M.A Thesis and Film:
"Moving into Health and Wholeness"
" Dance is the language of the soul"
The title of my thesis was "Moving into health and wholeness". In my writings and in a short film, I focused on the practice of Dancing the Rainbow, a holistic movement and creative arts practice founded in the 1990s by two Irish women, Antoinette Spillane and Lani O'Hanlon.
My thesis highlighted a dance form that is community based, where the emphasis is on authentic expression rather than expertise. As such, it has links to the ancient lineage of dance where in many cultures throughout the world to dance was seen as essential to health and well-being of all the community. Dance as a time for people to gather, to embrace healing and to commune with their souls.
As part of my research, I facilitated 8 movement workshops with a group of women in Galway, Ireland. The workshops used techniques from Dancing the Rainbow ( see page above) to guide the women into a deepened awareness through movement, meditation and art. Each workshop focused on a particular chakra and body system. What emerged was a journey into areas such as nature connection, sexuality, self-esteem, love, and a growth of awareness that spanned the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
There was a shared sense by these women, as by many holistic practitioners throughout the ages, that illness is not a purely physical condition. Depression, for example, is often treated within mainstream medicine as a chemical imbalance and dealt with by the prescription of drugs. However in these workshops, participants who had experiences with depression were able to connect with the deeper causes of this condition, to the life patterns that had echoes long into their past. In the safety and acceptance of the workshop space, they were able to meet these places, move into and through them, and discover ways to bring healthier patterns into their lives.
The origins of the word "health" is the German word for "whole". My thesis ultimately proposed that an holistic approach to health and well-being, grounded in the body, can act as an important companion to the mainstream medical model in terms of preventative and curative healthcare.
"In such approaches, body is no longer simply “tool” to be used nor “object” to be fixed from the outside, but is rather a container of consciousness that holds an innate wisdom. Dancing the Rainbow is one such approach. Within it, the chakra system is a multidimensional map of our being that spans the spectrum of matter and spirit, the personal and the transcendent, to offer a vibrant and dynamic kaleidoscope of life. As we reveal, so we can heal, and lead ourselves into ever-greater alignment, with the ability to move well through this world".
( Chapter 5, M.A thesis " Moving into Health and Wholeness")
Central themes of the research:
- the ancient lineage of dance, as essential to the well-being of individuals and communities.
- the mind/body/spirit divide in the modern Western world
(privileging of rational, empirical knowledge over intuitive and body wisdom).
- the pathologising/ medicating of behaviour that is outside cultural norms
- "crisis" as key; holding the potential for transformation and spiritual/ creative emergence
- moving into health and wholeness: the healer within.
One workshop participant spoke of the transformation that dance has brought to her life;
“ Dancing the Rainbow is a very moving continuation of that…a very strong contrast of joy and sorrow mingling…a remembering of those places that have gone in the past…and how difficult it can be to live it on a daily basis, to really keep connected to that sense of self, self-care and love, that for me is actually essential for my humanity, a hunger of staying connected... And movement, voice, and art allows me to do that.”