University Theses On Dance Movement Therapy Research Studies

Dance For Children With Dual Sensory Impairments

Phd thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 1992
Author / Researcher:  Karen Bond

This thesis reports on an observational study which evaluates the influence of group dance on social and task engagement. Dance is examined as a therapeutic mode of learning for six nonverbal children with dual sensory impairments. The research strategy combined elements of traditional empirical design with participant observation and progressive theorizing. Within this design, an intensive dance program was compared with another innovative treatment based on play. Repeated video recordings were taken of children and then time-sampled by independent observers to assess the relative influence of Dance and Play on selected criteria of behavioural engagement. To enhance the validity of the observations, relevant instrumentation was designed. Numerical analysis constitutes one aspect of this inquiry which draws also on audio-taped field observations, anecdotal records, school reports, and interviews. Qualitative procedures were adopted to illuminate patterns of engagement uncovered through quantitative measurement.

Results of the research show clearly that dance was an effective mode of expression, communication and learning for the six children within their residential educational setting. A key finding is that personal style was an important mediator of child engagement in dance. This finding provided a framework for three case profiles that highlight differences and similarities in personal style. In addition, qualitative analysis of field records suggested that personal style was a reflection of aesthetic perception. In conclusion, a high level of social and task engagement in dance appeared to be associated with an accommodation of personal style. Simultaneous consideration of group and individual findings in relation to dance content and methods illuminated a group process, referred to as ‘aesthetic community’. A feature of aesthetic community was the emergence of a collective style of movement that encompassed child and adult participants. Finally, a synthesis of research data, theory and the researcher’s own interpretations culminates in Right Dance, a prototype of group dance for nonverbal children with dual sensory impairments.

I Just Went To Buy A Falafel Sandwich: The Middle Eastern Dance Experience Of Six Australians

M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted: 2001
Author / Researcher:  Sally Denning

This research uses qualitative research methods to illuminate the Middle Eastern dance experience of six Australians. Each dancer is interviewed about their experience of the dance and five of the six dancers have their dance movements observed from videotaped performances.

The interview gathers information about the dancer’s perception of their dance experience including:

  • The attraction of the dance;
  • The perceived effect of the dance form on the physical body;
  • Emotional changes experienced when dancing or after dancing;
  • The dance movements found most enjoyable;
  • The dancer’s experience of the dance.

Movement observations from videotaped recordings further assist to explore the dancer’s experience of Middle Eastern style. Laban Movement Analysis is used by the researcher to record and analyse the dancer’s movements.

Findings indicate that many of the dancers were initially attracted to learn Middle Eastern dance in their early twenties. Their involvement was often through a chance meeting or seeing someone else perform the dance form and not because of a life-long interest in the dance form. The research outlines the dancers’ discoveries about themselves and the workings of their own bodies as a result of undertaking Middle Eastern dance and compares this to relevant research in the area of dance and movement.

All the dancers in the study identified that Middle Eastern dance impacted upon both their physique and their awareness and understanding of their body and body parts. Further they indicated that a strong reason for continuing with the dance was the positive social interaction they had with other dancers. Drawing upon the dancers’ experience of Middle Eastern dance and the research regarding dance movement therapy, this research links the use of Middle Eastern dance with movement therapy and identifies it as an appropriate vehicle for improved body part awareness, mobility, social interaction and increased confidence.

Two forms of Middle Eastern dance style are studied: Belly dance and Raks Sharqi dance. Movement observations identify the specific application of the Middle Eastern movements and through the medium of Laban Movement Analysis, the specific dance experience of individual dancers is analysed. Although many of the dancers learnt the dance from the same teacher, it is clear that application of the movements is very much an individual process with subtle differences observed in each dancers approach contributing to the dancers’ unique style. Further, the findings from the movement observation process support the use of Laban Movement Analysis as a tool for this type of research, which frequently needs to move from subjective, aesthetically based impressions to precise observation, supported by a consistent vocabulary.

This study identifies opportunities for further research including a more in depth analysis between Raks Sharqi and Belly dance from a movement perspective, a long-term study to track and identify the changes and learnings of the dancers over time, research into the effect of Middle Eastern dance on the dancer when undertaken within a therapeutic context and the place of dance in relation to the community.

