Bringing Dancers Back to Dance

Every dancer who has stopped dancing has his or her own story. Their reasons are their own but the barriers they face when returning to dance are shared.

3rd Stage apply the Social Model, readily known within health care, to returning dancers. We look to identify and remove systematic barriers, negative attitudes, and exclusion – either  by the dance community (purposely or inadvertently) or by the individual in question – to give dancers the time, space, and support to learn to love dancing again.

The healing power of dance

Dance can be – and is – used as a healing art for people of people of all ages and backgrounds in different cultures all over the world. In the introduction to her paper Neuroscience and the Healing Art of Dance (2011), Dr. Julia Stewart Clark writes about the movement of people together being governed by emotion and the ‘drive to survive’. She discusses the nature of dance across all cultures as part of rituals engaging both the spirit and mind, unifying a social nature of music, movement and emotion.

When healing hurts

However professionally trained returning dancers often find it uncomfortable, even harmful, to tap into this ‘healing process’. Any period of not dancing entails a reduction in the flexibility and strength the professional dancer needs. The notion that the body is no longer ‘good enough’ can profoundly undermine self-identity and social inclusion provoking a bereavement for who the dancer was, with all the anger, confusion, and lack of hope that grief brings.

Applying the Social Model to dance

3rd Stage applies the Social Model to supporting the returning dancer in several ways:


By offering professional class, choreography, and performance opportunities, without ‘performance expectations’ or judgment. This gives returning dancers a community and the chance to build bonds with like-minded people


Valuing the presence of each individual and the experience of dancing with them, and supporting certain traits and behaviors recognisable in returning dancers. From this the individual can begin to believe and value their own attitudes, behaviors, and quality as a dancer


Through appreciating the importance of the life outside dance and accepting that the returning dancer has other commitments which need to be honored. This allows the dancer to weave dance back into their daily routine without the pressure of having to make choices


Giving returning dancers the time and space they need to engage in creative and technical dance practice (the importance of which is recognised by Dance Movement Psychotherapy)

It’s all about the dancer

This supportive environment, community, and structure helps the returning dancer manage over-whelming feelings and thoughts, and re-connect with forgotten inner resources (e.g. technique, experience, knowledge, creative ideas etc.).

The external experiences of dancing with, inspiring, and teaching others reinforces the internal reawakening and fosters the development of trusting relationships.

The returning dancer can then test the relationship between inner voice (“I can’t dance”) with the outer reality (“I am dancing”).

“…when I am dancing […] I am near reality and in a more harmonious state of being than at any other time. I find a real escape from the limited sense of life that I ordinarily have.”

Ruth St. Denis. (cited in Shelton, S. Divine Dances, 1981 p206)

This is 3SDC

If you’d like to learn more about what we do or share your experience of returning to dance, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you

We are looking for opportunities to take our use of the Social Model in dance rehabilitation further. We want to research, in order to fully understand, why returning to dance is so challenging and how to make it easier for returning dancers to love dancing again. Contact us if you’d like to talk to us about this.

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Company registration number: 9587398