Dance becomes therapeutic in the mid to late 20th century

A new open-access piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Dance becomes therapeutic in the mid to late 20th century,” Janka Kormos. Abstract:

The convergence of dance art and therapeutic culture engendered the development of dance-movement therapy in the mid to late 20th century internationally. This article traces the sociopolitical, institutional, and aesthetic influences that coalesced in this process by contrasting histories of dance-movement therapy in Hungary and in the United States. The professionalization dance-movement therapy, through which it established its own theory, practice, and training institutions, occurred first in the United States in the late 1940s. Modern dancers in the United States began to conceptualize their activity as therapeutic, and the dancer as a (secular) healer, a therapist. The influx of therapeutic concepts into the field of dance is viewed as an example of therapeutic discourse permeating various areas of life in the 20th century. The Hungarian case provides a contrasting history of therapeutic culture, one that deviates from the predominant view of the phenomenon as a product of the global spread of Western modernization and the growth of free-market capitalism. Hungarian movement and dance therapy indeed developed independently from its American predecessor. Its history is intimately tied to the sociopolitical context of state-socialist period, particularly to the institutionalization of psychotherapy in public hospitals, and to the adaptation of Western group psychotherapies within the informal setting of the “second public sphere.” The legacy of Michael Balint and the British object-relations school provided its theoretical framework. Its methodology was rooted in postmodern dance. The methodological differences between American dance-movement therapy and the Hungarian method reflects the shift in dance aesthetics that occurred internationally between 1940 and 1980s.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.