When I do day long workshops I love to add a dance component. No, I’m not talking about bringing in a ballroom dancing instructor, but rather getting participants to express their stress through movement. Can you imagine how tenuous most people are about getting in front of their peers and letting loose through a series of interpretive moves?
Gabrielle Roth, a famous dance therapist, speaks about the benefits of the above technique in her book, Sweat Your Prayers. She states that a lot of stress has a staccato feel to it—if we took the time to dance it, we could release the tension.
One woman in my workshop spent a great deal of time discussing her inability to stop worrying. She actually raised the bar to new heights by worrying about what she was worrying about. By our final day together, after we’d gone through several different ideas and techniques, she was feeling that nothing could help her.
I then divided the group into ten teams of five people each. I told them they needed to choose one group member’s stressor to create a dance around it. I’d brought a wonderful array of music with me that featured a lot of drumming and rhythm. I told participants to wear one of my costumes (of which I have many) or arrange their own clothing in an unusual way. I gave them fifteen minutes to plan the presentation, because too much time makes people start thinking too much.
I heard all kinds of excuses: “I have two left feet,” “This feels strange,” “I can’t do this”…all of which I ignored. We all love to come up with excuses why we “can’t” do something, don’t we? The can’ts always seem to far outweigh the cans. So I insisted, albeit tenderly, that they give it a shot.
Time was up, and the show started. Each group was outstanding. An accountant who had felt taken advantage of was dressed in a black cloak.They put her in the middle of the circle and danced around her singing “Poor thing, poor, poor thing,” like a Greek chorus. The most amazing dance came from the “worrier” and her group. They started in the corner and deliberately and slowly showed the feelings of worry. With furrowed brows, their hands on their temples, feigning despair, they hunched over and looked at each other with startled expressions. In movement they managed to effectively demonstrate the pain and destructiveness of worry.
But even more profound was the way this creative exercise changed the woman’s perception of how and what she worried about. I saw her six months later and she said it literally changed her thinking. She saw her own role in continuing the “dance” of worry, and the terrible effects it had on her life. You might give it a try. Turn on the music and dance away your stress!
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