Dance and Occupational Therapy
WHAT IS DANCE?
An activity that is socially engaging, physically challenging, creative, as well as culturally and mentally stimulating.
The above extract is the definition of dance by Connor (2000), summing up its therapeutic potential.
In Occupational Therapy, using dance as a leisure activity in rehabilitation is not equivalent to ‘Dance Therapy’. Professionally, there are qualified dance/movement therapists who are trained to provide such a form of therapy also known as dance/movement therapy (DMT). Click here to find out more.
Dance has been known to provide benefits for patients of various diagnosis. In mental health, dance is a medium for emotional expression through movement – instead of verbalizing which may be too painful a process for some. It also helps promote self-expression as well as improve one’s self-esteem and positive body image. For the elderly, dance becomes a form of weight-bearing exercise facilitating slowing down of osteoporosis. In those seniors diagnosed with dementia, dance can be a valuable experience as research has shown that they can retain a large degree of musical responsiveness and skill.
In late 2010, I undertook a group project on dance for the disabled population. As part of the project, my team members and I scouted for such dance groups available locally. We were lucky to have met a rare few, and conducted interviews to find out more about how and what they do.
This is the story of one such group.
Redeafination was officially formed in July 2008, and is a local independent hip-hop dance group for the hearing-impaired. They are a mixed group, with most of its members being deaf. Through the universal language of dance, Redeafination seeks to promote deaf-awareness as well as nurture performing arts talents within the deaf community.
What struck me was the idea of integrative dance. During the rehearsals in which we were privileged to attend, the hearing-impaired dancers were paired with hearing partners from a local polytechnic. Such meaningful collaborations encourage social integration, decrease stigmatization as well as to raise awareness of the disability.
It was heartening to note that the dance instructor adopted a rather unique instructional style. The hearing participants were required to learn basic sign language so as to facilitate communication and interaction with their partners. On the other hand, the hearing-impaired dancers were encouraged to direct queries and clarify doubts with their partners instead of with the more-experienced instructor. The group atmosphere was hence a lively and supporting one. On top of this, other adaptations were made to ensure physical demands of the dance activity are matched to the level of its participants. As a dancer, I am used to hearing the “5,6,7,8” countdown prior to starting a routine choreography. Here, obvious visual cues were used instead such as clapping the beats with one’s hands. The music chosen also has to be modified – one with loud bass beats and consistent rhythm. As we found out, some of the hearing-impaired dancer were not totally deaf and are able to feel the vibrations given off by loud bass beats. Learning a routine thus became a much doable task! Very impressive!
We then asked about the group’s future direction. The answer? To encourage having a hearing-impaired dance choreographer. According to Redeafination’s instructor, this would enable the appreciation of dance elements coming from the hearing-impaired population. I was moved to hear those words, and I simply wish for the same.
For readers who are interested, you can follow them on their Facebook page for updates on upcoming performances. Alternatively, you can also look up other dance groups for the disabled in Singapore:
- Down Syndrome Fusion Dance Ensemble (DSA)
- EDC Performing Group (MINDS)
- Very Special Arts Singapore
- Y STARS (YMCA)
- D’Passion Wheelchair Dance