Heather Hill

Heather Hill – Bio


PhD, Prof. Member DTAA, M.Ed., B.A., Grad. Dip. Movement and Dance, Grad. Cert. Dance Therapy. Hill is experienced in aged care, aged psychiatry/dementia, acute psychiatry and intellectual disability. She has written many articles and book chapters, as well as the book “Invitation to the Dance: Dance for people with dementia and their carers”. She is also interested in fostering dance therapy writing and research. Hill currently supervises dance therapists and creative arts therapists in their practice and research. She practices dance therapy and works as a consultant trainer/facilitator in person-centred care in dementia.

Words Matter

Edition: 2016 Vol. 13 Nos. 3-4

The feminist movement of last century strongly highlighted the power of language not only to reflect societal/cultural perceptions and attitudes, but to form and reinforce them. The Australian Journal of Dementia Care (AJDC), in several recent issues, has invited discussion of appropriate language when talking about people living with dementia. While some may dismiss these concerns about language as an over-concern with political correctness, in fact the words we use have very real-life impact on the people we work with. How does it feel to be talked about as ‘victim  or ‘sufferer’, a carrier of ‘behaviours’? What difference does it make in our professional behaviour when we view someone as being ‘demented  rather than someone ‘living with dementia’?

Out of the Cupboard… to the Brightness

Edition: Dance Therapy Collections 2

Keywords: Dance Therapy, Dementia, sense of self, neurology, phenomenology, experiential meaning, person-centered, Laban Movement Analysis, body/mind

Page #: 14

This paper outlines a 1993 research study which attempted to describe and understand moments of experiential meaning within the dance therapy process for a patient with dementia. The writer places the study in context by discussing the nature of dementia and the common view of it as loss of self. An overview of her phenomenological methodology in the early stages follows, with later interpretation through reference to literature in the fields of dance, neurology, and dementia care. The main discussion, however, revolves around the understandings gained concerning the meaning of the dance therapy experience for the patient. The paper concludes that dance therapy offered not only a quality experience in the moment but a change in the patient’s sense of self.

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Dance Therapy with Psychogeriatric Patients: the experience of a local practitioner

Edition: Dance Therapy Collections 1

Keywords: Dance Therapy, psychogeriatric patients, effort-shape analysis, dementia, identity, self-esteem, social connection, touch

Page #: 31

This article focuses on drawing out the benefits of a dance movement therapy program for elderly patients with dementia on the psychological as well as physical realm. The author describes her use of effort-shape analysis in program planning, as well as the specific psychological needs of clients with dementia, which include sense of identity, self-esteem, sense of control/choice, social connection and touch. She goes on to describe specific themes and interventions used, and provides interesting case studies to illustrate their success.

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Speaking In Our Own Voices: Negotiating The Space Between

Edition: Dance Therapy Collections 3

dance movement therapy, ideological hegemony, arts-based research, interprofessional, values

Page #: 20

The inspiration and starting point for this keynote address is a story told by a young American dance therapist, a story which seemed to me to encapsulate key aspects of the experience of dance therapists everywhere: firstly the lack of recognition of dance therapy as serious professional practice and secondly the difficulties we dance therapists face in speaking our ‘truth’ to others. While we see every day the value of the work of dance therapy, we continue to feel in some way lesser than other professionals, constantly needing to prove that what we do has value.

I introduce the concept of ideological hegemony, which suggests that the dominant paradigm or world view sets the agenda for what is valued and what is not. Thus it may well be that lack of professional recognition has less to do with lack of evidence and more to do with the fact that dance therapy lies outside the dominant biomedical paradigm. Far from seeing this as a cause for despair, I suggest that we use this awareness to put our energies into strengthening our profession through good practice, peer support, writing, and appropriate research. In talking in our own voices, from our own truth, we have a strong base from which to reach out and negotiate the space we share with others.

