Dance has many positive wellbeing effects including that it can bring awareness and connection to others, the self and the environment. Dance movement can come as a response to a stimulus such as sound or music, touch or the sight of another person moving, or from an inner impulse to move expressively. Not only does dance have the capacity to bring joy, it can also be a way of expressing 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.
This guidance will show how you can use movement to create a dance that is co-created between you and a participant in a way that allows you to develop a joint movement and conversational experience. This activity provides opportunity for your participant to make choices, have a sense of agency in determining the direction of movement you both make around a space.
The role of the facilitator during this task is to support the participant in travelling around the space in relation to the choices that s/he makes – either in a wheelchair, or on foot.
What you need
- A space free of objects and obstacles in which you and the person you are supporting can move freely and safely.
- Suitable footwear or for the person to be comfortable in their wheelchair, if
- Music and a music player. Something quite up-beat is good for providing a fun, but energising atmosphere, whereas something more gentle might be preferred if that is what suits the mood.
- If appropriate symbols can be used. For example, you might have cards with symbols representing each choice to hold in front of the participant – one to the left and one to the right; the participant may then point, touch or eye point towards their chosen option.
Guidance and instructions
- During this activity, you will offer two options of direction of travel at a time, so it is important to select an appropriate means of communication that allows you to introduce each of the binary choices, and for your participant to be enabled as far as possible to indicate a preference.
- You can offer these choices by showing or ‘modelling’ the options and your participant may communicate his/her preference through eye gaze, facial expressions or vocalisations. For example, you may notice that your participant remains passive when you model travelling forwards, but then smiles when you model travelling backwards. I would then take that as a signal that travelling backwards is the preferred option at that point. This can then be followed or reinforced with a Yes/No question if appropriate; e.g. “Would you like to travel backwards?”
- Give plenty of time for processing and communicating responses.
- Once the participant’s choice has been put into action, the process can be repeated several times, in order to provide the opportunity to build familiarity with each choice on offer.
- I suggest that first you give the participant an experience of both options on offer so that they can get a feel of what each one is like. I also use this as an opportunity to introduce or reinforce the connection between the communication medium and the options on offer. For example, if the choice is between travelling in a curved or a straight line, you might present your symbol for each option before modelling the corresponding spatial journey. I would do each a few times in order to build up familiarity with each option.
- Binary options that you might work with could include (although are not limited to) travelling through the space:
- Forwards or backwards
- In a curved or straight pathway
- With an emphasis on fast or slow
- Creating zig-zags or waves
- Incorporating full turns or half turns
- Incorporating turns to the left or right
- Do not offer too many choices in each session so as not to overwhelm the participant – one may be enough at first. You may be able to build on this over time as familiarity with the options and confidence expressing choices are built. You can then begin to combine more than one choice set within a session to build more complex spatial journeys / dances.
- Stop or adjust any movement that is not welcomed.
- Consider the impact of the chosen music on the experience and your own enjoyment of the activity.
- At the end of the dance, you may like to thank your participant for the time that you have spent together.
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 February 2021