Finding the Perfect Beat at Saint Elizabeths Hospital
More than 50 years ago, Dance Movement Therapy was originated at Saint Elizabeths Hospital. Inspired and encouraged by former Glade member and Dance Movement Therapist Jessica Melville Goodin, Glade sought out a relationship with Saint Elizabeths, starting by participating in their annual spring dance performance series.
Led by Outreach Committee Chair Sylvana Christopher, the Glade-Saint Elizabeths partnerhsip has grown to include workshops and mentoring residents of Saint Elizabeths to create their own choreography.
Working with Saint Elizabeths patients was very inspiring. Inside the dance therapy room were a circle of chairs and table along one side. Along the way, we collected the dancers who signed up for the Glade workshop who happened to be coming from art class. Eagerly, I began to chat with the patients and exchange greetings. I felt confident that creating a dance for Glade and Saint Elizabeths dancers to perform together was the right next step for our growing partnership.
The key was to provide a piece of music that would inspire us all to move, create and engage together. Finding a piece of music that tickles the tastebuds in music and specifically music to dance to can vary depending on each person. A good beat, however, paired with a motivator and clear direction can literally move people despite any predispositions to certain kinds of music.
Side note: Check this inspiring documentary about how music can positively affect patients, which I liken to dance and the selection of danceable music.
We set off with a dance warmup, beginning with some gyrokinesis wave-like motions on the edge of our chairs. I kept the invitation to move gentle and clear. The dancers clued me in when a motion needed modification and thus our ability to communicate started. A hand hold, arm hook, curious glances and expressions of happiness and laughter took place.
The first hour flew by fairly quickly then we began to dive into the business of making dance choosing content; reflecting on the setting of our dance by drawing what our glade would look like; and then choosing music. Inviting the dancers into this crucial first step of the Glade choreographic process satisfies a wish for ownership and a voice.
As we sat down to choose our music, patients showed readiness to listen and feel what the music had to offer their hearts and imaginations. The first music option arose curiosity about the type of instruments being played. One dancer thought the Kora sounded like a harp, a fair guess. During the second option, another dancer fluttered his elbows, causing others to join in. He looked at me and said, "Hold on let me show you something," getting up to dance in the middle of the circle and show off his spins and turns. It was awesome and I chuckled, exclaiming, "We have natural performer and choreographer!" The third option by Rising Appalachia got everyone clapping to the beat on was voted on as the piece to choreograph to for the whole group. I left the hospital that day with a feeling of wholeness and joy at being able to share my creative way of engaging people in the art of dance.