The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV dance professor explores dance movement therapy

Courtesy GVSU

Hannah Seidel, an associate professor of dance at Grand Valley State University, is returning to campus this fall after her semester-long sabbatical. 

Seidel, an instructor, choreographer and dancer with nearly two decades of experience within the dance industry, spent her winter 2023 semester creating three new dance pieces. She has also been continuing her study of dance and movement therapy (DMT) in New York City, which she has done for the past three years.

DMT, according to the American Dance Therapy Association, focuses on the “psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.” 

Seidel’s three new pieces utilize her DMT research and each involve a unique process in their creation.  The group performance features the most experimentation and editing. The duet requires an extremely intensive rehearsal process because of its complexity. The solo performance utilizes spontaneity and involves the audience holding crisscrossed ribbons resembling a spider web that Seidel gets stuck in and must graciously navigate through. 

The apparent symbolism of the solo performance is very much intentional. 

“The spider web allows us to navigate a somewhat familiar situation with unknown variables,” Seidel said. “It’s new each time because I may get stuck in the web differently, which is symbolic and symbolism is a very important aspect of DMT.”

With efforts currently being made to bring these teachings and practices to GVSU, Seidel has previously used this outlet of expression in a much different setting. 

During her time as a company member of Gibney Dance, Seidel helped domestic violence survivors find comfort and pride in their bodies through similar practices of therapeutic movement creation and experience workshops. However, these workshop experiences differ from traditional dance performances associated with DMT because they lack the performance component that a crowd would see. 

Seidel said in these workshops, movement creation is used in an individualistic manner that allows for the person to make a connection with themselves in the moment.

Incorporating her studies, Seidel’s most recent performances took place on  Aug. 25, and Aug. 26 with Chase Dance, as part of the Grand Rapids Ballet’s annual Summer Dance Festival. The festival featured local dancers from all over Michigan, including five GVSU alumni performing alongside Seidel.

“The rehearsal process has been really fun so far because of Hannah and the input she encourages the dancers to give,” said Kaye Suarez, GVSU alumna and dancer in Seidel’s performance. “During many of the rehearsals, Hannah would have the dancers create a movement based upon a certain phrase or word that would get added to the final routine, which creates work that everyone is comfortable with and proud of.”

Creating this type of work is an important aspect of dance and movement creation for Seidel. Much of that has to do with her philosophy on movement being the facilitator of non-verbal communication and language, which she views as just as important and meaningful as the written word and other verbal communication. 

“I believe that to fully articulate ourselves as artists, we must be able to traverse this divide,” Seidel said. “This can be done by expanding the understanding of research held by many students.”

As a former student under Seidel during her time at GVSU, Suarez said a similar sentiment regarding movement being the language of non-verbal communication: “Punctuation creates the life of words but movement connects with people in a way that words cannot.” 

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