Anna Halprin. Dance to Heal. Healing trauma with the power of movement

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Anna was stricken by cancer about 55 years ago. She knew in early times dance was used as a healing and decided to dance to heal herself. She is now 96 years old. Anna says that being medically cured and truly healed is not the same thing. To be completely healed of a disease, you must go through some other kind of process.

To dance through sickness, one must first embrace it. Then, by working through the psychological knots and wounds it has created, negative emotions can be released. Anna began to use dance to help young men afflicted with AIDS during the height of the epidemic in United States. By ‘dancing their disease’ together, they could freely express their fear, anger, and frustration, as well as their love for each other. She says that this tribal sense of community and strength gave AIDS victims a sense of belonging and peace, which is a kind of healing.

Anna also used dance to tackle racial prejudice, which she calls another kind of sickness. She created the first multi-racial dance company in the US. Healing can take place on many different levels, including n social ones, she says.

Anna took her concept of healing through dance to a more global level with the ‘Planetary Dance’, which is now held in 46 countries around the world. The dance is not a performance, but a peace ritual for the environment, the country, and the world. She says this dance is for everyone, as each person can feel something very special in their heart declaring: “I dance for…”

Anna says dance has helped her to better understand the true nature of her body and its integration with the environment. She believes a person needs to spend time in nature and experience it tactilely to fully realise that they are one. This is why she is such a fierce advocate for protecting the environment, which she says is life itself. Losing any aspect of it is losing who we are, according to Anna.

Teaching is still inspiring for Anna because when she sees something lacking in her students, she’s driven to create something new to help them. “Everything’s in movement, all the time… We can make a dance out of anything,” she says.

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