Pones has partnered with the Cincinnati Arts Association on the Arts in Healing initiative for the past three years. The program’s mission is to enhance the medical experience of patients through the arts, practice and investigate the use of the arts in healing, and build community around the arts, health, and medicine. Currently, we have on-going partnerships with the Cincinnati Veterans Administration Medical Center, Hospice of Cincinnati, and The Anna Louise Inn. We also work on short term projects such as, Opening Up at City Gospel Mission.
Dance Movement Therapy is an important resource for treatment of trauma because it is helpful for rehabilitation of the body. It provides vital tools for reconnection to the body and to the self. It gains access to the implicit memories that are encoded in the primitive brain as visual, sensory imprints because it uses the language of the body, moving beneath words which often block access to conscious awareness. (Johnson, 1987) The creative play space provides a distance from intense feelings so clients can have a safe way to work with them.
Cincinnati VA Medical Center
Since 2015, once a week for 1.5 hours over 12 weeks sessions, working with veterans who have suffered brain trauma in combat and observing how dance can provide healing mentally and physically for the patients. This is part of their medical rehab, meaning they will be required to join as they would ‘normal’ psychiatric therapy.
This class works to engage both mind and body and to integrate them into a single form of self-expression. One of the benefits of dancing is an increased sense of vitality—an awakening and renewal of life energy. Patients will experience decreased depression and improved mood while strengthening positive feelings about oneself. This class is not about dance technique, but rather, improvisation, the mobilization and exchange of energy, self-expression, and the creative process. You will learn in ways that are authentic to how you are feeling and experiencing life, in the context of a supportive environment to release tension and help you become comfortable moving. Dance is movement, and movement is a process of ongoing change. Moving with your whole body, you learn to both yield and resist, to tune in to strengths and vulnerabilities, to try new qualities of action and behavior to assist in the healing and recovery process.
“I am always looking forward to being challenged by whatever new movements or exercises you brought. I found the work to be spiritually beneficial as well as physically. I connected to parts of my body that I hadn’t previously acknowledged, such as the heart and the breath.” – VA Patient
“We see them really become themselves.” – College Intern who has been observing and participating the past 2 weeks
Hospice of Cincinnati
[Description of Partnership]
Experiences shared by Pones performers
The Real Dance
I first visited the patient in room 307, she shared that she was not feeling well. She wanted her feet to be free and she was dealing with some tightness when trying to use the restroom. We created gestures of release and freedom to let go of the tightness and constraint and then imagined doing so as we repeated the gestures. She then said, “I don’t know if I’m good at this” and asked if I could help her create more of a ‘real dance’ It was cute, she was curious how I would do that without my special shoes. I assured her I could do it and we started creating a piece about some happy memories to take her mind off of the discomfort she was feeling. She shared that she like to play the piano, that she was part of a book club, and then we talked about the jobs that her children had. We then played “Clair de lune” and I danced an interpretation of those memories/stories. She smiled and was wide-awake during this moment; whereas, she had been falling asleep earlier. I then asked if she was feeling tired and she said she was. We chatted a bit more, I turned the TV back on, and she asked if I would visit her next time.
By far the highlight of this visit was revisiting with the patient in 308. He was the one who told me about his travels last time and I told him we could listen to Italian music and do some Italian dance moves this time around. I’m not sure he remembered me from last time, but I shared with him the parts of his stories that I remembered and told him he inspired me to be more open and want to learn about more and more cultures. He then asked how we would create dance together. I asked him what styles you enjoyed and he listed off more ballroom styles, such as salsa, tango, and rumba. I told him we could absolutely do that type of dancing with him in the bed with me standing. We started by tango-ing together with him in the bed, and with me standing. This was pretty hilarious he seemed to enjoy it. It just couldn’t really progress very far, so I suggested perhaps he help me to create more dance moves He told me a story about driving an ambulance in Korea. So we created the gestures of that story. We had steering, and pumping the brakes, and waiting, and then hiking up the hill. We then added this onto the tango music. It ended with his arms in the air and the huge smile on his face. He even flicked off the blankets of his bed! Ha. We then decided that we were so good at this dance we needed an audience. One of the nurses, Kathy, came in to watch us. It was awesome. As I was leaving he said “you’re much different than any other visitor I get in here.” I also told him I would be traveling to Sri Lanka in June and he requested I bring him some pictures and teach him some Sri Lankan dance moves. He is so full of joy and I greatly enjoy my visits with him.
The Lonely Goat Herder
In 202 we chatted about a few memories and then landed on one about a Vietnamese family of 6 that she and her husband sponsored. They threw a dinner to honor her and she remembers that being an incredibly special moment in her life. She told us the memory, we asked questions and took notes, then we made the dance into gesture and then improved to “The Lonely Goat herder” (hahaha, her choice). It was so silly and all three of us were laughing. Then she really got in the groove and requested a waltz to “That’s Amore” (she actually started to ask for this on repeat and we had to gracefully bow out … haha) and we did a dance to “A Spoonful of Sugar” and a salsa. It was joyful and we spent over an hour here, chatting, laughing, and thinking of fun songs and memories. Like I said, we had to excuse ourselves to see other people or else I’m not sure we could have ever left.
Anna Louise Inn
Off the Streets is a residential program at Anna Louise Inn for women in Cincinnati recovering from prostitution and drug/alcohol addiction. Pones and the Off the Streets Program have been in partnership since 2011. Pones presenters focus on body awareness and movement as part of a larger effort to create greater self-awareness among the women in the program.
Reactions by participants
“The dance and movement activities–sometimes supplemented by poetry or other artistic media–allow the women to feel and be in the moment. The women in OTS have been very receptive to these Pones programs. Pones has increased participation in OTS over the years at the request of the women in the program.” – Sandy Weiskettel, ALI Staff
“Every time you come I realize I should move more.” – ALI Participant
“I felt very welcomed and free during the movement.” – ALI Participant
City Gospel Mission
Opening Up is a 3-month arts in medicine residency created by Pones and City Gospel Mission for women who are transitioning from an abusive life situation. The residency is a fourteen 2-hour class program consisting of writing and dance, attendance at the opening performance of Waitress, and a final presentation of their own stories. Utilizing the story of Broadway Musical, Waitress, the residency will assist the participants to tap into their own inner creativity and ability to move their lives forward.
“I liked the dance, it uplifted my spirits. I love that we can unite and practice our movement together. I so needed Pam and Kim and healing arts, their love today – my day been broken since early this morning finally something that makes sense for me. Kim’s smile and dance instruction got my body going and my smile back.” – CGM Participant
“A gift from this class is expressing my innermost thoughts and feelings to the group without fear or ridicule. I felt really comfortable, content, and at peace.” – CGM Participant
“Blessing. Today’s group was so simple and so serene. I felt peace and in tune with my soul and body. I loved being able to express myself and hear others’ thoughts and feelings as well because we all matter. I’ve been struggling and this hit right on point with how I have been feeling.” – CGM Participant