Dance Therapy Association of Australia

Existing Australasian Research

This section documents dance movement therapy and related research in Australasia.   We have attempted to compile as complete a listing as possible. We would welcome information on any other research studies we may have missed. Send details to: heatherhill3@bigpond.com

 

HEMF Funded Research Studies


Title of project: Researching dance movement therapy approaches to well-being for women in Timor-Leste
Date: 2013
Author / Researcher: M. Jacobsson
Project Description:
Marita Jacobsson received a grant for her project titled: Researching dance movement therapy approaches to well-being for women in Timor-Leste. This project was intended to build on a pilot study previously undertaken in Timor–Leste by Australian dance movement therapists. It aimed to develop a better understanding of how dance movement, offered in conjunction with other creative arts therapies, can contribute to women’s health and well-being in Timor-Leste, where individuals have experienced significant traumatic events due to decades of political and civil strife. A report is planned for publication in Moving On and on the DTAA website.


Title of project: “Capture”- documenting the history of a DMT group that has been in existence for more than 30 years
Date: 2013
Author / Researcher: Kim Adele Peel
Project Description:
Kim Adele Peel received a grant for her project, Capture, to document the history of a DMT group that has been in existence for more than 30 years. This project was intended to investigate what contributes to the longevity of a group and the difference the group has made to the lives of the participants. It will compile historical and current film footage, record interviews with the dance movement therapists and participants of the group and present these in a combined package of DVD and written media. This project will make available archival material to the DMT community for educational use as well as make better known the contribution of dance movement therapy to the community at large.


Title of project: Development of an app for assessment in dance-movement therapy
Date: 2012
Authors / Researchers: K. Dunphy and S. Mullane
Project Description:
Kim Dunphy and Sue Mullane were awarded a grant to assist with the development of an app for assessment in dance movement therapy which will be a conversion of their Framework for Dance-Movement Therapy Assessment. The project is intended to provide a user-friendly tool for dance movement therapists as well as practitioners in related disciplines. The project was completed and documented in Moving On, 12(3-4), 2014. The app also received an ‘Award for innovation in dance movement therapy’, from the American Dance Therapy Association in October 2015.


Title of project: How effective is the Framework for Dance-Movement Assessment when used within the DEECD assessment framework in the context of a dance-movement therapy program in a special needs school?
Date: 2011
Author / Researcher: S. Mullane
Project Description:
Sue Mullane was awarded a grant for her study entitled: How Effective is the Framework for Dance-Movement Assessment (recently developed by Kim Dunphy and Sue Mullane) when used within the DEECD assessment framework in the context of a dance-movement therapy program in a special needs school. Her report was published in DTAA’S journal Moving On 11(3 & 4) in 2014 as ‘Evidence of Learning – how can we know about student progress in school-based dmt programs’.


Title of project: Intergenerational dance/movement therapy: Connections between two generations
Date: 2009
Author / Researcher: J. Lesosky
Project Description:
Jessica Lesosky was awarded a grant for her study, Intergenerational Dance/Movement Therapy: Connections Between Two Generations. This project was completed in 2009 and was reported in Moving On in 2009 (Vol 8, Nos 3& 4).


Title of project: Intergenerational dance/movement therapy: Connections between two generations
Date: 2009
Author / Researcher: J. Lesosky
Project Description:
Jessica Lesosky was awarded a grant for her study, Intergenerational Dance/Movement Therapy: Connections Between Two Generations. This project was completed in 2009 and was reported in Moving On in 2009 (Vol 8, Nos 3& 4).


Title of project: Survey of dance-movement therapy to document and map current practice in Australia
Date: 2007
Authors / Researchers: K.Dunphy, T. Hearnes &  J. Toumbourou
Project Description:
Kim Dunphy and collaborators Tessa Hearnes and John Toumbourou were awarded a grant to undertake a survey of dance movement therapy to document and map current practice in Australia. This project’s results were presented at the DTAA Conference in November 2007, and the American Dance Therapy Conference in October 2008. The final report was published as a chapter in Dance Therapy Collections 3, Dance-movement therapy.


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University theses on dance movement therapy research studies


Title of project: Dance for children with dual sensory impairments
Phd thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 1992
Author / Researcher:  Karen Bond

Abstract:
This thesis reports on an observational study which evaluates the influence of group dance on social and task engagement. Dance is examined as a therapeutic mode of learning for six nonverbal children with dual sensory impairments. The research strategy combined elements of traditional empirical design with participant observation and progressive theorizing. Within this design, an intensive dance program was compared with another innovative treatment based on play. Repeated video recordings were taken of children and then time-sampled by independent observers to assess the relative influence of Dance and Play on selected criteria of behavioural engagement. To enhance the validity of the observations, relevant instrumentation was designed. Numerical analysis constitutes one aspect of this inquiry which draws also on audio-taped field observations, anecdotal records, school reports, and interviews. Qualitative procedures were adopted to illuminate patterns of engagement uncovered through quantitative measurement.

