Health through dance

Interview of TVS (Tanz Vereinigung Schweiz) with Corinna Janson, naturopath and dance teacher Source: TanzVereinigung Schweiz TVS, 03/2021

Corrina Janson, founder of Tanzhologie® and director of the Tanzhologie Studio in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, started ballet classes as a 4-year-old and later trained as a naturopath. Today, she teaches dance with a therapeutic awareness. In an interview with TVS, she describes her life journey from being a passionate dancer to working as a therapist and back again.

You are an alternative practitioner and a dance teacher. What came first? The dancing or the therapeutic work?

For me, it's almost like the question of the chicken and the egg: I started ballet lessons as a 4-year-old and can't imagine a life without dance. At the age of 19, however, I decided to pursue dance as a hobby and to turn to other exciting topics in my professional life. Inspired by the holistic approach to human beings in Classical Homeopathy, I completed a 3-year full-time training as a non-medical practitioner in 1995 and then initially worked for 14 years as a homeopath in a group practice together with my husband, who specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine. On the side, however, I have worked with movement since I was 18 years old: as an exercise instructor I taught aerobics, gave gymnastics classes for groups of the Rheumatism League, led aqua fitness classes, and I was also allowed to substitute for my ballet teacher in class at a young age and on many occasions before I continued my education in dance therapy, dance medicine and dance pedagogy.

Today you combine your therapeutic work with dancing and run the Tanzhologie Studio in Bad Kreuznach. How did you come to do this?

I give dance lessons with a therapeutic awareness and my offer in the Tanzhologie Studio is meant as a healthy leisure activity. After I myself, as a young alternative practitioner, could not find a leisure activity with dance that was compatible with everyday life and that combined health, art and creativity, I began to develop my own concept in 2003. Through my dance therapy training with Dr. Detlef Kappert in Essen, I was able to complement my concept with dance psychological content. For me, Dr. Kappert was something like the "Hahnemann of dance" at that time and he inspired me to invent the term "Tanzhologie". Initially, I taught dance psychology in addition to my practice, but my dance research interests took up more and more space, so that I sought support in my practice in order to have enough time to pursue them.

Then, in 2011, my ballet teacher, with whom I had a close relationship and whose artistic activities shaped me for over 30 years, died suddenly and unexpectedly. At the time, I was about to graduate with a certificate in dance medicine (at ta.med) and, as a therapist, I also felt a responsibility to somehow "catch up" with the groups at this dance school. So I accepted the challenge of taking over the studio, initially with the intention of hiring a teacher for the dance pedagogical part, and putting my own focus on the organization of the studio and the danceology classes. The fact that things turned out differently, and that I have now been able to teach ballet under a holistic aspect for 10 years, is something for which I am very grateful to my studio members and my destiny.

You base your work on the idea of an inseparable connection between the human body, mind and emotions. How do you justify this assumption?

All great naturopathic healing methods -whether Western or Far Eastern- are based on this connection and it corresponds to what I experience or have experienced in my practice. Thus, it is often observed in the detailed homeopathic anamneses that a certain theme is reflected in a person on the different levels. As a homeopath, I understand disease symptoms as the "language of the life force" which expresses itself in the body and in the mind. It is primarily a matter of understanding this language and responding to it with adequate remedies so that healing processes can be set in motion.

How do dance therapy and Tanzhologie® differ?

Tanzhologie® is designed as a general health-promoting dance class that uses the positive effects of a wide variety of dance styles in combination with relaxation techniques for the benefit of the individual. Unlike dance therapy, Tanzhologie® is not a method to treat pathological patterns, but serves as a health prophylaxis and personality development. It is a varied and joyful leisure activity in a group, which teaches dance technique and gives room to individual needs of movement and expression, without personal problems being discussed in depth during the lessons.

You have dealt in depth with the interaction of body perception and self-esteem and have, among other things, researched the influence of dance training on the body image of female patients with eating disorders. What conclusions did you come to?

The experiences from the dance project with the anorexia and bulimia patients strengthen my belief that dance training can make a valuable contribution in today's society to counteract the alienation from one's own body. Free dance exercises in the form of improvisation, as well as elements from classical ballet, have a very beneficial influence.

I found it astonishing that with some test persons very lasting results could be achieved already with a small number of dance interventions! This absolutely speaks to the need to explore the potential of dance much more broadly and to use it in a more targeted way.

There are some professionals who are calling for therapeutic training to take advantage of the positive benefits of dance on mental health. What is your position on this?

Basically, I believe that if you want to be therapeutic, you should also have therapeutic training. There is an incredibly great potential in dance to initiate or support recovery processes in a simple and joyful way. Anyone who wants to use the medium of dance to responsibly accompany people who are suffering physically or psychologically needs, in addition to their own comprehensive dance training, appropriate training and experience in dealing with patients.

At the same time, I think that we cannot point out enough what a great influence every dance teacher has on the health and personality development of his or her students. It is also important for dance educators (and especially if they work with children!) to develop an awareness of the therapeutic impact (which is definitely there!) in dance teaching.

To what extent can the insights and experiences of Tanzhologie® be integrated into dance teaching with lay people?

My insights and experiences from Tanzhologie flow into all areas of my dance school. In ballet classes, I regularly incorporate elements from Tanzhologie® in all age groups. These are especially improvisation exercises, but also centering exercises, perception training and relaxation techniques. I believe it is important to acquire good movement technique without losing the ability to move freely.

In order to contribute to physical health, I pay attention to a balanced use of the body in my choreographies; and I conceive performances in such a way that the participants can identify with what they are performing, by actively involving them in the creative design processes through danceology elements.

In conclusion, many dance schools suffer from a lack of men. You dedicated your final thesis in the MAS Dance Science program at the University of Bern to the topic "Male attitudes towards recreational dance - a dance muffle study".

Do you have any advice for women who want to motivate their men to dance?

Unfortunately NO! In a way, I designed this study because I was looking for a trick to turn dance muffleheads into dancers - but in the end, it was mainly my understanding of dance muffleheads that grew as a result of this study. Men are ill-prepared for the art of dance in our society. In the crucial years when basic musical and dance skills are well ingrained, boys in German-speaking countries are discouraged from dancing rather than encouraged. And later - without having internalized the basic skills - they are supposed to "take full responsibility for success" in couple dancing, as one self-confessed dance muffle put it. No wonder they don't feel like it, even if they basically like physical contact when dancing and also love dancing with a partner. Just dancing away, without fixed steps and responsibility: that's what most men like almost as much as women. We can only strive as a society in the future in education to promote early body education through dance for boys. There is still a lot to do and research to be done here.

Thank you very much for the interview, Ms. Janson. We look forward to welcoming you in Zurich in the fall for the Tanzhologie workshop.

Further information and registration: Tanzhologie - A teaching method for health promotion through dance


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