It was my first referral. “I hear you’re a Dance Therapist?!”, a strange voice said over the phone. She was skeptical of Dance Therapy. She told me her sister already had a personal trainer and didn’t understand how Dance Therapy was different. I informed her that unlike weight lifting or riding a stationary bike, Dance Therapy used different parts of the brain and allowed creative expression.
The woman was at her wits end, not knowing what else to do to with her sister who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 5 years ago, to feel happy and productive. My new client was living in the lap of luxury except for the fact that she had no idea where she was or who she was with most of the time. Her sister being her only living relative, wanted to ensure that my client was still able to live life to the fullest.
She was always pleasant. Her body moved with ease though she couldn’t always find the words. She was in peak physical condition, yet her mind struggled to catch up to how fast her body could move. As we danced she would spontaneously add, “I remember when my husband used to take me dancing; we used to dance like this.” The memories of her late husband came pouring back to her, despite the fact that her sister had told me she never mentioned him anymore.
As our sessions continued, she would mention her late husband more often and the things they did together. The steps became a different story of her life each and every time. A dance became making rice and beans, stirring the pot and adding a pinch of salt. A dance became the movements of folding the laundry. A dance became rocking her nieces and nephews to sleep. A dance became strolling in her garden, picking flowers.
The body never forgets. It’s muscle memory. By taking simple everyday movements and bringing them into the dance, my client was able to use the body to trigger memories. I facilitated the movement while at the same time allowed her create a dance. ach movement invited her body to further connect with the mind. The dance helped her find the words. The movements told a story; her story.
She may not remember my face or my name, but every time we dance together she regains her sense of self. My client’s sister still tells me that after our dance therapy sessions that she is full of life and like her “old self.”