How is Dancing with Pain® similar to and different from other dance methods?

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

August 5th, 2010 • Dance for Natural Pain ReliefPrint Print

I’ve been in conversation with the editor over at Conscious Dancer magazine. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you totally should. They have terrific articles on the power and beauty of dance as a tool for emotional, spiritual, and physical transformation. Anyhoo, today we got into a discussion about the distinction between Dancing with Pain® and other dance methods. I thought you might be interested in being a fly on the wall, so here’s what I said:

Each of the meditative & ecstatic dance companies that I know of utilize methods sharing the common thread of dance as a tool for mind -body-spirit integration. The general practice of “returning to the body” is certainly fundamental to any kind of mind-body medicine, and to this end, all of these methods can help someone in chronic pain to a greater or lesser degree.

In addition, each of the methods offer more individual freedom of movement than structured methods like ballet, salsa, or jazz, thus providing a space where there is relatively less chance of causing injury or exacerbating a pain condition. That said, Dancing with Pain® distinguishes itself from these companies in several key ways:

1. As far as I am aware, none of the existing companies offer a method specifically developed for people suffering from chronic pain and limited mobility. While these companies do provide a general space of meditation and body awareness, they do not connect the dots and apply the mind-body-spirit alignment in service to chronic pain management and healing.

Dancing with Pain® is far more sophisticated than meditative or ecstatic dance alone. It is specially tailored to meet the multi-layered needs of chronic pain patients — providing a physical, emotional, psychological, neurological, and spiritual journey into the body, and teaching participants to refocus and reframe their relationship to pain. Participants are expertly guided throughout the class, in ways that enable them to stay safe, expand their pain-free zones, and increase their mobility.

2. Because they are not targeted to people with chronic pain, these companies generally fail to create a safe communal dancing space for people living with pain and hypersensitivity — meaning that people can end up in worse pain after a class than before: The popular classes are often crowded to begin with. Moreover, there is no initial group discussion on how to dance in a way that does not intrude on the body space of another dancer.

In fact, in these environments, it is generally encouraged to initiate and maintain contact with other dancers, integrating the “contact improv” style of movement.  In addition, in the interest of fully expressing one’s heart and soul through movement, participants are encouraged to take up space in powerful and erratic motions that can be dangerous to someone with pain and hypersensitivity.  (See “Safety in Dance Circles” and “Four Tips for Creating Safety in Dance Circles.”)

An integral part of the Dancing with Pain® method is the group discussion at the beginning of each new class. Through this discussion, I establish safety guidelines for participants — both in terms of how to dance in their own bodies and how to dance around other people’s bodies.

In addition, class sizes are limited according to studio size — ensuring that there is plenty of space for each individual to dance freely, without compromising the safety of those around her or him.

3. The Dancing with Pain® method draws from a deep inner experience of what it is like to live with chronic pain, essentially accessing and rewriting the script in participants’ heads. As far as I am aware, the methods of other companies spring from a paradigm of general health and wellness — rendering them unable to facilitate the same depth of transformation among the chronic pain population.

4. While these companies offer a dance method, they do not offer the numerous other programs provided by Dancing with Pain®, including the following:

lifestyle discussion workshops offering guidance in dealing with the many ramifications of chronic pain on one’s life — on the physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, social, and financial levels. (See “The Good Patient Syndrome.”)

training programs for doctors and bodyworkers serving chronic pain patients — offering unique insights into the special needs and most effective methods of working with these patients. (See “Proactive Massage“)

written materials investigating the latest scientific research on mind-body medicine and its impact on chronic pain management (see “Drug Free Remedies for Chronic Pain.)

interactive, internet-based programs targeted to chronic pain patients who cannot leave their homes, due to pain and disability. (See downloadable audio classes and teleconferences)


Anna August 6th, 2010

Thank you for this post and for the magazine suggestion. As my pain increased over the years I had a harder time feeling safe and comfortable in dance “circles” and classes. I still dance at home, but have had a hard time keeping the practice consistent. Your blog continually reminds me that dance can be the slightest movement(s), even a visualization. I also appreciate your teaching to move the parts that don’t hurt. For years I tried to make my body parts that hurt do what the parts that didn’t hurt (as much) were doing. My idea was that if I could only “even myself out”, I would feel less pain. Now I ask my body, “How do you want to move?” I find that it is as if the parts that initially didn’t want to move become curious.
Thanks for your words and inspiration.

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