Results of the research show clearly that dance was an effective mode of expression, communication and learning for the six children within their residential educational setting. A key finding is that personal style was an important mediator of child engagement in dance. This finding provided a framework for three case profiles that highlight differences and similarities in personal style. In addition, qualitative analysis of field records suggested that personal style was a reflection of aesthetic perception. In conclusion, a high level of social and task engagement in dance appeared to be associated with an accommodation of personal style. Simultaneous consideration of group and individual findings in relation to dance content and methods illuminated a group process, referred to as ‘aesthetic community’. A feature of aesthetic community was the emergence of a collective style of movement that encompassed child and adult participants. Finally, a synthesis of research data, theory and the researcher’s own interpretations culminates in Right Dance, a prototype of group dance for nonverbal children with dual sensory impairments.

Thesis details and abstract available at: http://www.dancingbetweendiversity.com/view.php?id=227


Title of Project: I just went to buy a felafel sandwich: the Middle Eastern dance experience of six Australians
M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted: 2001
Author / Researcher:  Sally Denning

Abstract:
This research uses qualitative research methods to illuminate the Middle Eastern dance experience of six Australians. Each dancer is interviewed about their experience of the dance and five of the six dancers have their dance movements observed from videotaped performances.

The interview gathers information about the dancer’s perception of their dance experience including:

  • The attraction of the dance;
  • The perceived effect of the dance form on the physical body;
  • Emotional changes experienced when dancing or after dancing;
  • The dance movements found most enjoyable;
  • The dancer’s experience of the dance.

Movement observations from videotaped recordings further assist to explore the dancer’s experience of Middle Eastern style. Laban Movement Analysis is used by the researcher to record and analyse the dancer’s movements.

Findings indicate that many of the dancers were initially attracted to learn Middle Eastern dance in their early twenties. Their involvement was often through a chance meeting or seeing someone else perform the dance form and not because of a life-long interest in the dance form. The research outlines the dancers’ discoveries about themselves and the workings of their own bodies as a result of undertaking Middle Eastern dance and compares this to relevant research in the area of dance and movement.

All the dancers in the study identified that Middle Eastern dance impacted upon both their physique and their awareness and understanding of their body and body parts. Further they indicated that a strong reason for continuing with the dance was the positive social interaction they had with other dancers. Drawing upon the dancers’ experience of Middle Eastern dance and the research regarding dance movement therapy, this research links the use of Middle Eastern dance with movement therapy and identifies it as an appropriate vehicle for improved body part awareness, mobility, social interaction and increased confidence.

Two forms of Middle Eastern dance style are studied: Belly dance and Raks Sharqi dance. Movement observations identify the specific application of the Middle Eastern movements and through the medium of Laban Movement Analysis, the specific dance experience of individual dancers is analysed. Although many of the dancers learnt the dance from the same teacher, it is clear that application of the movements is very much an individual process with subtle differences observed in each dancers approach contributing to the dancers’ unique style. Further, the findings from the movement observation process support the use of Laban Movement Analysis as a tool for this type of research, which frequently needs to move from subjective, aesthetically based impressions to precise observation, supported by a consistent vocabulary.

This study identifies opportunities for further research including a more indepth analysis between Raks Sharqi and Belly dance from a movement perspective, a long-term study to track and identify the changes and learnings of the dancers over time, research into the effect of Middle Eastern dance on the dancer when undertaken within a therapeutic context and the place of dance in relation to the community.

Thesis details and abstract available at: http://hdl.handle.net/11343/42317


Title of project: Evaluation of a movement and dance therapy program in head injury rehabilitation
M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted:  1996
Author / Researcher: Jane Guthrie

Abstract:
This thesis reports on the application of Movement and Dance therapy (MDT) in head injury rehabilitation. The research adopted a mixed method approach to examine whether a cause and effect relationship could be established between MDT and movement quality and control. Sub categories of questions posed related to whether MDT could increase movement range; adaptability to the environment; postural awareness and alignment, and movement confidence.

The research design and details were decided by the clinical circumstances. The study, largely empirical, also involved movement observation and subject report via documentation and interview. The major procedure was an ABA single case design. A balance of quantitative and qualitative procedures were employed including videotape time sampling of movement behaviour over nine weeks in the case design; comparisons of the subject within MDT over time; the subject’s own perceptions of change; and a time and task analysis of selected outcomes.

