Franziska Boas


      Gestures are supposed to reveal thoughts, feelings and desires. Those which I find myself making now are surely related to stagefright and a kind of awe at finding myself here in front of you. It is indeed an honor to be asked to speak to your organization. I stand before you with trepidation since I know that so much has been accomplished and so many persons are working in the field of Dance Therapy. In 1947 there were isolated individuals in dance therapy. On a trip across the continent and back, I found only interest, no jobs or plans to incorporate the dance in therapy programs, even as late as 1952.

      When I read over the titles of papers and workshops to be presented here, I wondered why the dance was not mentioned in any of them. It is true that some of the speakers are dancers but if you are working in the field of dance therapy, where is the dance? It seems to me that a person is a dance therapist if he is or was a dancer at sometime. I chose the title 'Origins of Dance' for this reason, although it does seem rather presumptuous to think that one can actually reveal the origins of dance. I hope that what I have to say will be of some use and that it will be possible to indicate some of the important elements which distinguish movement from dance. Much of what I have to say is probably self-understood but it is good every once in a while to be reminded of these things. Dance, of course, is movement; but movement is not necessarily dance. There is a special quality of tension that appears when dealing with dance; just as there is a different quality when taking part in a basketball or soccer game, when taking a walk, cleaning house, digging in the garden, combing one’s’ hair or any other everyday action. (For instance rubbing the forehead, signaling a player, pointing out a direction, expressing a feeling.) These ordinary gestures and actions can become dance if a transformation takes place within the person; a transformation which takes him out of the ordinary world and places him in a world of heightened sensitivity. Then these gestures and forms become symbols of an idea or feeling arising from the everyday action. (Boas demonstrates with variations of the previously described gestures, i.e. rubbing forehead, pointing and giving direction by changing to staccato pointing and vibratory beating of hand movement which carries over into the body). Dance gesture has a tendency to continue to develop in a sustained manner along a quality or tension line and to involve the entire body. Ordinary movements have a practical purpose or are small, subconscious, uncontrolled actions of which one is seldom aware unless they are called to our attention.

      They lead nowhere and are mainly energy discharge. Some may have subcon¬scious meaning in relation to thoughts and feelings or speech.

      But dance happens for its own sake. The movements become symbols of tensions, feelings and inner thoughts. To dance one must sense changes in weight, velocity, tensions and volume. One must be able to feel large, and small space, dense and open space. One must be willing to allow the 'laws of motion' to control the body and carry it where they will. One must trust oneself to action and reaction, momentum and the dynamics which occur because one permits one's body to experience the sensations and emotions which happen as a result of allowing the pull of gravity and the power of momentum to become moving forces.

      This requires the courage to 'lose oneself in the happenings which are going on within the body and mind. Mary Wigman has said "One cannot dance without having encountered the spirit." She also has said, "Without ecstasy; no dance—Without form; no dance." [1] Curt Sachs in his World History of the Dance has said, "Man can transform himself, work magic by becoming «dehumanized», " and "Every dance is and gives ecstasy." [2] This sensation of ecstasy, transformation from every day feeling, is the source of dance as contrasted with movement. (I do not agree with Sachs when he says man becomes «dehumanized» in order to work magic. Man becomes super-sensitive to himself and his surroundings, to all sorts of minute actions and reactions that are going on within him and around him in space and time and in other persons. Since man is a human being how can he become «dehumanized» unless he is dead and decomposed? Everything that man does must be a part of human behavior.)

      I suppose that by «dehumanized» is meant the state of trance because it is not experienced by everyone but only by certain types of persons and because each person in trance moves in ways prescribed by the 'spirit' that controls him. When Mary Wigman speaks of 'encountering the spirit' she may mean entering into what Beryl De Zoete calls "trance consciousness" [3], a condition that he feels is present in all great dancers and actors as well as all other artists. This is the supersensitivity to oneself and one's surroundings which I have already mentioned. It is the process of transformation.

