices, neurochemistry, neurophysiology, neuropsychology, and other areas. There are aspects of dance that are very similar to dreams, to liminal experience, to hypnosis, to ecstatic experience. There are aspects of dance that make it an aspect of healing ceremony and practice throughout our histories/cultures.
Dance, as highly enjoyable exercise, can lead to all the benefits Px7 primal flow of physical exercise, as well as all the benefits of ecstatic meditation. In the course of my research about the healing properties of dance, I have been reading about neurophysiology/neurochemistry/neuropsychology — fields which are seriuously taking off lately due to newer technologies allowing doctors to actually see the changes in the brain as they happen. There are very definite physiological correlates to what we experience as mental/emotional occurrences. Learning more about how our mind/body works can help us to find better ways to influence better outcomes. Knowledge about the mind/body/spirit of the living organism can be usefully approached from any/all of these interrelated aspects of the whole system. Do you know that such seemingly artistic/social activities as dancing can actually be part of a process that allows for reprogramming of the brain in ways that can reverse the negative effects of long-term stress (effects that can result in disease to the body and to thought processes and emotions)?
The evidence is mounting, though not, so far as I have found, specifically worded, that dance is uniquely beneficial because it incorporates a variety of psychobiological self-healing mechanisms. I have been reading fascinating (though quite technical) studies indicating the effects and neurobiology of stress, and that the often serious effects of prolonged stress can be effectively treated with the kinds of activities of which dance is a prime example. Those responsible for the studies, however, are looking for different data, and do not specifically note what jumps out at me, due to my different orientation — that dancing can be just as effective, and without the dangerous side effects, as many of the pharmaceuticals that the studies are meant to lead to.