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.
The purpose of this activity is to bring about body awareness through stimulating sensory neurons by offering a variety of qualities of touch. This in turn may bring about the activation of motor neurons, meaning that the participant may begin to move parts of his/her body in response to the touch that you offer.
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 sat in a chair.
Music and a music player. I find that gentle music played on a string instrument works best for this activity – maybe something played on the Kora an example of which can be found here https://john-haycock.bandcamp.com/album/jali-and-john-kora-duet
Guidance and instructions
- If in a wheelchair, or lying down make sure that the person you are supporting is comfortable, and has the support they need to maintain safe positioning and posture. Make sure that wheelchair brakes are on when stationary, and that the seatbelt is worn for safety.
- Look after your own safety and physical well-being and adhere to manual handling and postural guidance.
- The following qualities of touch may be used (being sensitive to your participant’s response, carefully regulating the firmness of your touch to make sure the experience remains a pleasant one):
– Light finger tapping.
– Gentle kneading (squeezing).
– Long smooth brushes (best to start at the shoulder and brush down to the hand on each side; or start at the thigh and brush down to the feet when working on the legs).
– Firmer, percussive touch such as patting or tapping.
A suggested route around the body may be as follows:
– Begin with one hand, work up the arm to the shoulder, then work down from the opposite shoulder, down the arm, to the hand.
– You may choose to take in the collar bones, head and neck at this point, all the while carefully observing and checking in with your participant that all offerings are welcome, and at any sign of distress or discomfort, adapt or change what you are doing, or miss out the part that is causing the discomfort.
– Move your attention to the thigh muscles, just above the knees, then work down the backs of the calves, finishing with the feet.
- 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