In the last of her series, Gemma Hirst gives a round up of how the arts acts as therapy. 

It has been one of the recurring themes in this series of articles where I have been looking at how the sectors within the arts industry- dance, art, drama, and music can act as a therapy for the artist and audience.

If we take a look at the world of dance it is clear that there are physical and emotional benefits to moving your body to create art. There is a connection between your using mind, body and the soul.

Catherine Muckle has danced for 16 years is a professional dancer believes that dance can be a form of self-expression “dance is an incredible form of therapy. It releases feel good vibes that gives you an energising buzz of enjoyment, boost self esteem, confidence not to mention dancing is incredible for your creativity, musicality and of course your body. Taking even two minutes out of a stressful day and dancing like no one is watching is one of the most liberating and free feelings you can ever imagine, so put on your favourite song, the radio station and dance.”

Catherine is also a Pilates instructor and teaches classes as Dance City in Newcastle. She is passionate about increasing flexibility, muscle tone and mental well being “as a professional dancer I dance for a living, but everyday I feel blessed to say so. Yes it’s hard work, but the feeling I get from it, in terms of my mind and my body are just indescribable, such an incredible feeling of expression that can’t be said through words.”

Space for Expression

Lizzie Klotz is trained in dance in the London Studio Centre is interested in the creativity, artistry and physicality of dance finds that her art can provide a state of relaxation “for me, I work a lot in improvisation. I believe it provides a space for expression that comes directly from instinct often reaching a meditative-like state.”

When it comes to choreography Lizzie is inspired by human behaviour and is interested in connecting with the audience through her dance pieces “we are so interesting. People watching is definitely my favourite pastime. To Suit, my most recent work, is a study of the relationship between man and woman, drawing comparisons to bird courtship rituals.”

When speaking to the artists it become clear that the audience is central to the creation of art. The practitioners create their work for the purpose of the audience so that they can relate to it.

Loneliness and insecurity

Kiki Lovechild is a silent clown that deals with loneliness and mental health issues and this allows audiences to be aware of their own insecurities and stereotypes “loneliness and insecurity are two major themes in a lot of my work. Clowns don’t follow the social convention of hiding their inner feelings in these situations, so we can fully see the absurdity of the situation. In that sense, the audience can relate to the situation and work through it – with the clown – in a non-threatening and light-hearted way. So yes, I find that aspect of my work to be therapeutic for my audiences.”

Kiki believes that if no one relates to your art then it does not serve a purpose, specifically in clowning as it is more intimate with the audience it allows the clown to relate to their situation forming conversation “art allow us to have conversations we socially can’t or don’t have. Whether it’s a personal issue that someone needs help to work through – such as grief – or even political issues being addressed under oppressive regimes, art is an important method of communication and a fundamental part of what it is to be human.

Live performance can be a great help for the audience to help identify their own issues in life. As Fiona Blair a creative artist thinks that performance art is a public authority “seeing and experiencing an artwork, be it visual or performed, text based or three-dimensional can give people courage and validation that they are not alone. The existence of the artwork even if it is not recognised by a wide public or critical authority is none the less elevating for the individual if it resonates with meaning for them.”

Powerful Medium

Theatre is a powerful medium for social and emotional change, it is an active art than can boost moral as Fiona adds “theatre/performance helps to get a message across to people who are not directly affected by an issue and raise the morale of people fighting for something they believe in. It can give people courage and validation that they are not alone or that something they believe in is important.”

Music can also be a powerful art form, as we have seen in the series how music has that creative freedom to allow musicians to express themselves and overcome obstacles.

Nik Anderson is a Music Educator, he teaches music technology and music production and finds music to be therapeutic in health and mind “with music you can never get bored, there is always something new to experience, something to connect with. I continue to learn something from music everyday of my life.”

Nik also sees music as a way of changing your life and your experiences “when you participate in any kind of musical activity everything around you seems to change, your concentration moves to the task in hand. I experience this all the time on a personal and professional level.”

John Quinn is a creative practitioner thinks that the world would be dull without arts and culture “having a creative outlet has been important to me and was important to me as a child, I loved making stories up and doing drawings. I could lose myself in these worlds and it made me feel part of something important and wants I was doing felt valuable. As well as doing my own creative projects I like to give that same opportunity to others. I also think it’s important to provide a creative outlet.”

And I could not agree more with these artists whether it is dance, drama, music or art they all lend themselves to being a therapy or creative outlet for both artist and audience member. It seems to me that if we don’t have art then we have no way of de-stressing from our busy lives. And we need that time to allow ourselves to think creatively and find a way to express ourselves.


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