somewhere in the heart
in a crevice of my mind
a spark grows from the inside out
a revolution that becomes electric
#micropoetry by Coach Bill
The value of self-expression development to a youth or adult with neurological deficits cannot be understated as an engine of cognitive activity on multiple levels. Wether it is typing an essay or writing a short poem, playing a musical instrument or dancing up a storm, self expression can be a form of communication, a work of art and a pathway to bringing our inside selves to the outside.
What is self-expression anyway?
It is a willful expression from us usually communicating a message and is unique to each person. A painting, a way of dancing, the words chosen for a haiku, all of these denote an expression of the self. This includes heart and mind.
Self-expression activities like story dancing, actively rewire the cognitive-physical story of one’s life. In the case of dancing a story by coding dance movement to music while visualizing an outcome, self-expression becomes an affirmative, communication line to individuals. The inherent value and benefit is greatly compounded for many who have more severe disabilities,such as those on the autism spectrum who are of low verbosity.
Our thoughts can lead to action though. Repeated actions establish routines. Story dancing brings our inner selves outwardly and adheres to the cognitive development parameters of being a fun, novel, activity that can change with every song. In effect, when self-expressing through this kind of meditative dancing, it is possible to feel a sense of affirmation and emotional release. From a practical standpoint, dancing is far easier than purchasing an art supply of materials in order to paint a canvas, only requiring music that is agreeable to the prospective dancer.
With story dancing, we visualize a story and create a new ending for it as we move our bodies to music. The story visualization, in large part, if not wholly, will dictate the dance movements. What is key for a beginner is to choose music that is free of lyrics that may bring its own meaning to a song. This is so because it is hard to visualize a story and create an outcome for it when a singer is talking about something else. So music without lyrics is best.
Parents, dance teachers and individuals can practice and model story dancing by allowing the body to move and stretch in ways that it is otherwise not accustomed to. As said before, this kind of re-coding of the cognitive-physical story in leads to monumental changes in day to day life. The practice of affirmation through dance movement helps one emotionally digest and process how they want to move forward.
For a developing child on the autism spectrum, aside from being a great social activity it may make them greater self-advocates and more apt to asserting themselves. The story aspect of story dancing impacts our physical movement creating an experimental laboratory of dancing that is in a constant search of syncing a visualized story (day dream) to the beat and rhythm of a song. When this happens, the dancer is bringing together both cranial hemispheres in active neural connectivity, as well as employing the prefrontal cortex’s executive function skills. The cognitive and physical level reached as the dancer physically begins the process of manifesting the outcome they want into instant physical, if not allegorical form, and serves as a microcosm for story fulfillment beyond its inception as a dance sequence.
Children and adults with or without disabilities stand to benefit from actively dancing to unwind and recharge. Story dancing takes it a step further in that it integrates emotional work with active storytelling through movement. Household individuals who begin to affirm who they are on the inside through this method inevitably become a source of positive disruption in their household. In the educational setting, story dancing is not easily taught in a group format and a great deal of successful instruction relies on the teacher or coach themselves.