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Dance and Other Expressive Art Therapies: When Words Are Not Enough by F. Levy; J. P.

Fried; F. Leventhal
Review by: Penelope A. Best
Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Summer,
1998), pp. 87-93
Published by: Edinburgh University Press
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BOOK REVIEWS

(1749), for instance, forty-nine professionals danced with twentyfive pupils. Although we know so little about the detail of the
dancing, some changes over the period are apparent. The social
and professional status of the dancer remained high while dancing
increased in complexity and there developed a tendency to use the
whole body in an effort towards enhanced expressiveness.
It is unfortunate that this book which brings together so much is
marred: first by the numerous mistakes in French quotations and
titles (I noticed at least forty-five errors); and secondly, by the last
which seeks to link tragedy
chapter. The 'Marriage'at Louis-le-Grand
(deemed masculine) with ballet (attributed to the feminine because
of its liveliness and movement!), is a misleading and ill-conceived
attempt to drag feminist concerns into Jesuit theatre. In order to
argue the case, moral qualities (la charite,la verit, la constanceand so
on) usually found, it is true, in the feminine case in French, are
presented here as women,and not as the abstractions with which
they are traditionally associated. Conjecture too (since there is
no evidence) about whether the professionals imported into the
dancing in the College were female, simply reflects the lengths it is
necessary to go to produce a feminist reading of these texts. Such
naivety is unworthy and casts shadows upon the otherwise serious
character of this study.
MargaretM. McGowan

DANCEAND OTHEREXPRESSIVE
ART
THERAPIES:WHENJWORDSARENOT
ENOUGH
Edited by E Levy withJ. P. Fried and E Leventhal
Routledge, London, 1995
Dance, in conjunction with other expressive arts, has for centuries
been used in rituals of discovery and healing guided by a shaman
using both words and the nonverbal dimension. Dance movement
therapy has its roots in such work, helping individuals to relate
to the world around them by finding expression and meaning
for their often unspeakable personal experiences. Describing the
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DANCE RESEARCH

ineffable is always a difficult task. In Dance and OtherExpressiveArt


TherapiesFran Levy, the editor, offers readers some insight into the
realm of unspeakable, nonverbal experiences where words alone
are simply not enough to describe personal feelings, thoughts and
actions. Levy has gathered a wide range of descriptive vignettes
from experienced practitioners using dance and other expressive
modalities within therapy in a variety of settings.
A strength of the book lies in its invitation to readers to
eavesdrop on often intimate, sensitive relationships as they unfold.
The book takes a definite stance positioning the non-verbal and
imaginal realm within a therapeutic relationship. A major theme
running throughout the book is the essential nature of relationship
building within therapeutic work.
The book is divided into two sections, one about therapeutic
work with adults and the other about children. Each one ends with
a chapter which trumpets the power of communal dance and
shared rhythm - 'Dance/Movement Therapy with Aging Populations', chapter 10 in the first adult section, and 'the "4's" a Dance
Therapy Programme for Learning Disabled Adolescents', chapter
16 in the second child section. In the build-up to these final
chapters the editor has selected movement work ranging from the
virtually non-existent, except in the mind of the therapist (chapter
10), to the analysis of interactional and developmental movement
patterns (chapters 13 and 15), to movement play, metaphor and
story making (chapters 2, 7 and 12).
Each chapter offers a unique perspective. Most authors manage
to balance theory and practice well, while some dance creatively
between the conceptual and experiential spinning evocative tales,
i.e. chapters 4, 11 and 14. There are chapters, such as the opening
one, which lay too heavy an emphasis upon theoretical terminology, thereby limiting access to the layperson. As a whole the book
is a rich resource for practising arts therapists, a valuable source
for the researcher and an intriguing introduction for the interested
non-specialist to creative arts as therapy. A dance audience will
find much to support and supplement their belief in the transformative power of expressive movement.
The book introduces a variety of interactional styles utilised by
the therapists. Some therapists move with clients, others observe
in stillness from a distance, some perform dance improvisations in
front of the clients, others direct tasks and structures, some give out
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BOOK REVIEWS

