Second Annual Symposium Celebrates Dance at Lombardi

February 25, 2010

Members of the Washington dance community gathered for the second annual Dance in Healthcare Symposium on December 4, hosted by the Lombardi Arts & Humanities Program. The symposium featured dance in healthcare as practiced at Lombardi, along with interactive dance opportunities and a discussion of the role of dance in Washington, DC health care settings. Guests included representatives from Liz Lerman’s Dance exchange, the US Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s National Medical Center and Arts for the Aging.

The event began with a lively performance in the Atrium by members of the Georgetown University Dance Company (GUDC), a student performing group whose members are trained to participate in Lombardi Moves, the dance program for patients, families and staff. Daniel Burkholder, choreographer and Lombardi dancer in residence, led a seated stretch session for all attendees as a warm up prior to the opening of the meeting, demonstrating one of the activities he offers each Thursday.

Nancy Morgan, MA-TLA, director of Arts & Humanities at Lombardi, presented an overview of the dance program at Lombardi and discussed advocacy for dance in healthcare.

“Dance has played an integral role in healing since ancient times. Early civilizations linked dance and medicine, incorporating dance into healing rituals,” says Morgan. “The expressive therapies were edged out of medicine over time as science and technology advanced. Now, the belief is that dance and medicine go hand in hand to assure treatment of the whole person.”

Sarah Clark-Hamel, the GUDC liaison, and Sierra Marriett Jansen, a student dancer, described their experiences assisting Lombardi patients and family members with stretch/movement techniques and distributing the Lombardi Moves curriculum.

“Dance offers both physical and psychological benefits, including emotional expression which is essential to good health,” adds Morgan. “We are happy that we can make people feel better and discover that with our curriculum guide they can repeat these techniques at home.”

Ann Behrends, aerialist, physical therapist and Lombardi dancer in residence, talked about how to evaluate patient health in preparation for designing an appropriate dance session, and Burkholder demonstrated his use of choreography in sessions with staff. He creates a small performance piece out of a series of simple movements. The audience viewed his film, Lombardi Dances, that portrays the emotional experience of being in the cancer center, and discussed how the film might be used in patient and staff education.

The symposium ended with a lively discussion of the challenges of introducing dance in non-traditional settings. The interactive format of the symposium allowed each participant to address issues related to their own work and plan effective strategies for moving forward with dance in each venue.

“As a teaching artist, I appreciate the opportunity to hear how dance is being integrated within the Lombardi Cancer Center,” says attendee Tish Carter a Washington area dancer.

Lombardi’s ongoing dance program is directed by Behrends and Burkholder. The symposium and the program are supported by an anonymous gift. Visit the Arts & Humanities website to view the weekly dance schedule.

Author: Amy Dusto and Nkem T. Wellington