Thesis details and abstract available at:

Evaluation Of A Movement And Dance Therapy Program In Head Injury Rehabilitation

M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted:  1996
Author / Researcher: Jane Guthrie

This thesis reports on the application of Movement and Dance therapy (MDT) in head injury rehabilitation. The research adopted a mixed method approach to examine whether a cause and effect relationship could be established between MDT and movement quality and control. Sub categories of questions posed related to whether MDT could increase movement range; adaptability to the environment; postural awareness and alignment, and movement confidence.

The research design and details were decided by the clinical circumstances. The study, largely empirical, also involved movement observation and subject report via documentation and interview. The major procedure was an ABA single case design. A balance of quantitative and qualitative procedures were employed including videotape time sampling of movement behaviour over nine weeks in the case design; comparisons of the subject within MDT over time; the subject’s own perceptions of change; and a time and task analysis of selected outcomes.

The research results indicated that MDT contributed to changes that occurred. The graphic displays of ABA case results demonstrated a majority of plateau or near plateau baseline situations and definite responses to treatment. This outcome was supported by the results of the additional procedures.

Although the sample size prevents generalisation of the results to the head injury population, the researcher suggests that a cause and effect relationship between MDT and the research outcomes was established. The research endeavoured to build a bridge between physiotherapy and MDT, advocating the use of the movement assessment tool, Laban Movement Analysis (LMA), in physiotherapy and MDT in rehabilitation.

One Man’s Experience Of Accessing Feeling And Emotion Through Movement, Image And Dialogue

M.A. Thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 2000
Author / Researcher: Jennifer Helmich

This research will describe one man’s experience of accessing feeling and emotion through movement, image and dialogue. Feeling and emotion arise out of our day to day experiencing and informs us of what is important, that we feel threatened or at ease, happy or sad (Heidegger) 1962).  In this research the participant becomes aware of the intentionality of his body, his ‘lived body’ (Merleau-Ponty 1962). He accesses formerly unacknowledged anger and expresses his anger to the person concerned.

The phenomenological method and existential themes of the body in time and space are used to identify the participant’s process of accessing anger. This finds that he differentiates his movement from his environment and transforms restrictive body boundaries, creating more space to express himself. The concept of body boundaries is unclear (Fisher 1986p.330).   In discussion I constrict my understanding of the term “body boundaries” through the explication and interpretation of the experiences that enable the participant to transform restrictive body boundaries. The research suggests that embodiment of our dance movement experience leads to a clearer definition of ‘ self from other ‘, which supports our capacity to form mature emotional connections with others in the world.

Thesis available in hard copy at the La Trobe University Library, Bundoora, Vic.

An Attempt To Describe And Understand Moments Of Experiential Meaning Within The Dance Therapy Process For A Person With Dementia

M.Ed. thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 1995
Author / Researcher: Heather Hill

This thesis reports an attempt to describe and understand moments of experiential meaning within the dance therapy process for a patient with dementia. It also documents an attempt to develop a methodology which could adequately grasp the complexities of such an experience. A phenomenological approach with its emphasis on allowing the phenomenon to reveal itself through multiple perspectives seemed the most appropriate for this study. However, while phenomenology influenced the format of the dance therapy sessions as well as the constitution and analysis of the data, ultimately a hermeneutic analysis was employed for further explication of the material. The study consisted of four individual dance therapy sessions with an 85 year old patient with moderate dementia.

The researcher/therapist worked improvisationally and a music therapist provided improvised music. After the sessions, all of which were videotaped, the patient was videotaped viewing the dance session video, in order to obtain her verbal or non-verbal responses to the material. It was decided to focus on the “significant moments”, selected intuitively as moments which seemed high points of the session. A naive description was made, on which an adaptation of Giorgi’s four-phase method of analysis was applied. Certain foci, such as energy flow, were identified and individually described. In time, it became clear that the written descriptions alone were insufficient and that reflection would need to cover all the material from multiple sources and perspectives. This was done, and the data were later further explicated by reference to writings on dance therapy, dance aesthetics and the philosophical concept of the embodied self, and Sacks’s neurological writings on the awakened self.