art materials and props, while others maintain an open space. The
authors do not spell out how their facilitation style is connected
to their chosen theoretical stance, though they do introduce
conceptual ideas to support their work. The reader must work to
make sense of this range. The book might have been improved by
having the authors present clearly how their personal beliefs about
healing are connected to the supportive theories chosen, and how
these relate to the context in which they are working. Generally the
larger systems are overlooked, except in the chapters on school
settings. The therapists launch into their case studies without
locating themselves in the wider context. The profession could
benefit from a more questioning approach and the non-specialist
might be further helped through the colourful maze of different
approaches described.
The work covered is primarily that of dance movement therapy
though the title suggests readers will find a wide range of expressive
arts therapies described. Techniques from other art forms, music,
art, and drama, are incorporated into dance therapy sessions
sometimes to enhance the movement work, by providing stimulus
or sometimes to ground and contain in concrete symbols traumatic
memories emerging through body work.
The richness of the practitioners' creative resources and
flexibility in application is demonstrated chapter after chapter.
There is inherent within the work described a belief in the power
of expressive movement and symbolic experience to effect change.
Use of metaphor and symbol often involve words, but can also be
held within the felt experience alone.
An underlying theme within the first half of the book is the
extraordinary dilemma (or opportunity) held within dance therapy
itself- that movement can both mobilise and paralyse. Often arts
therapists speak of the useful aesthetic distance offered by the art
form allowing the client to stand back from their traumatic experiences and frame them differently. Others speak of integration and
re-experiencing through the body itself as a primary healing factor.
Within dance therapy work, as is made evident in this book, the
individual's body is at one time both the perceiver and the perceived, the mover and the moved. As motion can be close to emotion, movement may generate a sense of loss of control. Dance
movement therapy work can involve both re-living of past trauma
in the 'here and now' and also be a containing and holding
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DANCE RESEARCH

experience in which the client is helped to be in touch with the


body edges as safe limits or boundaries. Inherent in the other arts
therapies there is the possibility of more distance through the art
object, the music, or the dramatic role. This may explain why
many therapists within this book utilise other elements of
expressive arts to facilitate a sense of safety and containment.
The double-edged nature of creative body work appears
sharpest for those therapists working with adults who feel unsafe
with their environment, their past or present experiences, and
relationships. In chapters one through seven each author
addresses, sometimes directly and sometimes by example, their
awareness of the difficulty in offering freedom of expression to
clients.
For women who have been abused, as described by Bernstein
in chapter 2 and Cheng in chapter 3, the dilemma manifests itself
in clients' decision whether movement is a process of 'letting go' or
reclamation of their own bodies. Issues of power and control are
very important and become catalysed within a creative movement
session. Bernstein feels that the abused woman learns in dance
therapy that 'her power and control do not depend upon withholding movement, rather her power is in which parts of her body
she chooses to move and how she moves them' (p. 57). In chapter
4, Lavender and Sobelman, working with 'borderline' clients, echo
Bernstein's concerns and highlight ways in which clients protect
themselves from exposure to uncomfortable free form improvisation by running from the room, repeating learned technical steps,
or executing highly stylised romantic dances. The authors, however, continue to work towards creative movement play because
they feel that 'the repeated re-investment of thoughts, feelings,
and sensation into dance improvisations requires tolerance for
ambiguity and frustration' (p. 79), aspects of life essential for
survival.
Again in chapter 5, Baun, working with clients experiencing the
fragmentation of multiple personalities, stresses that 'although the
fluid nature of movement stimulates both fear of disintegration
and loss of control, it also has the potential for integration of
feeling, thought and action' through increased awareness of one's
own body (p. 89).
In the subsequent two chapters Murray Lane (chapter 6) and
Rose (chapter 7) highlight the positive aspects of offering creative
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movement experiences to adults suffering from addiction. Movement metaphors appear to help addicts create a language to
describe and identify emotions which have been numbed by the
chemical substances. While Rose speaks of the 'immediacy' of
body action in the 'here and now', triggering personal insights and
uncomfortable feelings, both authors state that symbolic communication can be a safer way to engage with overwhelming
feelings by keeping them at a distance.
The final chapter confirms the transformative power of symbolic shared dance. In chapter 10 Sandel and Hollander coax the
reader gently and firmly as they do their clients - the elderly. They
offer a clear rationale for dance therapy followed by evocative
vignettes of work with the elderly. They remind the reader of the
enduring nature of people's 'response to rhythm, music, and
touch' and highlight a common progression within dance therapy
in which sensory experiences evolve towards symbolic imagery
and on to personal meaning. The authors point to an important
aspect of creative expression with this population, and by inference
to others too, the ability to voice and embody negative feelings
while being seen and heard without judgment.
The second half of the book takes the reader to the other end
of the age spectrum, demonstrating how movement can be used
therapeutically with children experiencing a variety of disadvantage and distress - blindness, sexual abuse, relationship
problems, autism and learning disability. The ages range from
toddler to adolescent and the interventions range from sensory
exercises, observations, on to dance productions.
An underlying theme in the second half is the importance
of interactive relationship for healthy growth and development.
This interaction necessarily includes non-verbal communication
expressed through sensory and motor experiences between carer
and child. The authors write of the need for attunement and
matching of body energies and shaping as well as the awareness
of clashing and mis-matching. There is less emphasis within this
section upon dance as a symbolic form, except in two chapters
(12 and 16), and more upon movement play as the transformer.
In the first chapter in this section, Fried invites the reader to
follow the unfolding relationships she develops with two blind
children while assisting their explorations of space and motion.
The vignettes, particularly with the little girl, are poignant and
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DANCE

