by Kris Larsen
I was asked to reflect upon the question: Why Dance/Movement Therapy?
I was a pre-dent student at the University of Illinois when I took my first ballet class as a PE credit. I fell madly in love with dance as it brought me back to dancing as a young boy. I was raised in a working class family and being a dancer or an artist was just not going to pay the bills. So there I was in science classes that certainly inspired my left brain but did little for my right. Ballet did the trick. I decided my junior year of college that I was no longer interested in being a dentist and finished out my biology degree leaving college with an ambiguous path.
Several months out of college I found a year long program in EKG certification and took a volunteer position at a neighborhood art and dance studio where I was offered free dance classes. While in an improvisation class I met a woman who had just graduated from Antioch's dance therapy program who looked at me during an improv and said, "you should be a dance therapist." I replied, "huh?" and when she shared with me what dance therapy was I tingled inside. It sounded exactly what I always wanted; an artistic way to work with people grounded in the science of psychology. She shared that there was a mid-west conference coming up in Chicago that I ought to go and I did. And I fell completely in love!
I left the conference that first day and started my research into programs that offered degrees. I called UCLA, Hunter, Goucher and NYU for admission forms. It was about one month later as I was filling out my application to NYU that my roommate at the time was reading Chop Wood Carry Water and called to me from the other room that there was a program in Boulder Colorado for dance therapy. I said years before that one day I was going to live in Colorado and here was my invitation. The Naropa Institute was, and still is, a Buddhist Institute that supported contemplative education. As a graduate of a large city college, I was totally ready to be education in a small environment among the mountains. My life was finally finding its course. I ripped up all of the other applications and threw all of my eggs into one basket and trusted the process.
Three years later and after an internship in D.C, I came back home to Chicago and found a job in a free-standing psychiatric hospital where I worked with almost every diagnosis. Inviting patients into exploring their own creative process as I had years before brought me so much joy. Witnessing someone healing from years of trauma through the exploration of the body and the body in movement often brought me to tears. I gradually moved from dance therapist to primary therapist to coordinator of two out-patient programs all while maintaining the integrity of dance therapy and my belief in the power of creativity in psychology.
The past 24 years I have been teaching at Columbia College Chicago fulfilling my other passion; teaching. I have also a private practice where I utilize dance therapy as well as somatic techniques.
Dance Therapy saved my life. It shined a light on my ambiguous path and reflected back to me the hidden passions that lived but were shadowed inside my self.
So, why Dance/Movement Therapy? I can't really say I chose it because I feel that it chose me.