Dance Therapy & the Energy Body

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) is founded on the principle that body movement patterns correlate with psychological states. Although we may have devised ways to mask our true thoughts and feelings from ourselves and others, the body never lies. Our memories and emotions are not housed purely in our minds, but rather lived through (and often held in the musculature of) our bodies. Therefore, body awareness gives us the most direct access to our emotions and memories. Psychological and neurological patterns become physical patterns (and vice-versa) and we need to literally “move through” these feelings and make physical adjustments in order to truly heal. Our bodies are naturally wired with these physical release mechanisms—the release of having a good cry or a hearty laugh are ones we can all relate to. Dancing, moving, changing our posture or movement patterns are also our inborn healing mechanisms, but ones that most of us have long forgotten how to utilize.

DMT and Energy disciplines are in agreement that consciousness exists throughout our entire body. However, energy disciplines go another step in acknowledging the inseparability of mind, body, and spirit through addressing our energy system. Some of the components of energy medicine include chakras (energy centers), meridians (energy channels), and energies with specific qualities (such as kundalini and colored prana). Just as psychology views stuck mental patterns and somatic psychology/DMT views stuck movement patterns, illness through this model is a symptom of energy not flowing properly.

We have an innate understanding of the chakra system through everyday cultural euphemisms. It is ordinary for us to associate love with our hearts by using phrases like “I have a broken heart” or “my heart sank.” Although our physical hearts are not involved in processing emotions related to love and connection, we identify with this specific organ because we acknowledge the physical sensations that arise in that energy center of our body.

What happens to unexpressed emotion? We experience a “lump in our throat,” or in energetic terms, stuck energy in our throat chakra.

When we experience “butterflies in our stomachs” we are referring to our solar plexus energy center. This is our center of power (“he has guts”), and a threat to our sense of self may result in this uneasy feeling in our stomach area. From a physical perspective, our “powerhouse”muscles (abdominals, psoas, and glutes) are the foundation for harnessing physical energy, stability, and sustainable strength.

When we are referring to the sacral center we may say something like, “she’s a pain in my ass,” and “he’s anal.” Although the term “anal” originated from the psychoanalytical concept of someone who is stuck in an anal development phase, it correlates with its energetic and physical counterparts. In the psychoanalytic perspective, someone stuck in an anal pattern develops an unhealthy need for control. Through movement analysis, we see a correlation between free flowing movement and bound movement and the person’s situational flexibility or need for control. Emotionally, energetically, and physically, we need a healthy balance between flexibility and control. We must flow within our emotional responses to life’s sweetness and bitterness.

What do we mean when someone is “salt of the earth,” “grounded,” or has their “feet planted firmly on the ground?” We mean that someone has body awareness and that they have a sense of stability in the physical world. Energetically, (consciously or unconsciously) they have a healthy root chakra and are able to let gravity and earth energy sustain them. We feel a sense of calm around people who are “grounded” because they are using the ground instead of other people (instead of you) for support. In movement analysis, we see this as a quality of  “weightedness,” where we can see the person is not using excess musculature to hold themselves up. They are able to access gravity and yield into the ground during movement.

Inversely, feeling “spacey” denotes that you have “checked out” of your body, or so-called “left the room.” This symbolism speaks to an energetic movement from the ground or body to a mental or etheric space. Someone who relies heavily on their intellect, or even their creativity, may lack a sense of “common sense” or difficulty functioning in the here and now real world (as opposed to someone who has street smarts and utilizes their senses). We see this happen often with geniuses, creatives, “idea people,” or even highly spiritual people. Another way this manifests is when someone feels unsafe in their body because of the feelings and memories held there. When someone has experienced a lot of trauma, it is way more comfortable for them to hang out energetically outside of their body because the body is where feelings and memories reside. However, we can not function properly in this world if we shut off from the here-and-now experience of being in our bodies.