Candy Dennis is a dance therapy teacher helping individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Down syndrome. She obtained her associate’s degree focused on dance from Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts. Also, she holds a bachelor’s degree in both dance and fitness from the Salem State University.
Besides her education, Candy Dennis is certified for Pilates, Zumba, Yoga, Rhythm Works, and just completed a course in massage therapy with high honors. Candy also has a certificate from U.S. Career Institute and is currently working towards a license in clinical bodywork therapy. Her goal is to eventually practice holistic healing with cancer patients and others in hospice care. Her Rhythm Works experience, however, is where the vast majority of her interactions with children comes. Although she began fulfilling this role in 2017, she is already an established teacher with multiple clients.
How would you describe dance therapy to someone who never heard of it before?
It is a way to address emotional and intellectual problems through organized movement. This means that people who may be experiencing adversity can resort to dancing to help overcome their issues. Also, I would describe it as a state-of-the-art usage of typical dancing that may not have a particular purpose. Nevertheless, it is not something that requires specialization and unimaginable talent. On the contrary, dance therapy is an inclusive way to deal with issues.
What made you become a teacher in this field and are you enjoying your current role?
I wanted to find a way to help children who are suffering from certain conditions. These include individuals diagnosed with ASD and Down syndrome. Given that social interaction may often be difficult for them, I saw dance therapy as a perfect way to understand them better. Ultimately, I hope to aid them on their journey as they become more communicative and involved. And yes, I am certainly enjoying my role. In fact, I think that it is the highlight of my entire career.
Are there certain types of people who would benefit from dance therapy more than others?
I do not really think so. Everyone can find something that helps them through dance therapy. For instance, those with motor issues that may have limited movement can find comfort in dancing. Then again, individuals who also may be victims of abuse could use it to overcome mental struggles. I think that the inclusion portion of the dance therapy goes very far and allows everyone to partake in the momentum.
How can dance therapy be used to aid victims of abuse or self-harm?
Well, a lot of people who have experience with these issues are overcoming mental challenges. For example, victims of abuse may have to re-teach themselves how to trust others again. Similarly, those who inflicted self-harm may need a new coping mechanism. In both cases, dance therapy creates a unique way to represent oneself, and it is only limited by someone’s imagination. Meaning, there are no rules and boundaries that will reduce one’s freedom of expression.
Are there specific dance styles that must be used?
Not necessarily. I have seen people use everything from modern dance and ballet to fold and circle dance. As said, the goal is to promote one’s creativity and allow them to step out of their comfort zone. If teachers asked people to learn specific dance styles, they would achieve the opposite of strengthening freedom and healing. Thus, people are generally free to dance any way they would like to.
Has there been scientific research that pertains to the effect of dance therapy on people?
Absolutely! Most of it, however, had issues related to a low number of subjects or limited conclusions. Nevertheless, studies like the “Dance Therapy for Cancer Patients,” which was conducted by Cochrane in 2015, show promising results. Some findings do prove that people experience a higher quality of life after giving dance therapy a try.
What is one of the most important advantages of dance therapy for children with ASD or Down syndrome?
If I had to pick only one, it would certainly be the non-verbal communication. Since children with these conditions may be difficult to comprehend, dancing often helps learn their movements. Meaning, people can get to know their non-verbal cues. For instance, if a child is dancing and not grasping the concept, they are likely to show their stress in some way. Parents, however, may not even know these types of hints until they allow their child to attend a class.
Are there specific locations that teachers must use?
Well, the rule of thumb advises how one should offer a professional environment that will cater to a group of dancers. That includes a decent-sized room which allows movement and potentially loud music. Nevertheless, many teachers only perform in hospitals, nursing homes, or rehabilitation centers. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. If a teacher finds a unique location that people like, it will be used.