Dance therapy is a psychotherapeutic discipline in the field of artistic therapies. The freely improvised dance serves the individual expressions, understanding and processing of emotions and relationships. The dance, as any kind of movement with creative expression and communication, is the core component of dance therapy, which developed in the 40s in the U.S.
Dance therapy improves self-perception, which leads to an expansion of the movement repertoire and promotes the authentic expression through the integration of the unconscious. It can be described as “the psychotherapeutic use of dance and movement for the integration of physical, emotional, and cognitive processes in human beings.” On the basic assumptions, dance therapy has its origins in depth psychology and humanistic psychology.
The beginning of the development of dance therapy dates back to the 1920s in Germany. A pioneering role was played by Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958). A student of Laban was the German dancer Mary Wigman (1886-1973 ), who described the expressive dance and her experience as a dancer in her book the “Language of Dance” and thus gave an important impetus to the development of dance therapy. Other pupils of Mary Wigman and Rudolf von Laban were Franziska Boas, Irmgard Batenieff, Mary Whitehouse, and Liljan Espenak.
As emigrants they pursued in the United States to continue the theoretical and practical ideas of their teachers, leading to several new ones. Through their work with the disabled and mentally ill people, they continually discovered new therapeutic possibilities of dance. The stage dancers Marian Chace and Trudi Schoop also contributed to the development of dance therapy. They tested from about 1950, the positive impact of dance in severely mentally disturbed people. Today, Marian Chace, Trudi Schoop, Franziska Boas, Mary Whitehouse, and Liljan Espenak are referred to as “the mothers of dance therapy.” They all grew up in the era of modern dance and had already made a lot of experience in dance as an artistic means of expression. The Dance Therapy of was rediscovered by them experimenting in their dance studios in deep contact with psychological therapists.
Dance therapy uses dance and movement in psychotherapy for the integration of physical, emotional, and cognitive processes, as well as a means of personality development. It is partly a form of art therapy and partly a form of body psychotherapy with a particular focus on the symbolism of the movement. Established since the 80s in health care, it integrates insights from psychology, psychotherapy research (e.g., B.Psychotraumatologie, nonverbal communication research, creativity research and the body psychotherapies). Since the 90s, evidence-based studies are increasingly performed (Koch & Bräuninger, 2006).
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