Dance/movement therapy (DMT) can be an avenue for creating a symbolic transformation of individual, or community experience. DMT can use the same characteristics of weight, balance, and dynamics as everyday actions such as walking, working, playing, or communication. Out of our everyday and ordinary motor activities, DMT can select, heighten or subdue, gestures/postures and body movement to achieve something which transcends the ordinary.
For instance, as a teen I learned a West African Maize Dance from the Arthur Hall African American Dance company. This dance uses the movements of planting, tending, and harvesting of maize as the core elements of the dance. Taking these agrarian movements and enacting them outside of their usual context begins the process of symbolic transformation. As the movements are performed an element of artistic quality begins to emerge and becomes evident in the transitional movements that occur between planting, tending, and harvesting. This Maize Dance combines the ordinary with the extra ordinary; taking the everyday actions and ritualizing them in a way that expresses and celebrates an important aspect of West African culture.
Symbolic transformation can take place on an individual level as well. Once, working with a client an opportunity arose to explore the bodily expression of sadness; i.e. What are you doing/feeling physically when you are sad? The client took the ordinary movements/gestures/postures of their sadness and made them bigger and smaller, connecting, un-connecting and reconnecting them as they slowly evolved into a pattern. As this client continued with their exploration a transformation occurred and new movements, suggestive of another feeling emerged. Asking the client to add words to their exploration of the new movements provided a clearer understanding of sadness.
Enacting movements/postures/gestures outside of their usual context allows the possibility of experiencing in way that can be more; objective and subjective. Making bigger and smaller, connecting and reconnecting, movement and feelings emerge uncensored, allowing a different understanding of the original feeling and all that surrounds it. The therapeutic process of dance movement therapy can guide the mover as they explore, uncovering the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Here is an interesting article from the NYT about the brain and art from a professor of brain science at Columbia University.:
…… The portraiture that flourished in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century is a good place to start. Not only does this modernist school hold a prominent place in the history of art, it consists of just three major artists — Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele — which makes it easier to study in depth.
As a group, these artists sought to depict the unconscious, instinctual strivings of the people in their portraits, but each painter developed a distinctive way of using facial expressions and hand and body gestures to communicate those mental processes.
Their efforts to get at the truth beneath the appearance of an individual both paralleled and were influenced by similar efforts at the time in the fields of biology and psychoanalysis. Thus the portraits of the modernists in the period known as “Vienna 1900” offer a great example of how artistic, psychological and scientific insights can enrich one another.
The idea that truth lies beneath the surface derives from Carl von Rokitansky, a gifted pathologist who was dean of the Vienna School of Medicine in the middle of the 19th century. Baron von Rokitansky compared what his clinician colleague Josef Skoda heard and saw at the bedsides of his patients with autopsy findings after their deaths. This systematic correlation of clinical and pathological findings taught them that only by going deep below the skin could they understand the nature of illness.
I’ve read many a book and chatted with art therapists about the psychological process involved in art and art making and this article comes from a different perspective; brain science.
Characteristics that typically distinguish insight from “noninsight” solutions, people feel stuck before insight strikes; they can’t explain how they solved the problem and might say they were not even thinking about it; the solution appears suddenly and is immediately seen as correct. But are the neural processes involved in arriving at a solution through insight actually distinct from those related to more mundane problem-solving?
Recent findings suggest that people think about solutions, at an unconscious level, prior to solving insight problems, and that the right cerebral hemisphere (RH) appears to be preferentially involved. Jung-Beeman et al. predicted that a particular region of the RH, called the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG), is likely involved in insight because it seems critical for tasks that require recognizing broad associative semantic relationships—exactly the type of process that could facilitate reinterpretation of problems and lead to insight.
Problem-solving involves a complex cortical network to encode, retrieve, and evaluate information, but these results show that solving verbal problems with insight requires at least one additional component. Further, the fact that the effect occurred in RH aSTG suggests what that process may be: integration of distantly related information. Distinct neural processes, the authors conclude, underlie the sudden flash of insight that allows people to “see connections that previously eluded them.”