'Dance Therapy is a most important avenue, not only to self expression, but also to a way in which a human being may be influenced from within.' LORD MENUHIN
When Lord Menuhin wrote that definition for us, he and his English ballerina wife Diana were at the height of their travelling adventures – written about with great wit and verve in her best-selling autobiography, 'Fiddler's Moll.' But of course there was a far more serious purpose in all that they undertook – and accomplished - in such a remarkable way. UNESCO had not existed for very long in its 'new post-WW2' guise, but among those wholeheartedly supporting its famous ideals of world peace and harmony through science, education and culture, was the Menuhin clan.
They had great insight, too, into what could be achieved through dance as therapy. One of Lord Menuhin's special interests was, naturally enough, music therapy – especially the psychodynamic movement method brilliantly developed by Britain's Mary Priestley during her more than 40 years with the NHS. Mary gave some unforgettable workshops for our students in London's Covent Garden, while Lady Menuhin frequently sent messages of goodwill from wherever in the world they happened to be.
A few years ago, our school received a prestigious award for pioneering work by our then Dance Therapy Task Force in southwest UK. The award was presented by HRH The Prince of Wales. The successful method used by our students was inspired by 'restoration therapy', an Abraham Maslow system developed specifically for elderly populations by USA gerontologist/dance therapist Eva Desca Garnet. With her permission,many of those techniques have been incorporated into our 'Working with the Elderly' on-line study programme. 'Restoration Therapy', as the name implies, aims to bring back a quality of life which misfortunes, or sometimes a series of misfortunes, can so unfairly take away. 'Joydance™', suitably adapted to help disadvantaged children, is now working well in a number of countries. The method also includes principles of psychomotor therapy, positive psychology and – popular with our fledgling trainees - psychodynamic movement with a range of 'self-help' techniques for practitioners themselves.
Our school continue to feel very concerned about the 1.5 million children and young people known to be 'at risk' in our country. The Task Force 2015 plan, therefore, is to offer a response proportionate to the scale of this very urgent situation. Here is an outline of that plan:
Firstly - the 6-unit Foundation Course (mandatory) provides a scientific framework for designing high-quality therapeutic dance activities for 'children in difficult circumstances'. Written work for this course needs to be very carefully prepared – there may be times when medical help or advice may be needed. From the very first unit candidates learn to set out their thoughts and ideas clearly and succinctly for the benefit of other professionals, teamwork can be vital to success.
Secondly -there is then a choice of 2 follow-on study programmes, both designed to prepare the candidate to complete the practical requirement. This is to set up and run for 12 consecutive weeks – one session per week – a group for 6-8 local children known to be less privileged and/or suffering from difficulties which can be helped by their regular involvement in dance and the related arts.
Our school are not, unfortunately, able to offer the training which would be needed to 'treat' specific conditions such as autism, ADHD, Down's Syndrome, cerebral palsy, though our insistence on 'inclusivity' means that we also believe that provided the child's doctor gives permission, one 'special needs' child per group of 6-8 can work well for the child as well as the group as a whole – they learn patience, kindness, fellow-feeling and can contribute significantly to the healing process.At the end of 12 weeks the candidate produces a 2-page report to our school's examiners, outlining benefits achieved. The tutor advises on preparing the report if required to do so.
The Full International Diploma is awarded on the basis of the report and is accompanied by a complementary certificate from UNESCO CID, plus membership.
Thirdly - it is hoped that with help from our school and back-up from likeminded friends or colleagues, the 'small group' will grow and become a permanent part of community life – a Dance Club meeting regularly to encourage, especially, less privileged children and young people.
A new add-on – a separate additional unit – now appears as an appendix to each of the 2 follow-on courses. It is all about the art of arranging 'Dance Holidays.' We all know what a good holiday can do for us - we are only too aware though that for those who are not so fortunate, this annual chance to take a break does not always happen. We also know what a difference involvement in dance and the related arts can make for individuals and groups of all ages. 'Dance is for everyone' – no exceptions. So what about creating a Dance Holiday for children who .might otherwise miss out?
A Dance Holiday need not involve a fortnight by the sea – though it can be very conveniently used in this context , for the lucky few. A Dance Holiday can begin anywhere at any time – a small hall, a leisure centre, dance studio – even in someone's own home if there's enough space. The only stipulation – a Dance Holiday programme must consist of 12 specially designed separate sessions with a chance to take part in a performance at the end of the 'holiday.' A 'dance holiday' can turn round a broken life, offer a fresh start, bring hope and happiness where there was none. Moreover, anyone who wants to, and has earned the Diploma can use this unit to master that very special skill.
First, you need to be a true 'dance aficionado' with first hand knowledge of the health benefits it can bring. Secondly, you need to care – really care – about the unhappiness or pain of others, and willing to undertake our training in a serious and responsible way. And thirdly, it is really important that you keep on enjoying your life and retain your sense of 'fun'. Have a good social life, don't lose touch with friends, and most importantly, too, keep on attending the best-quality dance classes you can find. The choices, especially if you live near a large city, can be confusing, but try to find a supportive teacher to whom you feel you can always turn for advice. When you enrol for the Foundation Course your individual tutor will be pleased to help you decide.
With every kind wish.
Director of Studies
Member UNESCO CID 25 August, 2015