RESEARCH

inspiring and the reader shares the author's frustration at bureaucratic delays which cause breaks in treatment and communication
and lessen the child's mobility and options.
An unfolding relationship is at the centre of the next chapter (12)
also in which the author, Harvey, works to create a safe space in
which an adoptive mother and her adopted abused child can learn
to play as a means of expressing feelings, tuning into each others
rhythms and subtle non-verbal cues for attention or solitude. He
literally pounces upon any potential storylines and metaphors,
developing them often through 'homework' in which the family
are asked to rehearse and augment their dances together. Harvey
creatively uses video to capture the transitory movement material
making it shareable amongst the family.
In chapter 13, authors Blau and Reich assist parents with
children who have learning or physical disabilities affecting their
communication. The therapist helps the parent decipher the nonverbal messages sent by the child. This type of work requires very
careful observation of movement and reveals yet another component of dance movement therapy work further developed in
chapter 15 by Loman.
Not only the clients' resources and therapists' philosophy effect
the type of expressive therapy work offered, so too does the setting
and context This is clear in two chapters where dance therapy is
offered within school settings where there have been apparently
conflicting aims and expectations between therapist and management. In chapter 14 Elfe is creative in her adaptation to a
school context and focuses her movement work with autistic
children towards development of a secure body image and promotion of communication on a body level assisting their general
learning and dovetailing with school aims.
In the final chapter the author, Duggan, sets out convincingly a
rationale for a clear structure within dance movement therapy
work with learning disabled adolescents within a school setting
and highlights the paradox that structure can aid freedom of expression. This is especially so with adolescents who are often self
conscious about their bodies and physical abilities. A Haitian
dance step in 4/4 rhythm involving both fluidity and binding
acts as a unifying factor and a platform from which to build
individuality as well as essential experience of control for the
adolescents' erratic energy flow.
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BOOK

REVIEWS

Levy, as editor, has ensured that different aspects of dance


therapy work are revealed. She has selected therapists whose
emphases, due in part to personal beliefs, in part to the client
resources, and in part to the context range from practical exercises,
to movement play, to observational analysis, to symbolic representation and dance forms.
Dance movement therapy and other expressive therapies have
as their highest context a therapeutic contract which shapes in
conjunction with clients a relationship in which change can take
place. Sometimes clients are able to articulate the changes they
would like, e.g. chapters 2, 3, 8 and 9. At other times they can only
express their distress or difficulties non-verbally through movement or image, e.g. chapters 7, 11 and 14. The interventions used
within dance movement therapy will vary according to the needs
of the client, but also according to the model or approach the
therapist feels most comfortable with. Many arts therapists, as is
apparent in this text, follow psychotherapeutic models borrowed
and adapted from verbal therapy or counselling. Others are trying
to form therapeutic models which rely upon the unfolding creative
process itself, e.g. chapter 2. There is no standardised, accepted
language or single model for understanding the work of arts therapists, nor for dance movement therapists alone. Meaning is bound
by context and flexibility continues to be needed within the field.
This book affirms the breadth of therapeutic uses of movement
and image.
From a research perspective, however, this text might have been
stronger if each author had located themselves theoretically in
relation to alternative positions, rather than, as the majority did,
select a supportive theory to explain what they already observed.
It can become difficult to track how observations are influenced by
the context if there has already been some distortion by a firm
frame of reference of the observer. However, as there are so many
approaches held within the one book, a researcher may juxtapose
one against the other to construct further hypotheses. For the arts
therapies audience the authors touch upon crucial issues regarding
the paradox or dilemma within expressive arts of mobility and
paralysis, exposure and containment and freedom and restriction.
This paradox merits further investigation and this text could serve
as a platform.
PenelopeA. Best
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