Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


E. Kellogg, PhD


Inspired by a personal experience, this thesis discusses the use of storytelling and performance as dance/movement therapy. I answer these research questions: What practices, if any, exist in the field of DMT? What is the full spectrum of benefits for dancers and witnesses? What populations are best suited for this work? Non-DMT resources were chosen for their therapeutic value and adaptability to DMT contexts. I categorize the literature by these themes: “Making the Invisible Visible: Stories of Mental Illness”; “Processing Tragedy”; “Storytelling and Performance with a Social Justice Aim”; “Exploring Individuality”; “Crafted by Intuition: DMT’s Authentic Movement”; and “Physical Storytelling.” This research demonstrates that storytelling through dance and movement allows participants to convey what words cannot, and that the embodied process allows for a fuller catharsis than might be achieved through speech. Sharing one’s story of suffering can become a healing balm for others, and thereby create additional healing for the storyteller, as their story is transformed into something of meaning. Embodied storytelling can be used to challenge dominant discourses, uplift the oppressed, and open up difficult conversations. The same practices can be used to teach about mental health and otherwise shed light on harmful stigmas. Storytelling through dance and movement also allows for identity exploration and confidence building. The majority of practices discussed involve able-bodied adults; however, the practices might be adapted by skilled facilitators. Further research is recommended, especially around the drama therapy practice of Autobiographical Therapeutic Performance, and the therapeutic benefits of traditional/folk dance forms which are inherently storied. All in all, the DMT field has yet to take full advantage of existing practices in the field or to grab hold of what the broader dance field is modeling.

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