EASY MAGAZINE: Motion meets emotion
For Nicolette Williams, dance is not merely a form of entertainment, it is her vehicle for therapy that brings relief to many.
The young qualified creative arts therapist has been working across Barbados treating the elderly, disabled, or neurotics with dance movement therapy, a unique form of movement that impacts on the social, cognitive, physical and emotional aspects of a patient.
Hardly could she envisage herself settling for such a unique profession in the early years when she was experiencing the joy of creative dancing performing with dynamic groups such as Dancin Africa and Another Nature.
But the path she has chosen at age 23 provides the answers to puzzling questions that arose when she was getting more and more involved in the creative aspect of dance, and set her searching.
“I realised that I used to dig deep in all of my dance pieces, all of my choreographies and I used to ask myself questions. Within those questions I used to be saying there could be more; there is more feelings in this.”
And she explained: “I chose this field because coming from the background of a dancer who did her bachelor’s in fine arts at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, I realised that I was very analytical and I was very observant.”
Whenever she worked on choreography there remained a gnawing and unsettling feeling that something was missing. She desperately needed to find out what and why.
That urge to get to the root of the problem pervaded throughout the two years she was studying for her bachelor’s degree.
She told of “feelings such as sadness”, saying: “If a sad piece came out, or happiness, I was just struck in one place and I wanted to go deeper.
“My pieces were something similar to persons out there who were going through a lot of different distress and my final thesis piece for my Bachelors was about prostate cancer in men and I questioned myself. Men just have this big stigma that they are strong and that they are bold but there is something going on, and they just don’t want to say how they feel. They want to cover it up.”
“That’s where I decided I am going to do my master’s in dance therapy.”
It was to the Internet she turned, googling “dance and feelings” and fell on information on “dance therapy”, information that finally gave meaning to the puzzle in her head.
“I was like okay, therapy and dance? What is this madness?
“I researched dance and therapy because I had these feelings of me creating, I had these feelings of me watching my creations on stage or even plotting it on a piece of paper, but I just did not know what to do with these feelings.”
She also discussed her thoughts with her late father, Methodist lay preacher Edward Williams, before making the decision to find schools that taught the subject.
She settled for Pratt Institute in New York where she obtained a master’s with a specialty in dance movement therapy.
Nicolette said: “My questions were answered there and I realised why these feelings occur from a choreographer’s perspective, from even a child who goes through different trauma or triggers that affect them.”
In the course of her Pratt studies she also gained valuable exposure to the field which she is now back home pursuing and she describes the two years at Pratt as “the most beautiful experience I’ve ever gone through in my young adult years.”
“It has changed me as an individual and allowed me to grow into a beaming therapist. That is the reason I did not stay in New York. I wanted to come back and to give to Barbados.” Speaking to Easy after a just ended session at one of the institutions where she gives therapy to young people, she beamed with excitement, remarking: “Dance therapy is motion and emotion”.
She went on to explain: “Dance movement therapy is one that combines both movement and emotion together. Within that, the therapist allows the patient or client to gain self-esteem, to gain spatial awareness, to gain muscular strength, group cohesion and dynamic relationships whether in group settings or individual setting.”
She has worked with all ages. In New York she treated her oldest client, a 115-year-old Chinese man. The youngest client was a five-year-old American girl.
She considers herself the Marian Chace of Barbados, choosing to pattern much of her programme of dance therapy after the techniques of Chace the founder of dance movement therapy.
She has also drawn from techniques of different dance pioneers to create her own unique style. Techniques of imagination and fantasy from one such pioneer Trudi Schoop, feature largely in her therapy.
It is work from which she derives tremendous satisfaction and sees herself taking it to other islands of the Caribbean.
But did she ever think this is what she would have ended up doing?
Nicolette’s response was “I didn’t think dance therapy. I wanted to be a professional dancer but the art form in Barbados is so behind. I am feeling so fulfilled with what I am doing.” she said. (GC)