Does dancing alter the mind the same way that drugs do?

Beth Dykstra
Jill Sonke-Henderson, co-founder of the Center for Arts in Healthcare Research at the University of Florida, speaks on the healing powers of dance yesterday in Forum Hall. (TREVOR CAMPBELL/Daily)

This question was explored yesterday when members of the
University community packed in Forum Hall’s Palmer Commons to
listen to a discussion panel on the relationship between dance and
the human brain.

Dance Prof. Peter Sparling introduced the ideas of the seminar
by saying, “Our title suggests an exploration of heightened
activity of the brain while consumed with dancing.”

David Vaughan and Trevor Carlson, representatives of Merce
Cunningham’s Dance Company, spoke in place of Cunningham, who
could not attend the event.

Cunningham, 84, uses the computer program Dance Form to create
images of the bodies of his dancers, Carlson said. He added that
this program allows dancers to interpret each move differently,
giving the brain a different method of processing the moves.

Banu Ogan, a dancer in the company, said, “One of the
things that attracted me to the studio was that you had to think
while you were on stage, in class, at rehearsal.”

Jill Sonke-Henderson, co-founder and co-director of the Center
for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education at the University
of Florida explained the health benefits dancing can bring. Her
healing movement program, Dance for Life, focuses on using movement
to improve well being.

Sonke-Henderson said that one patient who received her dance
treatment left the bone marrow treatment ward in record time.
“Dancing brought (the patient) deeply inside herself to
access that wisdom,” she said.

Another one of her patients with sickle cell anemia learned at
an early age that dancing could help ease her pain, she said.

Music School junior Karenanna Creps said she agreed with the
speakers about the healing power of dance. “The most
important issue is how dance can help one get through tragic
experiences,” she said.

Creps, who is also in the Residential College, said she was
impressed with Sonke-Henderson’s work. “I wish we could
bring a program like that to the University Hospital.”

Pamela Clouser McCann, event sponsor and project manager of the
Life Sciences, Values and Society Program, said, “I hope the
seminar will start a discussion around the connections between
dance and movement and what goes on in the brain.”

LSVSP is a division of the University of Michigan Life Sciences
seeking to bring attention to issues of science and culture.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *