Healing Dance – Studying the Healing Properties of Dance
By Anne Merkel, Ph.D., The Corporate Alchemist
During a time in my life where transformation and transition surrounded every aspect of my Being, I turned to dance as my social outlet, weekly group aerobic workout, therapeutic dose of hugs and smiles, and a safe and fun way to play with others. The more I danced, the more I found joy and comfort in the dance community. My weekly connection with other dancers touched my soul on various levels as it brought up issues that required release or transmutation, introduced me to wonderful “playmates” from all walks of life, helped me to release judgment of myself and others, and raised my personal frequency to a higher level.
I have become a “dance gypsy” over the years. To be specific, I'm a Contra Dance gypsy. If you would have told me several years ago that I would personally drive three hours to attend a three-hour dance, and then drive home later that evening, I would have told you that you were nuts!! Now this has been a regular occurrence in my life. I have lived in the southeast US for over twenty years and I've gotten to know this region better since I started traveling to dance. My personal East Coast “community” is spread all over the Southeast… and most of the members are dancers. In a single weekend I often dance one night on the Atlantic coast and the next night in the Smoky or Blue Ridge mountains. My life has changed dramatically since I became a gypsy… and I like myself better now for it!!
Contra Dance is a wonderful style of dance that originated in the British Isles, came to the New England states of the US, and flourished in the late 1800's and early 1900's. During the “flapper” era of the “roaring twenties” Contra popularity dwindled while the “cheek to cheek” dance styles were more in style, at least according to my Grandma Zoe, who also loved to dance in her youth. Henry Ford attempted to keep Contra alive by training many of his own personal staff to dance, and paying to train callers and musicians to carry on the tradition. Somehow it lived through changing times and even spawned American Square dance. During the 1960-70's the hippies found the folksy atmosphere within the Contra Dance community to be accepting, and they formalized the name Contra!
Contra Dance requires a live band and a dance caller. Some people equate the caller to a shaman who leads the healing ritual while the band provides the rhythm for movement. As people line up with partners, paired with another couple, the caller introduces the sequence of moves that will be incorporated into that specific 5-10 minute dance, the lines practice a walk-through, and then the music starts and the lines begin to create their magic. As the rhythm and caller direct the dancers, natural forces take over and the movements of all seem to entrain like a school of fish swimming in unison or a flock of birds flying in perfect formation. The dancers move out of themselves and their bodies move in the flow. Conversations are impossible, thoughts fleeting, as the dancers swing, and flow, and the pairs move up and down the lines in perfect formation. In this environment of wonder, healing can occur on many levels.
I have many personal stories of how Contra Dancing, and even other types of dancing have helped me in my personal evolution. In re-evaluating my personal vision several years ago I decided that I would focus my personal and professional energies more around my personal “passions” of what inspired me and gave me joy. The idea of researching and writing a book about the therapeutic and healing properties of dance came to mind, and I decided to follow through.
As a coach, counselor, guide to others on their personal transformational paths, I often introduce people to dance. I also regularly hear healing stories related to dance. How perfect for me to create a project that would be FUN for me, informative to readers who might be non-dancers, contra dancers, other style dancers, other healing practitioners, and where I could utilize my own community to collaborate in the project. Bingo!! What a fun idea!!
So, we started in 2004 with a brain-storming session to create a rough outline for the book and a survey questionnaire to elicit information from others. You may access the survey and we invite you to share your own information and story. It is just that simple, and having the project here on the web allows us to poll the whole world for our main project, and any others that are spawned from it.
So far we have had collaborators from around the US and have elicited surveys from dancers world-wide. The information that we have gathered in a short time period is very enlightening, and people seem to enjoy sharing their stories. Will you also share your story of dancing on the following survey?
This site will be up-dated as the information flows in, so please feel free to check back regularly for new dance-related articles and survey data, and we invite you to participate in the study by filling in the attached survey. This is a collaborative, FUN, project, so the more the merrier!!!
If you want to discuss this directly or if you have questions, please feel free to contact me.
Anne I. Merkel, Ph.D., The Corporate Alchemist
The Ariela Group of Wholistic Services