      In dance the body is suspended in space. No motion or gesture can be made without a consciousness of space. Laban [4] spoke of the 'sphere' which surrounds each person. This sphere is carried with him wherever he goes. It extends to the limits of his reach in all directions from a center point. Through this point pass all space directions and planes. When these are felt in the body then there is a feeling of balance and suspension. Sybil Shearer speaks of 'stillness' and that "there is a very close connection between stillness and activity, because often the moments of greatest activity are moments of stillness" [5] Mary Wigman and Hanya Holm speak about 'active' and 'passive' movement. Active movement is consciously self-directed, while passivity allows movement to happen. Anyone who has experienced passive movement will know that there is a heightened consciousness of tensions, space relations, emotions which is arrived at through a period of stillness.

      Passivity can lead to extreme activity, precisely because of this sensitivity to all stimuli both internal and external. In Walter Sorell's book Hanya Holm [6] he quotes Hanya as saying, "The inner man is a fine little point where your being comes together. If you externalize it; it would not be bigger than the head of a pin — this inner man is like the center of a hurricane. The secret of a hurricane is its eye. The eye is calm. If you destroy the eye you destroy the hurricane. If you can't be as calm as the eye of a hurricane which holds all the answers to the devastating storm of the outside, you can't hold yourself up in the world of dilemma and battle. There is no force that does not come from an utter calm. Sensitivity, the power to absorb and register, is the calm of the eye which starts that outer passion and tremor".

      Some of you may feel that I am speaking of the professional dancer. I am speaking of the Art of Dance, the material which the American Dance Therapy Association uses in its work. Anyone who dances and those who work with dance must live through the various sensations and qualities which I am attempting to describe. It is important to keep in mind constantly that it is dance which is our tool. Everyone can dance, if he is not forced into preconceived ideas of what dance is. To teach patterns, steps and rhythms is like teaching painting 'by numbers'.

      Each person has a basic rhythm of this own. This is not necessarily the same as musical rhythm. Many persons must first discover their own rhythms before they can approach musical rhythm. There is dance rhythm which is not musical rhythm. An extreme example is the spastic person. He can be¬come aware of the various rhythms that are going on in his body. He should be encouraged to use them to produce dance movement. A gradual control of rhythms and patterns can be encouraged. This can lead to freer flow and greater faith in one's ownself and one's ideas. The movement itself may not become coordinated in the usual sense but a rhythmic coordination can be accomplished which gives pleasure to the dancer and observer.

      A spastic child, 10 years old, would not read or even listen to others reading, nor take part in any class work. By watching her move I could play her body rhythms on drums. Then she began to dance. The report from her teacher at school was that she was now taking part in all of the class work. This happened after only two dance sessions.

      Persons who need dance therapy are ones who have something special to say with their body movement and inner tensions. There is not necessarily an awareness of the content in the verbal sense but a feeling for sequence, flow and tension changes. A gradual development of rhythm and form be¬comes apparent. To quote Hanya Holm again, "That which causes the be¬havior determines the form" [7]. We must help these persons to express this material by making them aware of the tools of the dance, not only the physical body and its potential for movement, but also its suspension in space, its rhythms, its feelings and the forms which come out of these feelings. We must allow the persons to lose themselves in kinesthetic responses to their inner life and help them to face the content of their thoughts.

      There is a kind of 'hell' through which the dancer must travel before he can master his material. This 'hell' is often very close to some conditions which one finds in patients who are to be helped by dance therapy. If you have read Mary Wigman's Language of Dance [8] you will have found there descriptions of experiences which ultimately led her to her dance compositions. Some of these give an insight into images, feelings, tensions that can be experienced by anyone who dances. I have gone through this hell myself when undergoing psycho-analysis at the same time as I was studying dance. The ways in which gestures and motions are presented by the dancer gives cues as to the thoughts and feelings of the person involved. Susanne Langer more than any non-dancer that I know of seems to come closer to expressing the essense of dance in her books, Feeling and Form [9], and Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling [10] Of particular importance is her title Mind: an Essay on Human Feeling for it is not possible to isolate mental activity, emotional feeling and kinesthetic action in dance. In Kinesics and Context: Essays on Body Motion and Communication [11] Ray Birdwhistell carries this fact in a more detailed form into linguistics and verbal communication with its accompanying action.

