Narrating Illness through Dance

This week, I’m on the look out for non-narrative illness narratives. Expressions of the illness experience that occupy any form of media.

I’m beginning my exploration of multimedia illness narratives with dance. As someone who has danced forever, I have always been fascinated by movement. Recently I have learned about dance therapy and movement programs, and I love how dance and movement have been adapted to help with coping.

I began with a youtube search for ‘illness dances’.

This first video is called Schizophrenia, and is “loosely based” on the illness.

These movements embody the marriage of chaos and calm, of sharp and fluid, of control and collapse.

Another video I found is called “An Interpretation of My Illness- Crohn’s disease.” Unlike the previous one, this dance is choreographed by an individual who has the illness that the dance expresses.

Her incorporation of movements on the floor demonstrate the “falling” aspects of her illness, the numerous head rolls reveal her anguish. An interesting aspect of this dance is the song chosen: “Her Diamonds” by Rob Thomas, a song written for his wife who has an auto-immune diseases.

Last but not least, how can I forget my own dance loosely choreographed about autism? After seeing this video, I was inspired to choreograph a dance last year to “Fix You” by Coldplay.

It’s interesting to look back on my own choreography through the lens of illness narratives. I didn’t even realize that I was depicting the light of triumph narratives. At the time, I described the circle as a moment of “chaos,”; now it seems like those movements express the “chaos narrative” that words cannot capture.

Haven’t had enough dance illness narratives? Here’s an epic production of “Childhood Illness…Our Story”, Part 1 and Part 2, telling the tale of “a mother and young daughter’s journey through chemotherapy.”

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Filed under Dance, Independent Study

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