Moving to the Music

We were chatting in the middle of the street last summer about Dance/Movement Therapy, when an elderly woman overheard us and kindly interrupted to inquire further about my profession. After a few minutes of telling her about how I use the Creative Arts to engage people with physical, mental and emotional limitations, she asked if I would meet with her daughter, who was wheelchair bound and suffered from depression. She was in a desperate place; her daughter was only 57 years old and shut out the world after a major accident. She didn’t know what else to do or where to turn. Her daughter was already on medication, but it could only do so much.

In our first session, I met with my new client and her private aide. It was from the aide that I learned my client was a famous violinist who dedicated her life to music. “She hasn’t played the violin in over 6 years”, the aide sadly told me, and “she gave up on life after her accident.” The client, capable of speaking, provided me with one word answers, barely making eye contact, while hunching over in her wheelchair.

Each session, we listened to classical music, her favorite, and I invited her to move a different part of her body. Sometimes I would lead sometimes I would follow her movement. She began to trust me. I showed up at her doorstep every week, bringing new energy, new music and new movement.

It took months, but after time there was a moment when we began to move our bodies, swaying our arms back and forth to the beat, when her hands took on a new shape. Her fingers floated through the air, the grin on her face getting bigger and bigger until a joyous laughter erupted. It was the first time I heard her laugh.

It was from that session on that I took out her violin and let it sit in the room with us while we moved to the music. She was always conscious that it was there. Without her even realizing, her movement again transformed, her hand gliding through the air as if she was playing the violin, her head tilting over. She was ready.

When she picked up the violin her hands were practically shaking. She held it, staring at it for almost the whole session. When I heard her play it for the first time I almost cried. You could feel all the years of pain and sadness slowly pouring out of the sound, but could see the confidence and joy of playing building from the movement.

It was the simple act of mirroring her movement that allowed her to trust her body again. There was no right or wrong way to move. We listened to the music together; we moved together. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t waltz around the room. The act of being present with her allowed her to take the time to awaken the body again, and sparked the light inside her. I was there to validate her feelings, not with her words, but with the non-verbal actions, cues and movement.

She allowed herself to try the thing she once loved. She trusted me to be there with her. She rediscovered herself through the movement.