In Search of a Dance Story
何天虹Rainbow Ho; 攝Photo: Thalia Wong
Professor Rainbow Ho is a dance therapist. We talked with her in the Center on Behavioral Health at the University of Hong Kong. Hanging on the wall along the way were chalk and oil paintings teeming with innocent and candid strokes. Prof. Ho said these paintings were her clients works. One of them comes with a caption, “My world is colorful, but a black claw keeps coming after me.” Every painting represents an experience and reflection. The Center also features a few spacious dance studios, activity rooms, and classrooms for pottery creation and drawing, making it similar to a small art school.
The windowsill in the dance studio is decorated with many quirkily-shaped plants, one of which has a twisted trunk with the leaves growing downward. The plant seems to be dancing, I told Prof. Ho, amused. She brightened and said if we see things from an appreciative perspective, a lot of objects are dances.
舞蹈室裡的植物 Plants in the dance studios; 攝Photo: Thalia Wong
至於治療師是如何從求助者的舞蹈中發現蛛絲馬跡，並再加以診斷和治療？「每一個動作都有意思」，動作觀察和分析是每個舞蹈治療師的必要技能。專業舞蹈中也經常用的拉班動作分析系統（Laban Movement Analysis），其實都能應用於舞蹈治療，例如拉班系統中的身體（Body）、勁力（Effort） 、形體（Shape）和空間（Space）的概念。另外，凱氏動作剖析系統（Kestenberg Movement Profile）亦常用於兒童個案分析。治療師透過觀察求助者的動作韻律，加上傾談和其他觀察做整全的分析，以了解求助者的整體狀況。
Movement: A Therapists’ Stethoscope
Before Prof. Ho became a dance therapist, she made an extensive study of in biology, anatomy, and immunology. In dance therapy, ‘dance’ has a broad definition. “To dance therapists, every body movement is a kind of dance. Whenever I see client's movement, it’s dance, even if it’s just a breath or an expression from his eyes,” she said.
Dance therapists help their clients overcome psychological stumbling blocks with body movement. During therapy, the therapist is able to come to understand the client’s situation via conversations and dance serves as a unique diagnostic medium. Trauma concerning body memories and experiences are hard to put into words so, dance therapy for these cases is a more straightforward solution. Prof. Ho said that dance during therapy “exudes spirituality” and an aesthetics of fusion between body and mind.
How do dance therapists examine their clients’ dancing for analysis and diagnosis?
“Every movement means something,” she said.
Observing and analyzing movement are the necessary skills for dance therapists. The concepts of body, effort, shape, and space in Laban Movement Analysis, commonly-used in professional dance, can also be applied in dance therapy, while Kestenberg Movement Profile is appropriate for children. Through observing clients’ movements, conversations, and other means, therapists are able to complete the analysis and diagnosis for their clients.
在舞蹈治療的工作坊中的何天虹教授。Prof. Ho in a dance therapy workshop;
圖片由受訪者提供Photo provided by interviewee
Dance as Treatment
What’s the next step after analyzing the client’s case? According to dance therapy theories, Prof. Ho says that emotions and thoughts can change a person’s body movement, and vice versa.
“If a client moves hastily and does not slow down for a moment, I will suppose this as a sign of overworking that wraps him or her in an anxiety bubble, making his/her body and mind hard to rest. In this case, I might try to move with the client at a slower speed, so he or she will gradually realize that they have a choice to slow down their bodies and rhythm of life.
“Another example is a depressed client; his body movement may seem heavy. Therapists try to dance with him, guide him to experience ‘light’ body movement and a relaxing state of his body and mind. We even ‘rehearse’ daily movement with the client and tell them how to apply the bodily experience they get in the therapy in their daily lives.”
Movement Habits of Hong Kong People
The body is the medium of an individual’s life habits, culture, experience, emotions, and mentality. What do the movement features of Hong Kong people look like to dance therapists? Prof. Ho said she noticed that Hong Kong people show adaptive movement in crossing hectic streets, especially twisting their shoulders and upper bodies in all directions. For example, at a crossroad in Mong Kok, when pedestrians cross the road, they dash through the crowd, going left and right so to avoid crashing with each other while reaching their destination quickly. She discussed movement features in different cultures with a Japanese colleague and the latter said she did not see the adaptive movement Prof. Ho described in the busy areas in Japan; people crashing with each other is not rare.
Therapy aside, Prof. Ho has completed a Professional Diploma in ballet at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and has represented Hong Kong in international contests. With a passion for dancing, she frequently participates in dance-related activities. She said performance on stage offers an artistic experience, while dance therapy enables her to go through people’s frustrations and hard times with them. Despite that, dance therapy and performance on stage are both expressed through body movement, and both provide inherent aesthetic experiences.