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Dancing with Change

Edition: 2015 Vol. 12 Nos. 3-4

dementia, creativity, awareness, improvisation, change, personhood

This is an excerpt from the content:

In the first of these two articles, Heather introduces the concept of dance as a model for creating a positive approach to supporting people with dementia and their family carers. It is based on the concept that the qualities required in dance – creativity, improvisation, awareness and the ability to adapt to change – also apply to dementia care. (pp 35-38)


The adventure (not dementia) club

Edition: 2015 Vol. 12 Nos. 3-4

dementia, collaboration, relationship, appreciation, strength, celebration

This is an excerpt from the content:

Joanne and Heather report on the results of their Style Café program in Victoria, which puts the concept of ‘dancing with change’ into practice. This concept, featured in a previous article in the Australian Journal of Dementia Care, offers a positive approach to supporting a person with dementia, their partner and family. (pp 39-43)


Arts and Health International Conference Report

Edition: 2011 Vol. 9 Nos. 3-4

dementia, improvisation, wellbeing, relationship-based, mixed methods research, participatory research, mental illness

The following report on the 2nd Annual International Arts and Health Conference “The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing” held at the Sydney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne, 16-19 November 2010, was written for ‘Moving On’ by Heather Hill. Heather also presented a paper at this conference with William Feez, ‘Not Like Pills – The Arts and Relationship in Dementia Care’. (pp 50-51)

Families Dancing Together

Edition: 2012 Vol. 10 Nos. 3-4

disabilities, abilities, group work, community support, respite, relationships

This brief article includes a short introduction the article ‘Dance family matters’ , which was reprinted with kind permission of the Bayswater Buzz – Bayswater community newspaper published by Interchange Outer East, in  Melbourne. Describing a community dance therapy initiative led by DMT Heather Hill, to provide a weekly creative dance movement space for children with experience of disabilities to share dance and ‘magic moments’ with their families, it touches on the intentions and activities of the program. (pp 35-36)

Dancing in Japan

Edition: 2014 Vol. 11 Nos. 3-4

dementia, Sherbourne Development Movement, cross-cultural connection, disabilities, children, professional development

Heather provides a descriptive overview of her 2 week trip to Japan including giving a presentation on dance and dementia, supporting the launching of an educational DVD and visiting various organisations to promote and share DMT. Heather shares her perception of Japanese culture including their interpersonal qualities and aesthetics, along with a concluding reference to journal article published by the AJDT about touch in DMT in Japan. (pp 60-62)

The Dance in Dance Therapy

Edition: 2005 Vol. 4 No. 1

aesthetic expression, ritual, diagnostic assessment, pedestrian movement, movement interventions, transformation

This is an excerpt from the content:

This article presents three extracts from a conversation on the ADTA listserve on the nature of the “Dance” in “Dance Therapy.” The conversation weaves through different aspects – from reflections on the elements – that make ‘the dance’ in Dance Therapy, to a discussion about cultural attitudes, the way in which the word ‘dance’ is used metaphorically, and ending with a poignant image of an historical depiction of dance. (pp 24-25)

Would you like to dance?

Edition: 2004 Vol. 3 No. 4

Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, person-centred care, personhood, facilitation, relationship, research, Kitwood

This talk was presented by Dr Heather Hill (PhD, M.Ed., B.A., Grad. Dip. Movement and Dance, Grad. Cert. Dance Therapy, Professional Member of the Dance Therapy Association) to the 8th National Residential Aged Care Facility Conference for Leisure, Recreation & Lifestyle Staff, Melbourne on 11th November 2004. It addresses the questions: What dance?, Who can dance? and Why dance? with reference to people living with Dementia. The benefits of dance are described in detail, covering the ‘nature of dance’ and the ‘content of dance’, with many adaptable ideas for this and many other settings. (pp 2-8)


Listserve Dialogue – Dementia: Walking Not Wandering

Edition: 2006 Vol. 5 Nos. 3-4

residential care, Alzheimers Disease, Geropsychiatric Unit, personality, group therapy, presence, listening

The announcement to the ADTA listserve on the publication of this book (reviewed p.27-28), in which there is a chapter by Dr Heather Hill, promoted some dialogue between herself and Christine Hopkins. It is of interest to read, particularly for those involved in working with this population.