      I am not in a position to know whether as dancers it is the time to go into the detail of kinesics. It may be valuable for those who have sufficient background, to apply those methods of study to the dance in order to determine some of its illusive properties. I believe that knowledge and a study of kinesics as well as dance notation and Effort/shape could be of help to physicians (medical and psychiatric) who are treating the cases. The dance therapists must teach dance. Eventually there will be dance therapists who will be and perhaps already are literate in the many symbols of dance notation, kinesics and Effort/shape; presumably they will be able to write and read the meaning of dance actions as they see them. At present most of us through experiencing dance ourselves and by observing dance movement of others, intuitively sense feeling and tension in those persons with whom we are working. The precise meaning can only be determined with the addition of verbal communication. Even that may not be accurate if the person wishes to prevaricate, or if he cannot find the right words. Perhaps this is where kinesics would help?

      One very important section of dance is group dance. Let us go back to Laban's sphere which each person carries with him. This concept can carry over into group dance giving each individual a steadying, protective encasement which may isolate him so that he cannot be influenced by others. Or two or three persons may come close enough so that their spheres touch. Even though there may be no physical contact, there is expansion of the space. Perhaps one individual retreats into the center of his space. His sphere shrinks, the other reaches out and his space expands. One person may move away and lose contact or all three may continue together gradually discovering more persons. A group consciousness will develop during which the different personalities and their problems will cause action and reaction, both physical and emotional. This will carry over into the use of space, and time.

      Forms, rhythmic patterns and tensions arising from such situations can pro¬duce dances which tell us a great deal about the dancers. Our work then is to bring about a successful solution in dance to these problems even if they cause distress to the dancer or onlooker. There will be satisfaction for the individual and the group in the completion of the action which had to take place. Afterwards there can be discussion of what happened. As dance therapists one must always be aware of one's own reactions to the happenings and be careful to avoid stopping some development because of fear or discomfort with the content.

      Dance has long been used as a safety value, and as a cohesive force. We know of its use in countries where our Western Civilization has not yet destroyed the native way of life. Even in our western culture we have seen the dance emerge as a driving force. The Dance Manias in the Middle Ages, The Dance Marathons of the 1930's and the present day Rock Festivals, are cases in point. [12] The potential power of group dance is also illustrated by the experience of Laban as a result of his motion choir movement. In Vienna he gave a production called the Parade of Industries, with 10,000 persons. To do this he sent the parts written out in dance script to the other groups. After they had learned their parts he put them all together for the final performance. Later, in 1936, he demonstrated similiar ability to handle large groups at the Olympic Games. As a result Hitler had him put under house arrest from which he luckily escaped to Paris. This indepent mass movement had a power which was felt as a threat by the Nazis.[13]

      Recently here in the United States dance has begun to become a com¬munity action tool. In California two groups of dancers, one black, one white, came together after the Watts riots. Their aim was to break through some of the barriers that keep Americans separate. There is a film of this work available [14]. Groups of dancers have appeared in parks and on beaches. Someone described this by saying that one just walks along and suddenly finds oneself in the midst of a dance action. This feeling of dance in the streets has taken hold in some of the ghetto areas in New York (and possibly in other cities). The themes of the realities of ghetto living and protest themes are enacted. There is a desire for cohesive action and a need for beauty, pleasure and release of tensions. There also is a desire to 'tell the world' a most commendable reason for dancing!

