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Title: Dance, empowerment and spirituality : an ethnography of Movement Medicine
Author: Kieft, Eline
ISNI:       0000 0004 2738 776X
Awarding Body: Roehampton University
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis offers the first anthropological description of Movement Medicine, a contemporary movement meditation practice that blends together and is informed by different ingredients such as ecstatic dance, shamanism, voice work, and psychotherapeutic elements. Both the practice and the thesis emphasise movement, relationship with self, others and the world, ritual and ceremony. My argument is that the combination of different traditions that inform the practice, together with its metaphoric language and use of a variety of symbols opens different ways of viewing and managing life processes, so contributing to experiences of expanded consciousness and a sense of reconnection. The dance enables an integration of opposites and the creation of a new frame of meaning or reference. The motivation behind this study is a curiosity about people’s search for meaning and (self-)understanding in western culture at this time. With the decline of traditional religious frameworks, the focus of this search has changed, leading to the remarkable rise of so called alternative spiritualities. Having danced all my life and being a Movement Medicine participant myself, I am particularly intrigued by the role that dance can play in dealing with the increasing demands of a fast and often fragmented world. Through a combination of hermeneutic and ethnographic methodologies, which include over five years of participant observation, 25 qualitative interviews and analysis of 190 articles in three volumes of the ‘School of Movement Medicine’s’ newsletter, I provide an analysis of people’s experiences to elucidate the mechanisms and contributions of this practice to the participants’ wellbeing, their personal growth and their experience of spirituality. In the first part of the thesis (Introduction, and Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4), I situate the practice within the socio-historic context of growth movements that have emerged since the 1960s, and explore the background of Movement Medicine, its 9 ‘philosophy’ and symbols, aspects regarding the ‘School of Movement Medicine’ as a business, and the relation of the practice to other traditions and world views such as (neo-)shamanism and New Age. This also includes a detailed description of the practice in Chapter 4. After a brief Intermezzo, in the second part of the thesis (Chapters 5-8) I discuss the empirical data, describing how, according to participants, Movement Medicine contributes to personal growth and wellbeing in the areas of body, emotions, mind and spirituality. Through this dance practice, people are able to experience anew their own embodiment and connection to others, and this has an empowering, healing and transformational impact on their sense of self. The insights gleaned through the practice do not remain within the confines of the studio but are integrated into participants’ daily lives in multiple ways, contributing to changes with regard to the body, self, relationships, work, values, actions and spirituality. The thesis contributes to understanding what can constitute meaningful, transformative experiences and therefore has a wider relevance. It presents not just another example of the rise of alternative spiritualities and the continued search for meaning in western culture, but develops this understanding in a way that might also be applied to and implemented in settings such as schools, community centres and social care work, helping people deal with the demands of contemporary culture in a variety of situations.
Supervisor: Grau, Andrée ; Pakes, Anna Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: movement medicine ; meditation practice ; ecstatic dance ; shamanism