Protest Is Mental Health: Afrocentric healing in a dance movement therapy session


  • Erin Bryce Holmes Pratt Institute Registered as reader and then author



stereotype, social, construct, mandate, African American, protest


Abstract: Cultural ideals are repeatedly coded into hidden messages through drums, sampling, and signifying, which is all embodied through various dance styles. This transformation brings new meaning to political, social, historical, and cultural issues.  The policing of the black moving body has become an international symbol of struggle, pain, oppression and injustice.  How strong is a symbol?  To be seen is to be remembered.  When will we forget what has been learned?  When will we receive what our ancestors have earned?  The purpose of this research is to deepen an understanding of the sub- group or ethnic group known as African- Americans in the new world, also known as, the Americas.  This paper begins with an introduction to phenomena such as present day stereotypes, social constructs and mandates on what is considered by Brenda Dixon Gottschild to be the "black dancing body" in America.  The discussion to follow deals with how policing the black dancing and moving body occurs throughout various interlinked systems in America.  The black female and male forms are constantly violated by lack of access to education, diagnosis of illness and reinforced stereotypes of aggression.  An embodied exploration of the Pan- African dance technique known as Umfundalai (pronounced ma-foon-da-la) provides a deeper understanding of protest within the arts.  This writer will show therapeutic values inherent in the stylized movement vocabulary of people of the African Diaspora and the utilization of their culture as a viable resource for healing in an acute care psychiatric hospital.

Author Biography

Erin Bryce Holmes, Pratt Institute Registered as reader and then author

Erin Bryce Holmes, MS, LCAT, BC-DMT is the Senior Activity Therapist in Dance at Maimonides Medical Center, visiting instructor at Pratt Institute, and teaching artist at Dance Theater of Harlem. She is certified with the Organization of Umfundalai Teachers and a member of Black Batey. She volunteers on the NYSADTA Governmental Affairs Committee, Alzheimer’s Association Brooklyn Walk Committee, and is director of Bryce Entertainment, LLC, a therapeutic services company.



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