Professional Resource

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MEMBER CORNER: Suzi Tortora

"As a dancer, I first brought the dance to children through teaching creative movement classes. It soon became evident to me that as the children enhanced their physical skills and improved coordination, a deeper confidence and expressivity of self developed as well..."

From the Editor: Suzi Tortora has been contributing to ZERO TO THREE since 1994, when she was invited to be the first guest editor for an issue of the Journal on infants’ and young children’s movement and the use of dance/movement therapy (DMT) with very young children. In that issue, Suzi described the beginnings of her exploration of dance and young children:

As a dancer, I first brought the dance to children through teaching creative movement classes. It soon became evident to me that as the children enhanced their physical skills and improved coordination, a deeper confidence and expressivity of self developed as well. As I encouraged children to repeat and elaborate their individual stylistic movement preferences into dance phrases, each child’s personal choreography became an expression which seemed to describe his or her past and present experiences (Tortora, 1994, p.2).

As Suzi went on to talk about dance as therapy, she distinguished it from occupational and physical therapy in this way:

We [therapists] enter into a physical dialogue with children not to help them accomplish a task (although through this process tasks will often be achieved), but rather to develop a socially, emotionally supportive relationship as a way to hear what the infant wants and needs to say about his or her experience in the world and what is problematic about this experience (Tortora, 1994, p.4).

In the 25 years since Suzi introduced ZERO TO THREE Journal readers to dance/movement therapy, she has continued to share her passion and expertise to a wider audience through ZERO TO THREE, serving as Journal guest editor once again in 2004 in an issue on very young children’s nonverbal communication, and helping to create On the Move/Niños en Movimiento, a pamphlet for parents on babies and movement (available in the bookstore).

In her practice, Suzi has continued to explore new frontiers for using DMT with infants and toddlers. She recently let us know about her latest publication, an article in a special issue of the journal, Children, titled, “Children Are Born to Dance! Pediatric Medical Dance/Movement Therapy: The View from Integrative Pediatric Oncology.” In the abstract, Suzi summarizes:

Children freely expressing themselves through spontaneous dance is a natural part of childhood. The healing powers of dance are universal in all cultures across history. Dance/movement therapy (DMT) in pediatric oncology is little known and underutilized. This article discusses DMT, specifically focusing on pediatric oncology. It defines and clarifies the difference between medical DMT as a psychotherapeutic modality aimed at addressing the patient’s psychosocial needs, and dance and therapeutic dance used recreationally to engage patients during their hospital visits.

You can access the full text of Suzi’s article here to learn more about this intriguing approach to serving the youngest cancer patients.

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