No sugar-coating – a new ballet about psychosis

Wow, this is fascinating: I think I’m more intrigued by the process of constructing this new ballet than possibly watching it. Ludovic Ondivela observed people with psychosis in hospital and used the movement patterns including twitches and other “ugliness” (his words) to bring a sense of realism to the more usually ‘ethereal’ realm of ballet. No floaty sugar princesses here…

Cassandra – article from The Independent

Dance Movement Psychotherapists also use movement observation and analysis tools to help understand a person’s psychological or emotional state. We use Laban Movement Analysis to look at the intention behind a client’s way of moving – which can be amplified during creative dance sessions. We also use the Kestenberg Movement Profile which links patterns and rhythms of movement to developmental stages: think about the oral fixations of smoking or chewing gum? Underneath the person is seeking soothing and satisfaction from their mother to take away frustration or inner conflict. We’re alot more complex than that but it’s sometimes the little things that tell A LOT.

How about the person who pats you on the back as you hug, as a signal to let go?

They have had enough of intimacy and need to separate: it’s akin to an infant’s bite reflex that tells Mum in no uncertain terms the child has had enough.

Movement analysis is about more than body language, which tends to be static: these tools help look at a person’s whole being, including connection or disconnection between body parts and how they respond to the environment. Fascinating stuff. It certainly makes a Tube journey infinitely more interesting.

So, back to Cassandra: will she be cured, should she be cured, what constitutes being ‘cured’?

Should pharmacotherapy prevail in cases like this or could it be a ‘chemical cosh’ suppressing a person’s identity to make them ‘fit’ our view of normality. Could there be a different way to help people manage their mental health problems whilst retaining their soul?

That debate could run and run: I hope the ballet is received well too and raises discussion and awareness of its subject.

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On being fearless

At risk of sounding like the fired ‘Suralan’ Apprentice, a journey starts with the first step.

I took the first small steps to becoming a DMP when I observed the transformational power of dance whilst teaching different groups of women Egyptian dance. They came in all shapes and sizes, different ages, different abilities, different expectations and lots of baggage which wasn’t left on chairs at the side of the room with the shoes and outdoor clothes. Prior to that, my own feelings about dance and the emotions it disturbed, soothed or amplified, had been confined to myself. Witnessing bravery, fear, resistance, anxiety, joy and connection made me acknowledge the power of dance for emotional insight that went way beyond the studio walls.

That observation ignited a fire, fuelled further by experiencing verbal therapy myself, and studying for a counselling qualification. I found there is so much more to say than just words – words hide feelings, confuse and obfuscate: the body doesn’t lie – or lie still.

So, here I am, three years on with an MA in Dance Movement Psychotherapy from Goldsmiths, London (there’s another here in LGC and it wasn’t there to avoid any confusion); I am truly grateful I had the opportunity to take the J-word with such a wonderful, inspiring and supportive group. DMPs rock (and sway, and twist and jump and so much more).

I took a huge leap of faith to apply for the MA – not having a first degree but professional quals from my past life – and plunged into this creative, exploratory, revelatory world.

It’s not been a journey so far without fear: at times I have faced painful self-truths and internal conflict and shredded many a tissue. Fearless? Perhaps a little: I can face uncertainty with more equanimity and less panic than before and can almost enjoy the chaos that creativity needs to breathe.

I am now embarking on a new life as an RDMP – thank you ADMP UK – and if not making a step towards work in my chosen field than I am at least preparing my feet and choosing the right shoes. For those who know me well, THAT is very important and a potent symbol.

I am starting where I am, using what I have, and doing what I can, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, and ready to take my own path less travelled, wherever it might lead. This is a lovely pic of Niki de Saint Phalle’s ‘Three Graces’: to me it depicts the joy and freedom of dance, acceptance of body and self, connection, empathy and love.

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