Response to "Social Dancing in the Care of Persons with Dementia in a Nursing Home Setting"

By Watson, Jean PhD, Rn, Faan | Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice, January 1, 1997 | Go to article overview

Response to "Social Dancing in the Care of Persons with Dementia in a Nursing Home Setting"


Watson, Jean PhD, Rn, Faan, Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice


Is there such a thing as the dance of life? Does it manifest in involuntary body memory that cannot be contained, even when we resist and try to ignore? Is there a rhythmic flow (Bostick, 1996) when two or more come together in the presence of musical sounds? Do music and dance call out and make contact with this inner body wisdom that we can glimpse, only out of the corner of our minds body eye? Do we all experience this dance internally when our body' s cellular movement rises within and then dances itself from the inside out? Do we oppress this movement from within and without, if we do not freely participate in the dance?

Or is there a notion of spontaneous transpersonal caring that contains the whole? Is there such a coming together in the art and dance of movement and being that creates a new moment, a new field of being, a new possibility, that is greater than nurse or patient separately? (Watson, 1988; 1990) Does this phenomenon of the whole of the dance and music invite, inspire, and call out from some deep place within and between and among, to connect, or be disconnected? Is there such a thing as Proust's involuntary memory that is contained in the inner body wisdom that embraces the soul of the whole? Is body movement, dance, and dancing part of caring and professional practice?

What do such questions have to do with nursing and the concrete world of nursing care? How do such issues concern themselves with institutionalized persons with dementia who have long since lost their contact with body sensations, sense of self, cognition, memory, and their own dance of life? Or have they?

As these study authors and practitioners demonstrate (in their original and unique phenomenological study in Sweden), if one places these same institutionalized elders in a setting with music, and gives permission to dance and move their bodies, then miracles seem to happen; there appears to be a remembering that occurs at the body, mind, and soul level, along with conforming to some social customs and courtesies associated with being a socially appropriate functioning person. While this study demonstrated that dance and music could be an effective nursing arts modality with patients with dementia; while this work also affirmed a phenomenological method with use of video analysis using Giorgi's method, what became a tell-tale factor in this study is whether the nurses in this setting, or perhaps any setting, were willing to engage in the dance-in this case, the dance of these folks' dance of living.

Although not framed as such, the researchers explored and revealed such ontological and professional notions about humans and about aspects of what we may consider nursing arts. Their findings raise new questions about the nurses' participation or non-participation in such a dance of life and the effect it has on both nurses and patients. For it appears that those nurses, at least in this study, served as a human mirror, for better or for worse, for the patients, a mirror not unlike the affective modeling parents do for infants, somewhat determining the child's degree of fear or sense of safety in a strange situation.

In this study situation, where the detailed movement of the nurses and patients were captured and analyzed from live video recordings, the finding that stands out in the "meaning units" is not that the patients (and the nurses) seemed to respond to an inner body wisdom and inner knowing, associated with body consciousness and desire to move with the flow of the music (which is an emerging theory in and of itself). What is striking is that this work reinforces some of the theories of Csikszentmihalyi (1975) and Bostick (1996) that a flow experience, such as with dance and movement, is considered to be so enjoyable that individuals will seek to experience it again and again. According to Bostick and her work on rhythmic flow, flow is considered to be a state in which consciousness is harmoniously ordered; this, in turn, produces happiness because there is control over one's inner life. …

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