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Stroke Smart Magazine

May/June 2008

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Dance Therapy: Heal the Mind, Body and Soul

By Lindsey Larson

Did Stroke survivors are discovering a new therapy outlet: dance. Dance therapy can be used to help treat physical, cognitive and emotional limitations.

On a physical level, dance therapy can provide the many benefits of traditional exercise:  improved health, coordination, movement and muscle tone. Dance therapy also can enhance thinking skills, motivation and memory. On an emotional level, dance therapy helps people feel more joyful and confident. It also provides a safe tool for exploring anger, frustration
and depression emotions that are often tough to communicate verbally. For many survivors who can’t communicate at all after stroke, dance can help them “dance” what they cannot say.

These are just some of the reasons that the Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater Company  teamed up with the Stroke Center at North Memorial Hospital in Minnesota to create a dance workshop for stroke survivors and their caregivers. Called Meaning in Movement, the program included movement and dance therapy.

Participants say the classes helped them loosen tight joints, improved their overall movement, and generally lifted spirits in a way other forms of traditional therapy could not.

Meaning in Movement isn’t the only dance therapy program designed for stroke survivors. There are more than 1,200 dance therapists in the country, according to the American Dance Therapy Association, and many are starting to target stroke survivors. The 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center in New York City, for example, offers a “Dance Therapy and Exercise for People with Movement Disorders” class for stroke survivors and other patients.  A wide variety of music is used to provide rhythmic support and energy. For more  information on this class, visit http://www.92y.org/.

Dance therapy can be in a group setting or on an individual basis, and dances can be done sitting in a chair or standing.

Throughout history, people have used dance to express emotion, tell stories, treat illnesses, celebrate life and create social bonds. And now dance is being used in a therapeutic setting to help people just like you.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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