n African Performance Review - Dance as mental therapeutic in the African experience : beyond the speculation

Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1753-5964


Dance is an integral part of African life. Its very nature (model of performance, functions and aesthetics) whether in secular or ritual form makes it, perhaps, the most popular socio-aesthetic cultural institution and practice for facilitating both personal well-being and communal welfare; it is one art form which could be relevantly employed to suit various spiritual, psychological, economic, social and political needs. However, this complexity of the dance as a varied topic in the African experience has led to speculations and sweeping generalizations about its peculiar relevance. For instance, various published research by dance scholars reflect a number of ''recurrent themes'' intended as basic models for analyzing and interpreting the African dance culture. Among these, the topic of dance as ''manifestation of the human unconscious background and or inner experience'' is a crucial one. In this theme, dance as a psychological form of human behaviour is perceived to help in conditioning the emotional state of individual members (of given societies), by helping to build their personal selfworth. As such, the cathartic and therapeutic function of dance is linked to this behaviour, since certain experience of dance performance can help to purge negative feelings and emotion embedded in performers as well as spectators. This discourse highlights the theory and research that have attempted to investigate the use of dance as a medium of expression in psychotherapy. Precisely, it examines the speculations about its values in contributing to healthy emotional development. While it agrees with the idea of psycho-dynamics of dance as a mind-body interventions therapy in the African experience, it advocates a scientific-oriented approach towards understanding the nature of its therapeutic relationship to psychological medicine.

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