The conclusions of the research were that the patient was not only transformed within the dance session and able to re-create aspects of her old self, but also underwent, through the experience as a whole (the dance and the reflection upon it, facilitated by the video viewing), a change in awareness, through which she reintegrated the past with the present and, in her words, came “out of the cupboard…into the brightness”

Full text available online at: or in hard copy at La Trobe University Library, Bundoora, Vic

The Experience In Dance Movement Of Three Individual Women With Turner Syndrome: A Phenomenological Inquiry

M.A. thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 1998
Author / Researcher: Elizabeth Loughlin

The thesis aims to establish more understanding of living with Turner syndrome to use in my clinical counselling with girls and women with this endocrinology condition. An examination of the literature finds that it offers a deficit picture, with gaps in experiential knowledge about the meaning of the daily lives of those with the syndrome. The inquiry seeks to go beyond the clinical context to tap the personal knowing of three individual women with Turner syndrome, through an arts phenomenological approach that offers summary verbal descriptions of an experiential event. The inquiry offers a cycle of dance movement experiences to access a pre-reflective experience of the existential self. Phenomenological procedures translate the dance movement experiences into verbal text, and also analyse the data of the verbal text following the approaches of Giorgi and Moustakas, with additional procedures from experiential inquiry to find the meanings in the experience. Results are expressed as synthesised descriptions of the experience in dance movement for each woman. They point to the centrality of the body in the experience of dance movement and also in the experience of daily living. The results indicate that the emotional response to the initial diagnosis and its subsequent medical management is a continuing theme in two of the three women in the inquiry. Selected literature about body image and the chronically ill body in the health setting is examined in order to reflect on and discuss the results. The inquiry concludes that a body image approach may contribute to a clearer understanding of the impact of the syndrome, and offer a useful focus for my counselling role and for other health professionals at large.

Thesis available in hard copy at the La Trobe University Library, Bundoora, Vic

Aboriginal Dances At Cannon Hill: Reflections of A Swiss Australian Dance Educator

M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted: 1995
Author / Researcher: Beatrice Lucas

This project is a case study of a series of Aboriginal dances, called “Yanatjanat”, performed at Cannon Hill in Kakadu National Park, captured on video.  The dances are about fragile Mimi spirits, who are considered ancestors of the Gagudju people, and were performed by relatives of traditional owner Bill Neidjie at a family gathering “during the dry season” (July/August) in 1993.

Its methodology draws on elements of phenomenology, case study, and dance ethnography.  Through close observation and personal reflection, the dances at Cannon Hill provided a source for understanding the significance of Aboriginal dance for the author as an individual and as an Australian dance educator and therapist.

Thesis available to read at University of Melbourne library.
See also Beatrice’s chapter in Dance Therapy Collections 2: “The Dance from the Depths and the Dance from the Plains: Comparisons and reflections on dance therapy and aboriginal dance”.

An Inquiry Into The Lived Experience Of Women In A Group Dance Therapy Program

M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted: 2000
Author / Researcher: Sue Mullane

This research illuminates the lived experience of five women survivors of sexual assault within a group dance therapy program. The setting of the study is an adult therapy program offered to women survivors at the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault, East Bentleigh, Victoria. Five women, aged in their twenties and all survivors of childhood sexual assault, agreed to participate in the inquiry. Following a phenomenological-hermeneutic methodology, the study seeks to elucidate meanings attributed by the women to their experiences.

The inquiry draws on multi-modal sources of verbal and nonverbal evidence, including audio recordings of session conversations; client journals; one-page summaries written by the women at the conclusion of each session; video recordings; and specific movement observations. In keeping with a phenomenological perspective, analysis incorporates systematic step by step reduction, integration and synthesis of data, all the time remaining true to the women’s wording of their experiences.

Findings of the study are presented, firstly as a grand narrative that recreates the program, then as a thematic summary of the women’s experiences. Thematic categories of description include body awareness; memories and associations; transformation; freedom; and group relationship. These findings are discussed in relation to existing literature on sexual assault. Implications for practitioners working with survivors of sexual assault are noted along with recommendations for further research. The thesis closes with the researcher-practitioner’s intersubjective poetic depictions of the five women as a lasting reminder of their experiences.

Thesis in hard copy held at University of Melbourne library (not for loan)