      In this last section I may be misinterpreting what is actually being done in Dance Therapy — or even what the aims are — but I want to say these things and let you pull them apart. For dance to be useful in therapy, is it necessary to follow a preconceived plan? That this person has such and such a problem, therefore he should do such and such exercises and these are the themes that will be best lor him? I do not believe that we know enough at this time either about dance nor about people to work in this way. Why must we start with circles? Why not straight lines or compact groups or in isolation? And must everyone, to be normal, be willing to submerge himself in a group action? We know from other cultures and from our own folk dance that there are many different group formations and actions — serpentine paths — opposing lines — one leader, many followers — inter-twing lines — double circles — triple circles — partners, trios, quartets - straights and curves - verticals and horizontals - circles and spirals mixed with serpentines - yes, endless possibilities - different sizes of groups working together or in opposition — one could go on for a long time.

      Is it bad for a person to go into trance? I remember one class of children eight or nine years old. They were quite unruly until some of them started to turn around each his own axis. Gradually the entire group was turning and falling getting up and starting over again until they began shouting 'I am crazy! I am crazy'! Finally they all fell in a heap on the floor. This to me was a very fruitful dance session.

      To the class-room teacher it was a threat. She was furious with me for allowing the children to have this ecstatic experience. She was afraid that she would not be able to control them when they were faced with the regular class. I believe that a modified form of trance is to be encouraged with a period of rest and discussion following. Call it self-hypnosis if you will. The material exposed will be highly revealing of the fantasies and problems of the dancers and of society.

      I make no separation between dance as an art and dance as therapy. Every art has a therapeutic effect both on the artist and on the observer. It depends entirely on how you look at it; why you are dancing or painting or writing etc.; why you are asking someone to take part in the activity. These things will determine whether the activity is for therapeutic purposes or not. Dance can be both therapy and art.

      Pearl Primus in an article in Dance Magazine 14said, "Dance is my medicine. It's the scream which eases for a while the terrible frustration common to all human beings who, because of race, creed or color, are 'invisible' .... Dance is the fist with which I fight the sickening ignorance of prejudice."

      The therapy that we need is humanity. Dance is one of the tools to bring us back to life. Life is involvement with all facets of existence. Starting with your cultural background we must learn the real life of those who live in other environments and have other experiences. Problems in dance therapy are entangled in problems of the community in which the person lives. It would seem that this is an opportune time in history to explore group and mass dance.



      [1]. Wigman, Mary, Komposition, Wigman Schule, Dresden, no date

      [2]. Sachs, Curt, World History of Dance, trans. Bessie Schoenberg Seven Arts, New York, 1952

      [3]. De Zoete, Beryl & Walter Spies, Dance and Drama in Bali, Faber & Faber Ltd., London, 1938

      [4]. Laban, Rudolf, Gymnastic und Tanz, Gerhard StallingVerlag, Oldenburg, 1926

      [5]. Shearer. Sybil, Creative Dance, Sybil Shearer, 1943

      [6]. Sorell, Walter, Hanya Holm, The Biography of a Dancer, Wesleyan Univer¬sity Press, Middletown, Conn., 1969

      [7]. Ibid pg. 184

      [8]. Wigman, Mary, Die Sprache des Tanzes, Ernst Battenberg Verlag, Stuttgart, 1963 (also available in English translation from Wesleyan Univ. Press)

      [9]. Langer, Susanne K., Feeling and Form, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1953, Chapters 11 & 12

      [10]. Mind: An essay on Human Feeling, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1967

      [11]. Birdwhistell, Ray, Kinesics and Context; Essays on Body Motion and Communication, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1970

      [12]. Hall, Fernau, World Dance, A.A. Wyn Inc. New York, no date

      [13]. ADGA Newsletter, June 1969 pg. 14

      [14]. Dance Magazine, Volume 42 # 11 1968, pg. 58 (see also pgs. 45-60)


      Статья взята из сборника: ADTA. A Collection of Early Writings: Toward a Body OF Knowledge,1989)