The Chapter: “The who, how and why of walking/wandering – a dance therapy perspective” , is summarised by Heather:  “Essentially my chapter rejects a simplistic account of ‘wandering’ as a symptom of dementia, and enlarges the perspective of walking/wandering in the context of dementia, to take in the person and the person in relation to his/her internal or external environment”. Further therapeutic re-framing of walking behaviour are offered by Heather and responded to by Christine with a moment she shared in relationship with a woman who was wandering. This moment expanded into a question for how to integrate wandering walkers into DMT groups. (p.29)


Edition: 2006 Vol. 5 No. 2

reflection, professional development, doctoral thesis, student learning, perspectives

Heather shares her passion for writing by reflecting on her own writing journey paired naturally with her DMT practice. Encouragement is given to novice practitioners to start writing in the early stages of their careers and to continue to write and share experiences that will be valued by readers. Coming to know what you know, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it as a DMT, as well as the potential to improve one’s written proficiency are also advocated as good reasons to write. (pp 18-19 )


Dance Therapy as Person Centred Care in Dementia

Edition: 2005 Vol. 4 No. 4

Professional Development, Dementia, Laban Movement Analysis, Person-centred care, Tom Kitwood, DMT research

This article was written in reflection from an experiential workshop facilitated by Dr. Heather Hill as part of a DTAA Professional Development Day in Melbourne. 

The moving introduction is outlined and then Heather offered a brief introduction to Dementia and Alzheimers touching on traditional biomedical and new treatment approaches. An experiential embodying Dementia is described along with participant’s personal responses and reflections on this activity. Person-centred care is overviewed and the workshop is completed by the showing of a video from Heather’s research with a person with Dementia. Participants moving reflections and learnings are woven into this article. (p. 18)


Vive La Difference: Creating Relationship Through Dance And Movement

Edition: 2006 Vol. 5 Nos. 3-4

intergenerational, group process, rituals, relationships, creativity, community development

This article is from a presentation made by Heather at the International Consortium of Intergenerational Programs (ICIP) Conference, in Melbourne from 26th-28th June 2006. A nine-week program was facilitated by DMT Heather with support staff bringing together twelve older adults at the local day centre for frail elderly, and eight grade one children from the local state primary school.  The program is vividly described with reflections and vignettes from the sessions exemplifying the meaningfulness of the program for the adults and children. Connections with similar programs are outlined as an outcome from attending the ICIP Conference. (pp 2-5)

‘Weaving the Threads’ Conference Reflections: Special Events

Edition: 2007 Vol. 6 Nos. 3-4

In this series of articles, we are pleased to present reflections on integral and exciting occasions within the conference, that included Conference Special Events: “The Movement Choir”; “Performance on the Lawn: Three Songs, Three Dances’ BAH Improvised movement collective”; “Performance from Integrate Stretch” and “Bidding Farewell Through Movement Weaving the Threads – Dancing the Metaphor.” (pp 30-35)


Making our mark — an introduction to dance therapy in Australia

Edition: 2007 Vol. 6 No. 1

DMT history, mind/body, functional, aesthetic, meaning making, arts, embodied

The article came about as the result of ‘Arts Hub’ inviting the dance-movement therapy community to showcase its work. Heather undertook this task on behalf of the DTAA and wove within it some of our promotional information on dance-movement therapy. In brief she also touched on the history of dance therapy, gave an explanation including the profession’s fundamental beliefs, areas of work and whole-person approaches to therapy. The article was printed in Arts Hub on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 together with the list of books and papers available through the DTAA – mainly by Australian authors. The article is available from the Association as another resource for Australian DMT’s to use as a marketing/information giving tool. (pp 12-14)

Dancing the Moment: The Intersubjective Dialogue in Dance Therapy

Edition: 2009 Vol. 8 Nos. 1-2

MIECAT form of inquiry, Stern, presence, movement phrase, key words, in-dwelling, clustering

The following article was written by Heather and Sue on their workshop given at the third Dance-Movement Therapy Conference – ‘Weaving The Threads’ – in Melbourne in 2007.

