Dancing and Therapy in the Sun
Updated: Jan 19
In my mind there is a fundamental similarity between dancing and therapy. In Greek mythology Apollo, who’s perhaps most well-known for being the god of the Sun, is also the god of music and medicine and is described as the dancing god. So the Greeks had a sense that the power behind healing is somehow the same as the spirit of dancing and music. I was a dancer for many years, immersed in partner dance, contemporary styles and contact improvisation. Now that I begin to offer sliding scale therapy sessions for dancers, I thought it a good time to flesh out this solar archetype.
The Greeks believed that the essential similarity between dancing and healing is that they’re both expressions of the principle of the Sun. An ever-flowing, perpetually growing energy, which doesn’t for a single instant stop expressing itself, the Sun presents as eternally new, yet of a constantly recognizable quality, much like the river which you can’t step into twice. The Sun can heal or help grow, it inspires all living things with energy and movement, and the will and power to move forward and transform.
My experience with dancing aligns with this archetype of the Sun. The dancer doesn’t dance; the dancer is danced by the dance, by the Sun, by the creative inspiration to represent more than the individual body or the choreography, and to communicate the essential flow of creativity itself. The mind or the will, the capacity which decides or allows the movements to happen, is like a prism which breaks the undiluted light of creativity into the many colours of movements and motifs. Dancing is painting the colours of movements on the canvas of space with the brush of the body. The dancer is an open window to the Sun, the source which becomes substance, the wave which becomes particle in front of our eyes.
“Dance, dance otherwise we are lost” Pina Bausch
Therapy has been likened to dancing in more than one way. One ongoing metaphor is that the therapeutic interaction is like partner dancing. Somebody - the client - is leading, while the other needs to follow along. If the dynamic becomes harmonious the healing that can result can be seen as artful since it is skillful, transformative, and unpredictable. This metaphor to me is only partially sufficient, as leading and following in therapy is only part of what can take place between two people. Nor does it explain why therapy, dancing, and the Sun might be manifestations of the same archetypal principle.
In my mind there is something more radical (‘radix’: from the root) taking place in therapy. Nobody is leading, both parties are attuned to a deeper motivation. The motivation arises from the client, or from the moment, but both client and therapist acquiesce to this sense of being moved. They attend to it and let themselves be moved and transformed by it. The therapist’s responsibility is to initiate and uphold a safe and inviting atmosphere, where healing may take place in the context of the ever-increasing shared felt sense, which rises like groundwater and floats our solitary preoccupations to the surface to be processed and digested.
As the Sun grows and shines in all directions to reach our Earth, as the creative genius inspires the dancer, so therapist and client become vessels for the wisdom of the growing connection. It grows, it moves, and it guides. In this perspective therapy is more like contact improvisation, where both parties are following a deeper drive which organically and spontaneously takes us to where we go, flowing from a source which never runs out; at least as long as we have the Sun shining down on us.
'The great Tao flows everywhere, both to the left and to the right. It loves and nourishes all things, but does not lord it over them, and when merits are accomplished, it lays no claim to them.' Tao Te Ching
Click here to find it more about sliding scale therapy for dancers.