(from the performance piece "Beautiful," by Leif Tellmann,
to see a performance some time ago, and was struck by the beauty
the dancers skin as they moved their naked bodies within a large
It was a bit like watching clouds, and a higher compliment would
be hard to
which I dont always think,
what beautiful animals humans are
with their smooth skin and long graceful limbs.
And how odd it is that ore of us dont just set up chairs by
the lake and
watch the mezmerizing spektacle of clouds, and water, and wind among
trees. . .
and the strange human animals soaking up the sunshine
drinking it in
just like the daisies with their smooth skin and rising spines.
I wanted to make a dance
and I was afraid to make a dance
so I decided to do it.
I was afraid it wouldnt be good enough
that I wouldnt be good enough
for an audience of people who have seen dance
and know what dance is.
And what do I really want to say anyway?
is this really about?
so I thought of various things
the difficult decision to move to a new home
and of what it feels like to be a nomadic spirit
and a body
that longs for roots.
maybe youve felt that way too.
possibly I could bring wisdom into my dance.
To express a burgeoning spirituality
which I have seen glimpses of in tree branches
and splashing water and
And perhaps you would find meaning and applaud my wisdom.
I could tell you
of the original forgotten people
the humans with whom I work
who have so much to say
so much that needs to be moved
short man with large
deeply creviced rings
around his eyes
convinced and irate that we were
making him smaller
and, perhaps, even less significant
in the eyes of other humans.
the 230 pound woman who began to shake and proceeded to destroy
smashing the stereo on the floor
hard plastic and metal reduced to trash
and of my trying to stop her
with my arms that could not reach around her body
and had no way of containing her rage
or softening her anger.
Had she wanted to destroy the beauty of the music
unable to recognize her own melody
and its striking sound?
went to the park at twilight and climbed up into the limbs of a
and sat there
watching purple softness envelop the world
and the cars with their tiny lights on lake shore drive.
I sat for an hour in that tree
and thought for some time about Sandra
a patient who had survived
trauma at the hands of men
wonder of this story is that it was Sandra
the very next day
who brought into our session the image of climbing trees
and the memory
of a large tree behind her childhood home.
She had found safety and comfort there.
her to write all she could remember
of climbing her tree
to use her writing hand to
to give her hand a break
from writing her other
what does one do with all the
whose very foundations
seem loosely built
by bricks of fear
Lives held together by the mortar of
systems filled with holes?
The support threatening to crumble
as it hits fresh air?
when I too feel like I am
smaller, less, imploding
wondering what it would be like
to allow rage
to fill my cells
and destroy an entire room
smashing machines to the floor
until some could come and hold me still
and remind me of my body
of my beauty.
would I believe them
if they did?
what is this work about?
Is it about expression
it involves soul
and that it connects with
what you and I have both seen
in tree branches
and splashing water
and screaming lilacs.
and the daisies
all with our smooth skin
and rising spines.
a Brief History and it's Potential for Ecopsychology
By Leif Tellmann, MA, ADTR
the ages, human beings have always used movement and dance to foster
a sense of community, healing, expression, and spirituality. Native
cultures have incorporated dance into their rituals and celebrations.
In moving to the rhythms of culturally shared songs and music, dancers
have celebrated togetherness, expressed joy or pain, and embodied
the spiritual dimensions of our natural world. Water flowed, air
swept, earth shook, and animal spirits took form in movement.
of people came together, moving with a shared rhythm, a shared purpose,
and a sense of belonging. Dance served as a way to express the unexplainable.
It was a way to connect with the infinite and the universal. In
dance and rhythm this connection didnt need explanation because
it was felt in the very muscles and bones and sinew of both dancer
and witness to the dance.
Western European culture evolved, dance became increasingly separated
from daily life. Here, folk dances still played an important role
in creating a sense of community and connection to others, and were
used in celebrations and festivals. However, dance became relegated
to a somewhat frivolous activity. "Civilized" Europeans,
as they immigrated to the Americas, saw themselves as different
from the "savage" native peoples that inhabited the land.
They covered their bodies, built buildings to separate themselves
from the forces of nature, and tried to tame the wilderness. Dance
became separated from everyday life, and as time went by, dance
was often seen as an activity or profession in which only certain
highly trained people took part.
the beginning of the twentieth century, a movement began to emerge
in the United States that questioned some of the ways that mainstream
America viewed and used dance. In the performance dance world, styles
of dance began to develop that strayed from the classical forms.
