LA DANZA has united some women affected by breast cancer for six months. We are talking about an experimental project supported by the Komen Center for Integrated Cancer Therapies of the Gemelli University Hospital Foundation in Rome: an initiative, Dance for the Cure, which combines movement, design and expression of emotions, which has officially become part of the treatment path of the hospital. And that we tell you this week in the Health Breast newsletter (here the link to subscribe for free). The project is curated by the dance therapist Mara Gentile and has the dual objective of supporting cancer patients and of making known the validity, now proven by various studies, of integrated therapies in oncology. Six months of meetings, partly live and partly online, allowed the patients to confront each other, telling something about themselves. The path ended with the creation of a video-performance, with music and clothes specially made, in collaboration with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Rome: a show in which women danced freely within a Roman space of ‘ exception: the ballroom of Villa Torlonia.
Beyond the tumor, at a dance pace
In the Italian reality, paths of this type conducted in the health sector have been timidly beginning to be seen for some years, although they are still not widespread. But what exactly is dance therapy? “It is a type of art therapy in which the therapist guides the participants in the use of the body and movement to achieve goals”, replies Mara Gentile, certified professional at the Italian Professional Association of Dance Movement (APID): “How to free emotions, reflect on their strengths, but also be able to express critical issues “. In general, we work on the relationship between body and mind, indissolubly linked: “Corporeity and movement are among the primary expressive dimensions for the person, and through this channel it is possible to tell, sometimes even more effectively than verbal communication, the their emotions “.
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A space unto itself
The purpose is not to focus on the difficulties of the disease and of the moment. Everyone can bring what he wants of himself and, for those who feel the need, to bring out fears and problems even with dance. In a subsequent moment of common reflection, art therapy works are carried out and thoughts are shared, with the aim of focusing them and then letting them go, at least for a few moments, freeing the mind. “Dance therapy represented a space in itself, distinct from everyday life and above all from the heavy previous months”, says Valeria, one of the patients who took part in the project and who had discovered a ‘ball’ in her breast in February 2020, just before of the lockdown: “It was a real restart, in which I took over a passion that I had since childhood, that of dance, and I had the opportunity to talk and share what I was feeling. Once it came spontaneously to me to draw myself and my son: the underlying emotion was the fear of the future. I also found that I was good at drawing in my own way. It doesn’t matter what skills you have: if you are guided in the right way and with the appropriate stimuli, you can create meaningful, profound and, why not, beautiful images ”.
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Reunite mind and body
Fears of how the disease will evolve, worries about oneself and loved ones are common, but the feeling of not recognizing one’s body is also very frequent: “Cancer – continues Gentile – is often perceived as an invasion, the presence of something foreign that enters our body, and the disease modifies in a very significant way the body perception itself ”. Cancer also affects delicate points, linked to femininity, sexuality and reproductive life: we think of hair loss, the total removal of a part of the breast, or the removal of the ovaries. As in the case of Valeria, who at the age of 40 underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and finally the removal of the ovaries. “Precisely because the intervention is based on the reunion between body and mind – explains the dance therapist – it can be of support in recognizing oneself again, in finding harmony with one’s body, discovering new resources before the disease, perhaps little considered”.
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Sharing is already therapy
But being together and the context also matter. Often you feel alone in the disease and, although you are surrounded by family and friends, there are few opportunities to meet and talk to other people who live this difficult experience. “Dance therapy transforms dance from a purely artistic and aesthetic experience into a human and social fact, also allowing important moments of sharing and socialization – comments Gentile – and this is fundamental in a critical moment for everyone, such as that of the pandemic. For this reason, integrated therapies including art therapy, which is not psychotherapy, should increasingly become part of the therapeutic path, as is already the case in other countries “. The final performance is also an important moment. “It can be experienced – concludes the expert – as an occasion in which one can rise to the fore and finally show oneself for something new, beautiful and vital”.
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