Some Ideas on Introducing Dance-Drama Therapy to Children with Special Needs


Why do we all love Fairy Tales? In our hearts we know the answer. It’s because morally good characters are rewarded and the evil ones punished. The morally good are always beautiful or handsome. But the beauty correctly understood is never just skin deep and external. It is a beauty of character reflecting from inside outwards into the world. Likewise all evil characters are ugly by reason of their immoral inner life.

To hear or read the words “Once upon a time…” tells us that in the end all will come right and every character will receive his or her just reward or punishment. We need fairy stories now more than ever because we are seeking reassurance that Justice, Peace,  Beauty and Love will triumph against all the odds.

For the first time ever we are aware of the enormous damage that our greedy, selfish, power seeking lives have caused. We have brought Mother Earth to her knees. Belatedly we are realizing that her sickness is our sickness and if she dies so do we.

There are  world huge numbers of people in the world who are consumed by fear but their fears are often subconscious. They seek relief in displacement activities of the most materialistic kind. This, of course, fails to bring relief.

Others are well aware of why they are afraid but feel helpless to influence events. Politicians clearly do not have the answers. But if each of us takes responsibility for ourself and alters our thinking about life then changes of great magnitude are brought about.

“Goodwill” is an enormously creative and powerful force for change. Goodwill transcends cultures and religion. It is something every single human being can agree is essential to a harmonious and productive life. It may sound simplistic but it isn’t.

You may be wondering if there is any relevance to this long introduction to an article which is supposed to be about helping your special needs child by introducing  fairy stories into dance and movement therapy and by doing so creating dance drama.

If you introduce a story element to the dance movement session you can enable your child to make a significant contribution to its’ content. He or she could make up a story to dance. This woud allow children to express their own interests, emotions and movement needs.

You yourself could use dance drama therapy sessions as an opportunity to work on problems or to encourage certain aspects of behaviour. Even educational themes like numbers or spelling coud be used as a topic Creating a dance drama for children with special needs allows them to create their own dialogue. Children with hearing or speech problems can sign their parts.

However, theraputic dance drama does not always have to include dialogue. We could also use mime. We need to view mime as another means of using the arts to help children with emotional and learning difficulties. We have all heard of world famous mimes such as Charlie Chaplin, Lloyd and Buster Keaton of silent movie fame and in more recent times of Marcel Marceau and his stage performances.

Clearly the origins of mime like dance  and drama would seem to be both spiritual and practical and to lie in our far distant past. Mime may very well pre-date speech.

Basically there are two main forms of mime – the literal and abstract or a combination of the two.The first form is mainly used for comedy and story telling. Abstract mime is used to generate feeling, thoughts and images about a serious topic or issue. It is not usual in this form to have a plot or a central character. This type of performance calls for an intuitive response

Why do I advocate incorporating mime into dance therapy sessions for children with disabilities? There are two main reasons. Like dance, mime uses the whole body expressively which is a healthy thing for all of us. The other reason is that everyone, and especially children, need to learn to appreciate silence and the spiritual and emotional peace which this can bring. Our everyday world is full of competing sounds, some of which we want to associate with and others which we wish we could permanently escape. Large numbers of children with problems are often very sensitive to sound. For such children working in complete silence can be a very powerful experience.

Mime gives children an additional opportunity to play, explore and invent. Children mime naturally when they play games such as shops, going to the dentist etc. etc. When young children do not have the necessary objects or cannot express themselves they mime.

Children need to be encouraged in ways that help them to make their inner life visible without words. A session of mime fits very well into a dance and movement session.

The question now arises what about steps and music? Its’ important that the child relates to the music. If there are sufficient children perhaps they could form a percussion orchestra and give their own “colour” to the proceedings. Help him or her to find movements and steps that are expressive of the various aspects of the story. This can be great fun and very stimulating. A child may have very limited movement but do encourage exploration and experimentation within his or her limitations.

I am presently working on a dance-drama for Children with Special Needs based on my recently published book of children’s stories “Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me”.

Dzagbe Cudjoe is a Dance and Movement Therapist, Intuitive Counselor, Healer and Ethnologist with a keen interest in promoting Dance as a means of achieving Mind-Body-and-Spirit integration.She is the author of the manual “Dance to Health -Help Your Special Needs Child Through Inspirational Dance”. available at  Dance to Health and the dvd “Dance in Our Footsteps” available at Dance in Our Footsteps. She has just published a book of children’s stories “Tales My Ghanaian Grandmother Told Me”.


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