Guest blog: Virginia Hill

Virginia Hill is a dance/movement therapist based in North Carolina. We first met Virginia when she attended Dance Exchange’s Tools for Health Training in March 2010. Last year, she appeared in Michelle Pearson’s dance work Vespers, commissioned by the MetLife Healthy Living Initiative at Dance Exchange. In this guest blog post, she shares how she’s applied Dance Exchange tools in her work as a dance/movement therapist to make “anger dances”. 

Virginia Hill and Ronnie West in "Vespers"

I’m Virginia Hill, a fairly new registered dance/movement therapist (DMT), but one who had been working towards this goal for many years.  I’ve danced much of my adult life, minus the earlier years of my children’s lives.  I have two adult sons: one who is a visual artist and the other who makes art with words.

One requirement for my DMT certification was a 700 hour internship.  To meet this requirement, I interned at a behavioral health center, where I counseled and danced with people with mood disorders, those with psychosis, and those who had dual diagnoses involving substance abuse.  During the course of my internship, I had the privilege of taking the Tools for Health training at Dance Exchange, funded by MetLife.  I had opportunity to make good use of the tools I learned during these training sessions during my internship.  I often used Build-a-Phrase to encourage those with mood disorders or those who experienced psychosis to remember the constructive coping aids they used to address their illnesses. I also used it to remind them of the major activities they’ll need to engage in to live well once leaving the hospital, such as adhering to their medication regimen, eating properly, getting rest, exercising.

While I primarily worked with adults, I spent some time with adolescents who often had anger concerns.  Building a phase based on the “flow” of anger in the body seemed to be a useful tool, particularly when intersected with the previously built phrase of coping aides.  These aides might include deep breathing, taking a walk, talking to a friend, or listening to music — all interventions that participants offered up as helpful to them.  For some, the anger may start in the hands, then move to the stomach and flow up the body to the head.  The associated movement might begin with fingers spread wide, arms out to the sides and slowly lifting, then moving to embrace the stomach as the participant folds the torso over, followed by one hand tracing the anger flow up the body to the head that circles to the right when touched by the hand.  The primary question for each adolescent is “Where do you need to intervene (with your coping skills)?” We begin the anger dance together, but each adolescent is encouraged to move into the coping aides movement phrase when he/she needs to begin positive coping.  The adolescents generally seemed to embrace this dance-making which appeared to help them control their anger.

I recently completed an internship in community mental health, and used the anger dance with adults,  who found that it increased their awareness of their anger, as well as provided a means of practicing useful coping skills.

To learn more about Dance Exchange tools and their applications, please visit the Toolbox

About Guest Blogger

Dance Exchange intern and/or guest blogger.