Sue and Heather led a workshop offering participants experiences of; presence, intersubjective dialogue through dance and recognition of moments of experiencing and the possibilities of co-creation and connection. The participants used some of the intersubjective, creative arts procedures from the Miecat form of inquiry to make sense of a moment of dancing with each other. Sue reflected on a significant moment from her witnessing a pair of dancers, by using and explaining the Miecat form inquiry ‘procedures’ to make sense of this experience. (pp 8-12)


Talking Point: Body/Mind

Edition: 2009 Vol. 8 Nos. 3-4

relgious practices, mind-body theory, dualism, scientific evidence, dance therapy philosophy

In 2008, a dance therapist brought to the attention of the ADTA listserve the following book review from the Harvard Gazette “Sobering look at ‘mind-body connection’ Scholar shows religious roots of current practices” by Amy Lavoie. It caused quite a stir and prompted quite some discussion – understandably, because the book would appear to challenge one of the cornerstones of dance therapy philosophy and theory, namely the integral connection of mind and body. We have printed below the article in full, by kind permission of the Harvard Gazette, and included some comments from the listserve. (pp 34-37)

Dance Therapy in Dementia

Edition: 2010 Vol. 9 Nos. 1-2

person-centred, engagement, connection, aesthetics, quality of life, transformation

This article was made available to the DTAA by kind permission of Stirling. It was first published in Dementia Now, Vol. 7, no. 6, Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling. web: http://www.dsdc.stir.ac.uk

Heather’s article gives a succinct and clear description of dance therapy and its particular contribution in the context of dementia care. Within a group dmt context the relational values of person-centred connection, embodied communication and conversation inform the work, giving way for individuals to be themselves. The “magic” of transformation is one of a myriad of whole person benefits over-viewed, as well as the positive contributions dmt can offer to attending staff and family. (pp 27-31)

Book Review: Creating connections between nursing care and the creative arts therapies: Expanding the concept of holistic care

Edition: 2010 Vol. 9 Nos. 1-2

Carole-Lynne Le Navenek & Laurel Bridges

Not Like Pills – The Arts and Relationship in Dementia Care

Edition: 2011 Vol. 9 Nos. 3-4

creative arts therapy, alternative language, relationship, presence, transformation

Heather and William state: “As arts therapy practitioners/group leaders in the field of dementia, we have come to appreciate the prime role of relationship when engaging people with dementia in arts experiences.” And “In this paper, we elaborate on what we mean by relationship and the arts, and embody this discussion through examples from our own practice”. (pp 32-35)


Reflections on Resilience in the Arts

Edition: 2012 Vol. 10 Nos. 1-2

dementia, person-centre care, children with disabilties, psychiatric, coherance, flow, flexibility

This article is a reprint from: Psychotherapy and the Arts Newsletter, March 2010.

Drawing connection with Tobi Zausner’s article: “Creativity, Resilience, and Chaos Theory”, Heather contributes her perspectives on resilience through her DMT work with people with dementia and with adults and children with mental health issues or disabilities. Concepts of resilience are drawn from theorists and discussed, along with the embodied potentials to concretise resilience in an embodied way, with illustrative examples from DMT sessions. (pp 42-44)


Not All in the Mind

Edition: 2012 Vol. 10 Nos. 1-2

hand gesture, spatial visualisation, spatial problem solving, mind-body-feeling, intentional, language

This article creates connections where years ago none would have been recognised – between movement/gesture and language, and movement and thinking. Promising research studies that draw links between the connection of hand gestures; to improved thinking and spatial problem-solving are cited, and new teaching practices that enhance learning a language are over viewed. (pp 34-35)



Edition: 2003 Vol. 2 No. 3

Rachael introduces herself as part of the new editorial team and overviews this issue on focusing on the healing power of dance.

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Dementia – Changing Perspectives

Edition: 2002 Vol. 1 No. 4

Person-centred care, Dementia care, quality aged care, Dementia rights, Alzheimer’s Association

This article challenges the traditional bio medical approach to a diagnosis of dementia and explores responding to people with dementia from a person-centred approach. The subsequent extract of a speech from the National Conference of the Alzheimer’s Association Canberra in 2001 discusses the emotional effects of the diagnosis and offers hope. (pp 12-14)

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The Healing Power of Dance

Edition: 2002 Vol. 1 No. 1

Healing, Cultural comparisons, Australian dance therapy perspective, American dance therapy healing

In a continuation of a thread opened in forum by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), Heather Hill invites contributions from Beatrice Lucas, Fran Ostroburski, Tony Norquay, Helen Clarke Lapin and Lori Cohen to discuss ‘The Healing Power of Dance’. Each manuscript displays a personal commitment to the dance therapy profession in Australia and complements the ideas of American dance therapists in celebrating individually the curative powers of dance movement therapy. (pp 11-16)