These styles were the roots of what would later become known as
modern dance. The pioneers of this form of dance used movement in
ways that fostered emotional expression, authenticity of feeling,
and awareness of movement impulses. An interest in the use of dance
in "primitive" societies formed, leading to a regeneration
of seeing dance as more than merely a frivolous pastime or a formal
art form requiring training to be appreciated. Dance was, once again,
being seen as a form of spiritual and emotional expression, a chance
to connect with the divine.
began to experiment with the use of improvisation in both the creation
of their work and in the training of their dancers to truly feel
the movement impulses in their bodies. As modern dance continued
to emerge, some dancers and choreographers began to discover (or
perhaps rediscover) the possibility of dance as a healing tool and
as a way to better understand, not only how we move, but also how
we feel and who we are as people.
the same time, currents within psychology were also beginning to
explore ways in which the body and its non verbal expression could
be used in a psychotherapeutic context. An example is the work of
Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian born psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who,
in the 1920s discovered that the body developed defenses,
or "armoring," in response to stress, anxiety, and repressed
feelings. In the 1940s Reich was regularly using muscular
manipulation in order to release boundness in his clients
bodies, thereby also releasing repressed feeling or thought. This
use of the body in psychotherapy was later expanded and popularized
by Alexander Lowens "Bioenergetics" in the 1960s.
Reich was developing his use of muscular manipulation in therapy,
a woman by the name of Marion Chace was developing her use of dance
as therapy with psychiatric patients. Chace, often referred to as
the "Grand Dame" of dance therapy, came to the field from
the world of dance. After many years of dancing and choreographing,
Chace began working as a volunteer with the chronically mentally
ill at St. Elizabeths Hospital, a psychiatric institution
near Washington D.C. This was the first time dance had been used
as a tool to reach this population.
work was groundbreaking. In leading dance groups in the hospital,
Chace was able to communicate in a new way with patients who otherwise
felt painfully disconnected from the society in which they lived.
Chace made the assumption that dance was a basic form of communication
and a natural form of emotional expression in which all people could
take part. Rather than focus on the pathology of a patient, Chace
approached each person as an individual capable of interaction and
communication. The large dance groups that Chace led became a chance
for patients to experience the beauty of being part of a group and
to connect with those around them. Through the use of symbolism,
shared group rhythm, the sheer act of movement and the therapeutic
relationship that developed between Chace and the patients, the
dance groups took on a healing quality. The field of dance therapy
the field developed, dance/movement therapists expanded their work
to all types of populations and to work with both groups and individuals.
In 1966 the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) was formed,
defining dance/movement therapy as "the psychotherapeutic use
of movement as a process which furthers the emotional, cognitive,
and physical integration of the individual." With its emphasis
on the body and movement, d/mt is also naturally suited to an ecopsychological
approach to therapy. Our bodies are the most concretely natural
aspect of our being, and it is through the body and its senses that
we are able to take in the world around us.
are in a constant reciprocal relationship with the environment as
we physically take in the elements through our noses, mouths and
skin, and release back into the world through respiration, perspiration
and elimination. As we begin to look at this constant give and take,
the basic assumptions regarding what is "me" and what
is "not me" begin to break down. Is breath "me"
or "not me"? Food? Our cells? We are indeed an integral
part of the world around us, and it is us. Looking around in nature,
we see the continual movement that takes place in the wind and water,
the clouds, trees and animals. We live in a world which, like the
human body with its tides of breath and blood, is in constant flow.
Through awareness of this flow within us and outside of us, and
through conscious participation through our own movements and rhythms,
we enter the dance of life.
from an ecopsychological perspective has been described as "therapy
as if the whole Earth mattered." Dance/movement therapy from
this perspective reminds us of our bodies as parts of the Earth,
and gives us the opportunity to express ourselves in several of
the many languages of nature: creativity, movement, and rhythm.
more information on dance/movement therapy, please refer to the
ADTA web site at www.adta.org
information on creative arts therapies, including dance/movement
therapy, art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, psychodrama
and poetry therapy, please refer the the NCATA (National Coalition
of Arts Therapies Association) website at www.ncata.com
can also contact Rachel Brynes, editor of an Australian Dance Therapy
publication that will be on-line in a few months, at: