Dance as Therapy for Autism

Excerpt taken directly from the original article-
Making Dance/Movement Therapy the Therapy of Choice for Autism Spectrum Disorder  By Danielle Fraenkel:

“Phillip Martin-Nelson, principal dancer of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, who was diagnosed with severe autism, credits ballet with saving his life. Similarly, dance classes have been a driving force for Leon*, a 15 year old, high functioning, home schooled male, diagnosed as a young child, with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Here is the link to see the original article in its entirety from its original source- The American Dance Therapy Association:
http://blog.adta.org/2015/04/20/making-dancemovement-therapy-the-therapy-of-choice-for-autism-spectrum-disorder/

The Art of Dance- by Gabriel Galedo

Gabe 5“I got inspired to dance because of my brother.  Him and his friends- they had a dance group and they didn’t really have a place to practise, so they practised in our garage.  I’d sit down and just watch them and thought it was really cool. And then I’d find myself in the mirror, trying to bust a move or two myself (smiles).

But yeah, why dance? As you mature, as you grow up in this environment, what people don’t really understand is that Dance is an art.  Like in a painting, people paint how they feel, right? Well, in dance, your choreography, or just how you freestyle, could depend on your emotions, how you feel inside too.  Dance also builds your self- confidence.  You become more confident in what you do, in dance, and in other parts of your life too.

And even if we can inspire just one person to take a dance class or something, well, that’s all we ever really wanted to do as a team, I think.  It’s not always really about winning competitions or being high class dancers.   It’s just about showing that we do honestly care about a lot of people out there.  And we hope that what we do can help them in the future.”

– Gabriel Galedo – Age 14- member of The Freshh Crew

It’s not WHAT you do…

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“I always say that it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s how you express it.  It’s going to deliver differently depending on how you express it.

And that’s exactly what dancing is for me-  it’s how you deliver it.  It could be the most basic thing, the most basic step, but enjoy it (smiles). .. When people watch me enjoying the dancing, that allows them to enjoy it too…

So that’s my other piece of advice: Be sure to enjoy your every dance.”- Griselle Ponce

Tango … it will be waiting…

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“But it’s true that [tango], it’s like a drug.  Once you understand it, you will never leave it.  You will never quit. You will take some distance.  Sometimes you will get tired, you will get fed up, but then it’s going to be there.  And tango will wait for you, because tango is expression.  It’s going to be there, always.  Even if you go away, it will be waiting.”- Caesar Coelho

Kwenda Lima- “To me, dance is a kind of freedom”

“To be honest, I have never seen you dance.  But what I heard you say in a youtube interview- not just about dance, but about Art and life-  told me everything I needed to know to assure me that I would be learning from a great teacher.”

That was part of the email I sent to Kwenda Lima before I met him and just after I booked a flight to San Francisco to take his workshops. 

As I explained to Kwenda, for the past few years, I have been writing about the power of dance to inspire, to strengthen, and to heal.  But I knew I was missing something – someone who could speak deeply about the spirituality aspect of dancing- someone who lived and breathed it.  And I knew instantly- I felt it through his energy actually- that Kwenda would be one of those people.

And I was right.  Not only did he respond very quickly to my message with a few heartfelt words of his own, but he made sure to keep his word by making time, in the middle of his workshops, to discuss with me some of the issues around health, dance and teaching that I had brought up in my email.

Insights into how to live a fuller life were cleverly woven into, and sometimes just outwardly stated, in Kwenda’s teachings during that weekend.  The kizomba movements and exercises we learned were just one aspect of the lessons.  There was such emotion and purpose in every one of Kwenda’s actions, including the moments where he just fell silent.  It was hard not to be captivated by this man’s spirit. 

And for those of us who stayed until the last workshop—when Kwenda

introduced us to Kaizen dance- we went from jumping in utter happiness, holding hands in gratitude, laying on each other’s shoulders in a clump of bodies on the floor, letting our tongues hang out, freeing our inner child, and forming a tight spiral around Kwenda, which reminded me of his belief that we are all in fact one. But it was the final exercise about forgiveness that seemed to have been the most impactful for some. Every single person in that room was moved to tears from it.  But it felt more like a long awaited, giant, collective exhale, a letting go of something heavy, rather than tears of sorrow.  We may not forever remember all the details of the dance steps learned that weekend, but I am sure the depth of feeling through dance that Kwenda left us with, will remain with us for a long time.

Thank you Kwenda, for proving my instincts right, and being that great teacher I felt you would be. And special thanks to Emile Carter for doing an amazing job in organizing Kwenda’s first visit to the U.S. 

The beads on your hand – around your wrist and fingers- are they spiritual or religious or have any particular significance?  You wear them all the time, it seems.

Yes, I wear this all the time (skims his fingers over the beads).  It is a spiritual thing. And it’s something very personal for me.  It reminds me of things that are important to me.

I was curious about that because you have this spirituality about you which was evident well before I met you.  I could feel it even when just watching you in another interview on the internet.  Where do you think that spirituality comes from?

It’s a mix of everything, actually, but it’s not a cultural thing or anything like that.  I would say it comes from my ‘education’.  When I talk about education, I am referring to my parents, I’m talking about my friends, I’m talking about the books I came across, I’m talking about the movies I’ve seen, I’m talking about the situations that I went through.  For me, that is my education.  And it is what has taken me to where I am now.

Have you always been that way? That depth that you convey- has it always been there? Or did something happen in your life to instil that in you so strongly?

As I said, it’s a mix of everything.  Nothing happened to make me change suddenly.  But I’ve always behaved in a different way, even when I was a child. I was different.  My friends would always say to me “You’re complicated,” or, “You’re different”.  They would say, “Okay, you’re talking too much,” or something like that (smiles).  I was the kind of child that would spend a lot of time in my room alone.  And so all of those things- EVERYTHING that surrounds you- of course, will kind of guide you to what you’re supposed to do.  That’s what I believe.

I believe there is a mission for each of us, something we are meant to do.  So probably, those things- the people, the books- those situations, were taking me to where I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to do.

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Dancing means …

“Dancing means absolutely everything to me, and I love to just watch people dance because each and every person has their own distinct style. Dancing gives people a chance to express themselves in whatever way they want to… And that’s what I love about dance- the fact that it can’t be confined into a box and that there isn’t a right or a wrong way in doing it. Yes, every style of dance has its basics, but once those basics are learned, everything from then on is limitless. The routine can go as far as the choreographer’s mind allows it to go. Like any art form, you start out with a blank slate and you let your creativity run rampant based on the state of mind of you as a dancer, how your body moves, and how you interpret the music. I just love dance because the possibilities are endless.
…Sometimes, I dance just to clear my head. When I dance, nothing else goes through my mind except the music…Nothing else matters except that moment in time. Dancing has changed my life and is something that I can always escape to whenever I need to.”- Jimmy Sojan

Dance is…

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“Dance is a way for you to express pain, joy, life, fun, love in that physical way. Your body expresses this as rhythm and feelings, whatever your feelings are. You’re not happy every day. You could be sad, you could be stressed, you could be normal. But through dance, you can express all of these feelings. Whatever you feel- pain, love, happiness- it can be shown through dancing, but through YOUR body and to the musicality of YOUR body….
It doesn’t have to be on stage or choreographed. Even right now, I’m talking to you and I’m also dancing with my hands,… Because what I’m feeling I’m showing in the movement in my hands. And that’s what I want to express. You don’t have to talk when you dance, right? You don’t even have to look at people in the eyes. You can even close your own eyes and move, and people will see what you’re feeling.”- Arassay Reyes