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American Dance Therapy Association 45th Annual Conference


Creating the Mind-Body Mosaic: Theory, Research and

Practice in Dance/Movement Therapy

September 23-26, 2010

Brooklyn, New York.

Conference Proceeding

Title of Presentation:

Mindful Multicultural Dance Therapy: Integrating Mind-Body-Spiritual worlds for

Compassionate Healing of Us and Our Community

Rosa Granadillo-Schwentker PhD, R-DMT
California Institute of Integral Studies
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Transpersonal Integrated Energy Therapies


Participants explore issues of self-formation and personal history connected with

Diversity and Compassion in their pursuit of a deeper psychological understanding of themselves

as integrated mind-body-spiritual beings. Dancing together and delving into their narratives and

processes, they hold and acknowledge differences compassionately while they rehearse relating

with themselves and others mindfully.


The purpose of this workshop is to introduce participants to Mindful Multicultural Dance

Therapy as a tool to acknowledge and respect cultural differences. We will discuss cultural-

social barriers that form the image of others and us, as intercultural dynamic presences in

society. The Dalai Lama describes Mindfulness as a state of having a neutral mind despite what

comes into our awareness (Dalai Lama & Goleman, 2003, p. 171). By acknowledging whatever

comes to mind, it disappears. Mindful Dance Therapy not only emphasizes the importance of

Movement as the root of all artistic activity (McNiff, 1981, p. 110), but also fosters connection

among participants, exploring its implications for their self-concept and relationship with others.

Hackey & Earhart (2010) describe the physical and affective effects of Dance Groups as

enhancing social networks and encouraging social interaction (p. 42). Dance Therapy’s primary

goal of helping people to express themselves connect with others (Loman, S. in Malchiodi, 2007,

pp. 68) allows the process to unfold. Dancers bring their whole being (mind/body/spirit),

personal history, persona, and an immensely wide diversity of human experience (Stomsted &

Haze in Pallaro, 2007, p. 60), including self-formation and self-concept developments derived

from dialectical relationships with family and social environments.

Rina Sircar, an Abhidhamma-Buddhist Psychology practitioner, professor and scholar,

stresses the importance of developing “the right understanding of one’s own personality or

temperament [with its issues, values, and personal history] in order to lead a balanced and

harmonious life” (Sircar, 1999, p. 41). For her, each one of us has some concept of herself as a

person with purpose and wishes. Moreover, at the level of regular affairs, we have a goal of

understanding this self (p. 40). Sue & Sue (2008) present a revised model for Racial/Cultural

Identity Development (R/CID) with five stages: conformism, dissonance, resistance and

immersion, introspection, and the last, integrative awareness. In this final stage, the individuals

commit to work for intercultural/interracial understanding to relate with all culturally diverse

groups in a respectful way (p. 243). Achieving this stage seems to be important considering that

in this young country, to borrow the words of Yvette Flores-Ortiz, “we all are the product of

multiple migrations” (Flores-Ortiz in The Latina Feminist Group, 2001, p. 33). For Abhidhamma

Buddhism or Buddhist Psychology, the exploration of the self is contextualized around the

understanding of ‘who am I’ (Sircar, p. 43), which includes five aggregates, matter, feeling,

perception, mental formation, and consciousness, that define a person as psychosocial

phenomena (ibid, p. 44-45).

As psychosocial beings, forces of society and family life affect us in diverse ways

depending on culture, ethnicity, ideology, political views, personal history, life style, and sexual

preferences among other factors. This diversity is marked by the existence of the other that

looks, thinks, and acts differently from the mainstream. Jandt (in Parker & Fukuyama, 2007)

defines the other as “the one that creates a target for negative comparisons to elevate one’s status

in detriment of another group” (p. 228). Harvey & Laszlofty (2005) talk about ‘situational

devaluation,’ as a phenomenon connected to people that are different (p. 42). It corresponds with

our assumption of the other as an outcast because of dissimilarities, which may propitiate the

disruption of community at a cultural level (ibid, p. 207). Parker & Fukuyama (2007) discuss the

possibility of deconstructing the other in order to understand power (p. 214).

Cultural Competent Models address challenging cultural situations within communities.

We agree with Sue & Sue’s (2008) discussion of three desirable attributes of cultural

competency as a therapist: 1) awareness of her own values, biases, and assumptions, 2)

understanding the worldviews of culturally diverse clients, and 3) knowing appropriate

interventions for particular populations (p. 44). They define cultural competency as the ability to

create client resources, to acquire counseling skills to function effectively in a pluralistic society,

and to interact successfully with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds (p. 46). Parker &

Fukuyama (2007) suggest taking a stand in discussing and reflecting upon what contributes to

racial, gender, class, sexual orientation, and religious oppression (p. 207). This ought to include

the easy realization of undesirable “feelings caused by disturbing issues, and calls for the

discipline, admission, or acceptance of their presence as a first step to slowly defuse their

intensity” (Sircar, 1999, p. 36). We believe that Diversity, while raised as an issue, needs to be

confronted honestly and uncompromising.

Multicultural Psychology is born from the need of mental health professionals to

comprehend cultural identity among people. In my practice of facilitating Diversity’ awareness

groups, I start with compassion while recognizing our individual-integral-uniqueness.