The research results indicated that MDT contributed to changes that occurred. The graphic displays of ABA case results demonstrated a majority of plateau or near plateau baseline situations and definite responses to treatment. This outcome was supported by the results of the additional procedures.

Although the sample size prevents generalisation of the results to the head injury population, the researcher suggests that a cause and effect relationship between MDT and the research outcomes was established. The research endeavoured to build a bridge between physiotherapy and MDT, advocating the use of the movement assessment tool, Laban Movement Analysis (LMA), in physiotherapy and MDT in rehabilitation.

Thesis details available at:
http://www.dancingbetweendiversity.com/view.php?id=183


Title of project: One man’s experience of accessing feeling and emotion through movement, image and dialogue
M.A. Thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 2000
Author / Researcher: Jennifer Helmich

Abstract:
This research will describe one man’s experience of accessing feeling and emotion through movement, image and dialogue. Feeling and emotion arise out of our day to day experiencing and informs us of what is important, that we feel threatened or at ease, happy or sad (Heidegger) 1962).  In this research the participant becomes aware of the intentionality of his body, his ‘lived body’ (Merleau-Ponty 1962). He accesses formerly unacknowledged anger and expresses his anger to the person concerned.

The phenomenological method and existential themes of the body in time and space are used to identify the participant’s process of accessing anger. This finds that he differentiates his movement from his environment and transforms restrictive body boundaries, creating more space to express himself. The concept of body boundaries is unclear (Fisher 1986p.330).   In discussion I constrict my understanding of the term “body boundaries” through the explication and interpretation of the experiences that enable the participant to transform restrictive body boundaries. The research suggests that embodiment of our dance movement experience leads to a clearer definition of ‘ self from other ‘, which supports our capacity to form mature emotional connections with others in the world.

Thesis available in hard copy at the La Trobe University Library, Bundoora, Vic.


Title of project: An attempt to describe and understand moments of experiential meaning within the dance therapy process for a person with dementia
M.Ed. thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 1995
Author / Researcher: H. Hill

Abstract:
This thesis reports an attempt to describe and understand moments of experiential meaning within the dance therapy process for a patient with dementia. It also documents an attempt to develop a methodology which could adequately grasp the complexities of such an experience. A phenomenological approach with its emphasis on allowing the phenomenon to reveal itself through multiple perspectives seemed the most appropriate for this study. However, while phenomenology influenced the format of the dance therapy sessions as well as the constitution and analysis of the data, ultimately a hermeneutic analysis was employed for further explication of the material. The study consisted of four individual dance therapy sessions with an 85 year old patient with moderate dementia.

The researcher/therapist worked improvisationally and a music therapist provided improvised music. After the sessions, all of which were videotaped, the patient was videotaped viewing the dance session video, in order to obtain her verbal or non-verbal responses to the material. It was decided to focus on the “significant moments”, selected intuitively as moments which seemed high points of the session. A naive description was made, on which an adaptation of Giorgi’s four-phase method of analysis was applied. Certain foci, such as energy flow, were identified and individually described. In time, it became clear that the written descriptions alone were insufficient and that reflection would need to cover all the material from multiple sources and perspectives. This was done, and the data were later further explicated by reference to writings on dance therapy, dance aesthetics and the philosophical concept of the embodied self, and Sacks’s neurological writings on the awakened self.

The conclusions of the research were that the patient was not only transformed within the dance session and able to re-create aspects of her old self, but also underwent, through the experience as a whole (the dance and the reflection upon it, facilitated by the video viewing), a change in awareness, through which she reintegrated the past with the present and, in her words, came “out of the cupboard…into the brightness”

Thesis details at: http://www.dancingbetweendiversity.com/view.php?id=24

Full text available online at: http://arrow.latrobe.edu.au:8080/vital/access/manager/Repository/latrobe:19713;jsessionid=C07F769D2825817FDB4DADDA9DD8E35F or in hard copy at La Trobe University Library, Bundoora, Vic.


