Dance/Movement Therapy: The History of DMT

According to the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), dance/movement therapy is “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration of the individual.”  Dance/movement therapy takes the idea that the mind, body, and spirit are connected, and it uses this premise to enhance the lives of individuals who are suffering in some way.

This sounds like a complicated idea.  How can movement influence emotions?  Aren’t my feelings and body separate?

To understand the true theory behind DMT, it’s helpful to look further into its roots.  One of the most important individuals to the development of DMT is Marian Chace.  A dancer, choreographer, and concert dance performer first, Chace studied with modern dance pioneers Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn at their school, Denishawn.


Eventually, Chace opened her own dance school in Washington D.C., and it was here that she discovered the positive effects movement was having on her students in the 1940s.  The medical community began to take note of her students’ reported feelings of well-being after dancing, and Chace was eventually invited to work at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in D.C in 1942.  She became the first full-time dance therapist in 1947.  Fast forward to 1966, Chace went on to become the first president of the American Dance Therapy Association.

The mission of ADTA is as follows:
1. Define, promote and support the highest standards of education, credentialing, ethical practice and professional identity of dance/movement therapists
2. Increase professional opportunities for the membership by advocating for the inclusion of dance/movement therapy in healthcare, legislative, educational and research systems
3. Support internal communication among members, between the ADTA and the membership, and external communication nationally and internationally
4. Create opportunities for skill development, networking, community, and fund-raising by producing an annual conference
5. Support the growth of the ADTA and the profession by recruiting new members and responding to current membership needs


Stay tuned for the next post in our series to read more about some theory and practice of DMT!