Compassion is associated with empathy, gratitude, and feelings from deep in the heart

that can serve as a great source of help and happiness. In the recognition that happens through

empathy, we can feel compassion for others (Dalai Lama & Goleman, 2003). Motivated by

compassion and love, we tend to respect the rights of others (Dalai Lama & Hopkins, 2005, p. 5).

The Dalai Lama describes this power of compassion as unbiased service toward all existences,

no matter their dispositions, engendering friendliness to all sentient beings (ibid, pp. 133-134).

The Mindful Multicultural Dance Therapy approach provides the container for the

creation of art, and promotes in participants the discussion of its impact in their emotional,

spiritual-transpersonal, and social worlds. Within a caring-compassionate attitude, participants

listen to others without judging or evaluating, and examine the underlying premises of their

personal presuppositions, assumptions, values, and beliefs (Tang & Joiner, 2006, p. 8). This

process allows the opening of consciousness through confronting and engaging points of deep

differences (Elias in Tang & Joiner, p. viii). Importantly, this opening happens while participants

access the metaphoric reality using Movement before elaborating what they think they know in

the linear world.

The problem of attaining knowledge based on pre-conceived ideas or "forced into a mold

prepared for it by our own intelligence (Sri Aurobindo, 1990, p. 124) has raised a serious call for

self-reflection and exploration to become aware of our stereotypes of a reality plagued by

constructed notions.”

In summary, Mindful Multicultural Dance Therapy, as an act of Moving, tends to help to

transcend certain kinds of communication barriers (Chaiklin, 1975, p. 23) and resistances. With

this approach, we hope to help participants develop an understanding of self-formation and the

perception of the other in this diverse world, producing an awareness of how to hold and

acknowledge differences in a compassionate way. The ultimate goal is to make the world a

“safer place to live and exist, where differences of all types are respected and allowed to

flourish.” (Harvey & Laszlofty, 2005, p. 207)


Chaiklin, H. (Ed.).(1975). Marian Chace: Her Papers. Maryland: American Dance

Therapy Association.

Elias, D. (2006). Foreword. In Tang, Y. & Joiner, C. (Eds.), Synergic Inquiry (pp. vii-ix).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Flores-Ortiz, Y. G. (2001). My Father’s Hands. In The Latina Feminist Group. Telling To

Live. (pp. 33-38). Durham: Duke University Press.

Hackney, M. & Earhart, G. M. (2010). Recommendations for Implementing Tango Classes for
Persons with Parkinson Disease. American Journal of Dance Therapy. 32:42-52.

Hardy, K. & Laszloffy, T. (2005). Teens Who Hurt. New York, NY: The Guilford.

H. H. Dalai Lama & Hopkins, J. (Ed.).(2005). How to Expand Love. New York, NY: Atria

H. H. Dalai Lama & Goleman, D. (2003). Destructive Emotions. New York, NY: Bantam.

Jandt, F. E. (2004). An Introduction to Intercultural Communication (4th Ed.). Thousand Oaks,

CA: Sage. Quoted in Parker, W. & Fukuyama, M. (2007). Consciousness-Raising. (3rd
Ed.) Illinois: Charles C. Thomas.

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Therapies (pp. 68-89). New York, NY: The Guilford.

McNiff, S. (1981). The Arts and Psychotherapy. Illinois: Charles C. Thomas.

Parker, W. & Fukuyama, M. (2007). Consciousness-Raising. Illinois: Charles Thomas

Sircar, R. (1999). The Psycho-Ethical Aspects of Abhidhamma. Lanham, MD: University Press.

Sri Aurobindo. (1990). The Problem of Rebirth (4th impression). Pondicherry, India: Sri
Aurobindo Ashram.

Stromsted, T. (2007). In the Road In. In Pallaro, P. (Ed.), Authentic Movement (pp. 56-68).
Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley.

Sue, D. W. & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the Culturally Diverse. (5th Ed.) Hoboken, NJ: John
Wiley & Sons

Yo, Jackson (Ed.).(2006). Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

The Presenter

Dr Granadillo-Schwentker, born and raised in Venezuela, South America, is an adjunct faculty for the
California Institute of Integral Studies and for the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. She is the
director of the Transpersonal Integrated Energy Therapies Center and the creator of shiftinNRG™ for
change: a model integrating feminine shamanism, energy medicine/psychology and the arts for teaching
and coaching. Trained as a Psychologist in Venezuela and USA, she has been working in the mental
health, education, community, and organizational areas for over 30 years.

A registered Dance Movement Therapist and Certified Expressive Arts therapist, she directed the MEA
(Movement-Expressive Arts Center) for nine years working with children and adolescents with a history of
trauma, abuse and neglect; most of them from treatment homes and the criminal system. Professional
interests include Women’s Spirituality, Caribbean, Toltec and Eastern Feminine Shamanism, Diversity in
the Expressive Art Therapies, Diversity issues in Clinical Practice, Integrative models for Transformative
Quality of the Arts, Arts and Consciousness Change, Energy Medicine and Psychology and its impact on
the community. An international presenter and facilitator, Rosa has taught in Europe, Asia, North and
South America