Title of project: The experience in dance movement of three individual women with Turner Syndrome: a phenomenological inquiry
M.A. thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 1998
Author / Researcher: Elizabeth Loughlin

Abstract:
The thesis aims to establish more understanding of living with Turner syndrome to use in my clinical counselling with girls and women with this endocrinology condition. An examination of the literature finds that it offers a deficit picture, with gaps in experiential knowledge about the meaning of the daily lives of those with the syndrome. The inquiry seeks to go beyond the clinical context to tap the personal knowing of three individual women with Turner syndrome, through an arts phenomenological approach that offers summary verbal descriptions of an experiential event. The inquiry offers a cycle of dance movement experiences to access a pre-reflective experience of the existential self. Phenomenological procedures translate the dance movement experiences into verbal text, and also analyse the data of the verbal text following the approaches of Giorgi and Moustakas, with additional procedures from experiential inquiry to find the meanings in the experience. Results are expressed as synthesised descriptions of the experience in dance movement for each woman. They point to the centrality of the body in the experience of dance movement and also in the experience of daily living. The results indicate that the emotional response to the initial diagnosis and its subsequent medical management is a continuing theme in two of the three women in the inquiry. Selected literature about body image and the chronically ill body in the health setting is examined in order to reflect on and discuss the results. The inquiry concludes that a body image approach may contribute to a clearer understanding of the impact of the syndrome, and offer a useful focus for my counselling role and for other health professionals at large.

Thesis available in hard copy at the La Trobe University Library, Bundoora, Vic.


Title of project: An inquiry into the lived experience of women in a group dance therapy program
M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted: 2000
Author / Researcher: Sue Mullane

Abstract:
This research illuminates the lived experience of five women survivors of sexual assault within a group dance therapy program. The setting of the study is an adult therapy program offered to women survivors at the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault, East Bentleigh, Victoria. Five women, aged in their twenties and all survivors of childhood sexual assault, agreed to participate in the inquiry. Following a phenomenological-hermeneutic methodology, the study seeks to elucidate meanings attributed by the women to their experiences.

The inquiry draws on multi-modal sources of verbal and nonverbal evidence, including audio recordings of session conversations; client journals; one-page summaries written by the women at the conclusion of each session; video recordings; and specific movement observations. In keeping with a phenomenological perspective, analysis incorporates systematic step by step reduction, integration and synthesis of data, all the time remaining true to the women’s wording of their experiences.

Findings of the study are presented, firstly as a grand narrative that recreates the program, then as a thematic summary of the women’s experiences. Thematic categories of description include body awareness; memories and associations; transformation; freedom; and group relationship. These findings are discussed in relation to existing literature on sexual assault. Implications for practitioners working with survivors of sexual assault are noted along with recommendations for further research. The thesis closes with the researcher-practitioner’s intersubjective poetic depictions of the five women as a lasting reminder of their experiences.

Thesis details available at: http://www.dancingbetweendiversity.com/view.php?id=185

Thesis in hard copy held at University of Melbourne library (not for loan)


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Dance, Arts and Other Research Relevant to Dance Movement Therapists

Title of project: The effects of dance or mindfulness programs on well-being
Research report in partial fulfillment of BA(Hons), School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University
Date submitted: 2010
Author / Researcher: Heidi Ch’ng

Abstract:
This study investigated the separate and combined effects of dance and mindfulness on well-being. Sixty adults (10 males, 50 females, M = 39.3 years) from the general community self-selected into an Improvisational Dance, Mindfulness Meditation or Contemporary Dance program for a five-six week period. The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, Orientations to Happiness Measure, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule and Satisfaction with Life Scale measured subjective well-being (SWB). Demographic circumstances were also recorded.

The main hypothesis that the Improvisational Dance group, as a combination of dance and mindfulness, would yield greater increases in SWB over the baseline to post-program period compared to the other groups was not supported. The prediction that mindfulness would increase the most over time for the Improvisational Dance and Mindfulness Meditation groups was not supported either. However, results partially supported the hypothesis that SWB would increase for each group over time as significant improvements were observed for mindfulness, engagement orientation, life satisfaction and negative affect. The benefits of Improvisational Dance to well-being were similar to those elicited by the separate dance and mindfulness components. Findings can contribute to the effectiveness of dance and mindfulness interventions, although replication with a full experimental design is recommended.


Title of project: Cultural dance as life experience: perceptions of Maori performers in Melbourne
M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted: 1996
Author / Researcher: Kim Dunphy

Abstract:
This study examines the significance of cultural arts in the lives of seven performers in Te Ruawhenua, a Maori cultural group based in Melbourne, Australia. Respondents covered a diverse experience of age, gender and cultural backgrounds. Through qualitative analysis of interview transcripts supported by observations of rehearsals and performances, data were distilled into themes related to cultural identity, social benefits, individual expression and connected arts. Literature from a range of sources was reviewed as background to the topic and also to interpret the findings. Categories of literature included culture and ethnic identity, Maori culture, and cultural arts, particularly dance.

