God created humans to be emotional creatures - overwhelming joy, heart-griping fear, breathtaking love, fiery indignation - these emotions give texture to our lives because of how they relate us to each other and to ourselves. When real emotion is integrated into movement, the audience and the dancer have an opportunity to connect. Not as performer and consumer, but as one human being to another.
When a connection is made through an emotional connection, emotional literacy is being formed in both parties. Emotional literacy is comprised of the ability to understand your emotions, the ability to empathize with others' emotions, and the ability to express emotions productively.
The second ability is the most common. It takes a long time for a person to feel comfortable enough to express how they really feel. Even longer if it is to someone they do not know well or at all. Often times we are too impatient to wait for this pacing; Dance provides a structured way to understand someone else's perspective in an expedited time.
The first is less common but still recognized by many. Seeing our own emotions and perspective portrayed allows us to see our situation from another person's eyes. We often react with "Yes! That is exactly what it is like!" or "Wow. I didn't realized that's why I felt that way..." Seeing your own situation objectively is a very valuable to understand how to move forward in life.
The third ability almost no one notices. Have you ever thought that a dancer might have gone through emotional healing before they could dance their piece to the best of their ability? Dancers learn to process their own emotions when they step into an emotionally charged piece. If they can relate to the theme or story, the growth of emotional literacy is exponential.
Healing Through Movement
A perfect example of what I just described is what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand. Earthquakes devastated the Christchurch area between 2010 and 2012. The physical damage was tragic, but the mental damage was even worse. The people of Christchurch had PTSD.
While creating Move: A Seismic Journey, the dancers learned to process their own emotions of the incident and work through their trauma which boosted their expression during the performance. Because of this strong, internal, emotional connection, the dancers and the audience were able to overcome their PTSD faster than they would have without the performance.
Below is the citation for the study of these events and a link to read the article itself.
Egan, C. J., & Quigley, M. C. (2015). Dancing earthquake science assists recovery from the Christchurch earthquakes. Research in Dance Education, 16(2). Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?q=Art+Therapy+dance&id=EJ1060762
Live in motion, friends