The Gift of Dance
A generous donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, funded a weekly dance therapy program in L’Arche Montreal through the National Centre for Dance Therapy (NCDT). The NCDT, a division of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal “promotes the benefits of dance therapy as a method of prevention and for the improvement of individual wellbeing.”
In 2018, dance therapists began coming to L’Arche Montreal every Wednesday. Soon the core members found rhythm with a particular therapist, Carol Jones. Carol had been working in the arts for over three decades. Each week she came equipped with music, instruments, props and a theme.
One theme was “Baking A Cake.” Carol had participants go through the movements of baking — reaching up high for the flour and down low for the sugar. She asked everyone to add their own special touch to their cake, whether it be sprinkles or brussel sprouts. One theme was “Hawaiian Party.” Dance participants walked into the large room to find that it had been decorated with palm trees and colourful float toys. Everyone was given a Hawaiian lei. Carol said, “Imagine you’re on a beautiful tropical island…” There was a magic in her voice that made this house in the middle of Montreal feel like it was a tropical paradise. Though the theme changed every week the classes always had the same objectives: move, expand independence and, of course, discover a sense of joy.
Carol would often hand the spotlight to a core member to lead the group in movement, or play a game that got everyone involved. For instance, one person in a circle would perform a movement, the person to their left would perform the same movement and then add a new movement, going around the circle in a game where laughter was more important than getting the right sequence. She also had a large multi-colour parachute that everyone held onto and together they all made the vibrant fabric dance.
Of course, dancing isn’t inherently for everyone. Once in a while a core member wasn’t in any mood to dance. But with Carol’s magic charm she had that person expressing their emotions through dance and leaving the room in a state of bliss.
Carol took the success she had in L’Arche Montreal and applied it to a similar program at L’Arche Monteregie, thirty kilometres east of Montreal, funded by the same donor. She showed up to L’Arche Monteregie with her usual bells and whistles (among other instruments) and all the community had to do was supply a dance space for approximately eight core members and six assistants.
Unfortunately with the lockdown, dance therapy has been put on hold. Carol is in talks with both L’Arche communities about a virtual version of dance therapy. If the concept were successful, Carol could potentially provide the joys of dancing to even more communities.
Carol had danced all over the world but perhaps no dance space was more special than the living room in the L’Arche Montérégie house Fleurs de Soleil, which overlooks the Richelieu River and Saint-Hilaire Mountain. There she ran her weekly classes in the usual collaborative style. Each week she asked the core members what type of music they wanted to hear. The core members asked for The Beatles, Elvis and emphatically requested Quebec’s national treasure, Celine Dion. The classes were all-round very inclusive. Participants could dance as they liked, participate for twenty minutes or the full hour. After all, dancing itself was never the main objective of the program. Move, expand independence and discover a sense of joy.
Though the program at L’Arche Montérégie only lasted a few months, dancing was one of the highlights of the year. Carol even showed up at the 5th annual L’Arche Montérégie Inclusion Walk. Before the walk began, she led the 260 people in attendance in a mini-dance to get everyone warmed up. Everyone loved the experience and that day L’Arche raised $11,500!
Carol remained at L’Arche Montreal through 2019 and there were hopes that she’d continue in 2020, while joining L’Arche Montérégie and hopefully being a part of this year’s walkathon. Unfortunately with the lockdown, dance therapy has been put on hold. Carol is in talks with both L’Arche communities about a virtual version of dance therapy. If the concept were successful, Carol could potentially provide the joys of dancing to even more communities.
Just because there’s no dance though, doesn’t mean the two communities have lost the meaning of the classes. L’Arche Montreal has kept moving with gardening or putting on a little music and finding their own groove. Two out of the three houses in L’Arche Montérégie revel in the joy of long walks.
While each house may be at a social distance right now, they’ve found ways to move and stay happy. Everyone in Canada has had to adjust to some level of social distancing but it’s important that we all find ways to stay moving and stay positive. Your activity may be walking, jogging, cycling, dancing. If you’ve yet to find an activity that brings you joy, maybe you should put on some music right now and get those feet moving. Maybe the gift of dance is exactly what you’re looking for.
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