This research has revealed both benefits and challenges of cultural group involvement. Membership of Te Ruawhenua provides role diversity adding to members’ lives a dimension which may have been a continuing affirming experience. It also offered opportunities for the intrinsic enjoyment of performing, the challenge of competing and pleasurable experiences that all members of a family could share. Te Ruawhenua members indicated that the group functioned like a supportive family, one which shares similar values and actively endeavours to pass them on to the next generation.

This study reinforces earlier theories that Maori cultural arts activities offer a realm of positive benefits including cultural identification, social community and personal empowerment. Te Ruawhenua seemed to give members a sense of place and belonging which may have been traditionally provided by the tribe. At the same time, it also provided a focus towards the future, dealing with current concerns and issues for group members living in a western culture.

In overview, frequent reference to cultural arts as offering both immediate pleasures and a deeper sense of identity and belonging was conveyed by seven Maori performers from a multi-generational context in Melbourne, Australia.

Full text available at: http://hdl.handle.net/11343/37005


Title of project: The role of participatory arts in social change in Timor-Leste
PhD thesis , School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University
Date submitted: 2013
Author / Researcher:  Kim Dunphy

Abstract:
Participatory arts initiatives are increasingly utilised as tools for social change in international development contexts. However, theories of change for these interventions are often poorly articulated, making planning processes less effective and reducing their suitability for evaluation. At the same time, formal evaluation processes that provide a full assessment of outcomes are infrequently undertaken. This research responds to this situation by presenting and trialling three new models for participatory arts initiatives: two theory of change models to support planning and a holistic approach to evaluation.

Five participatory arts initiatives provide case studies to which the models are applied, facilitating both examination of the usefulness of the models and the effectiveness of the initiatives. These case studies are all based in the half-island nation of Timor-Leste, an emerging democracy that faces many challenges after centuries of colonial oppression. The research demonstrates that the models can contribute to evidence-based planning approaches and effective evaluation. The theory of change models applied to the case studies indicate potential for improved planning processes of participatory arts initiatives, by facilitating alignment of organisational values, goals, intended outcomes and activities, and enabling evaluation against desired goals. The holistic evaluation model provides a viable solution to the conundrum of the purported intangible nature of the arts and its impacts, as well as calls from the human progress movement for consideration of outcomes beyond economic and social.

In applying the evaluation model to the case studies, it is apparent that these participatory arts initiatives offer significant positive outcomes for program participants, particularly in the dimensions of social, cultural, and personal well-being. Skill development and engagement with new ideas that lead to new opportunities and realisation of potential were the most significant benefits for individuals. Direct and indirect positive outcomes on the wider community and broader society were also evident, including reduced family and community disharmony and increased positive engagement with the wider world. One recurring challenge for case study organisations was the issue of appropriate leadership models that are empowering and affirming for Timorese leaders while still providing effective support and skills transfer. Factors in achievement of successful project outcomes included the use of creative participatory processes, direction by skilled leaders and modelling of inclusive and respectful relationships. Additional benefits were obtained in programs that gave credence to Timorese culture while also introducing new ideas and possibilities.

Full text available at: http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30063025

Thesis in hard copy held at University of Melbourne library (not for loan)


Title of project: The therapeutic effects of music and dance on the health of new mothers
M.App.Sc thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 2002
Author / Researcher: Beth Rankin

Abstract:
A randomised controlled trial, pilot study was conducted to test the hypothesis that active participation in music and dance classes would make a difference to the health and well-being of new mothers.

A total of 84 new mothers were recruited from Maternal and Child Health Centres in the inner north eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The women were randomised into groups with other new mothers and offered twenty weeks of active music and dance classes with their babies present. The women were randomised into ‘early’ groups and ‘late’ groups. The ‘early’ groups started the classes immediately while the ‘late’ groups waited four to six months before starting the intervention classes. Participation was noticeably different between the ‘early’ and the ‘late’ groups, with a significant drop out rate from those who were asked to wait.

Health outcomes measured included the SF-36 Health and well-being questionnaire, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Sarason Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ). Participants answered self administered questionnaires before and after participating in an interactive music program. The results are presented as descriptive analysis.

The purpose of the pilot study was to test the methods and to make recommendations for a larger trial. The study concluded that a large trial was warranted with some minor changes recommended in the definitive study design.

Full text available at: http://arrow.latrobe.edu.au:8080/vital/access/manager/Repository/latrobe:34064

Thesis listing at: http://www.dancingbetweendiversity.com/view.php?id=195
Thesis in hard copy (including CD of songs/dances) available at La Trobe University library