Dance can bring awareness to self, and connection to others as well as to the environment. Dance movement can come from an inner impulse to move expressively, or it can come as a response to a stimulus such as sound or music, touch or the sight of another person moving. Not only does dance have the capacity to bring joy, it can also give shape and expression to emotions, and as such offers a rich and experiential context within which anybody, with the required support, can connect inwardly with themselves, and outwardly with others, as well as the world around them.
What you need
- A space free of objects and obstacles in which you (as a facilitator) and the person you are supporting can move freely and safely.
- A chair or stool for you to sit on comfortably by the person when they are sitting in a chair.
- Music and a music player. I like to use something joyful and energetic, with strong percussion for this activity. The genre isn’t important – it could be pop music or world music, whatever your participant enjoys.
Guidance and instructions
In this activity your participant is invited to engage with you in rhythmic activity, and there are many ways in which this might happen. Some of these ways might involve responding independently to something that you do, or the participant may follow her/his own rhythmic impulses which you could join in with or respond to in your own movements. Remember that enjoyment is key, so keep checking in with your participant’s body-language and facial expressions for the interactions s/he likes.
Listen to the rhythm of the music and invite your participant to move with you rhythmically, selecting appropriately from the following options:
- Hold hands with your participant and begin to lift your hands up and down rhythmically.
- Use pauses in the rhythm of the music to pause and allow time for processing, and to give your participant the opportunity to respond.
- Tap the person’s hands, knees, and/or shoulders, offering for her/him to join in or move a body-part rhythmically, or reciprocate i.e. tap you back.
- Provide your participant with the opportunity to track rhythmically with their eyes if they can. To do this, produce repetitive movements that move from side to side, up and down, high and low.
- Provide the participant with a prop such as a pom-pom to move and shake rhythmically.
- Watch for any rhythmic movement being produced independently; join in or mirror the movement to create shared enjoyment and to provide responses that can feedback to and strengthen the participant’s neural sensory-motor loop (the interaction between somatosensory and motor systems).
- Dance can be stimulating and can sometimes be over-stimulating. Look out for the signs of rising levels of arousal, and if they begin to escalate too quickly or too far, calm the activity down by turning down the music, slowing down the activity and giving physical space to the participant if appropriate. Take a break as and when necessary.
- The participant may not enjoy all offerings; be sensitive to their responses and what they communicate through facial expression, body language and vocalisations. If your participant does not appear to be enjoying an activity, adapt it, change it, or skip it altogether.
What to observe, assess and record
Positioning yourself in front or to the side of the person will allow you to observe their facial expressions, body language and movement responses. Consider observing and recording:
- Facial expressions and use of eye contacts before, during and after the experience
- Muscle tone and posture, looking for signs of relaxation and tension
- Levels of energy and arousal
- Behaviours (including vocalisations) before, during and after the experience
- Movements of the body, or parts of the body (no matter how small)
- Overall state and focus (before, during and after the experience) i.e. does the person seem to be focusing inwardly on him/herself, or outwardly on you and/ or the environment?
© Jamie Boylan
Email: [email protected]
Created October 2020