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NewsJan 12, 2022

Lesley dance therapists win national recognition for innovation, contributions to the Dance/Movement Therapy field

Intergenerational voices make impact at American Dance Therapy Association conference

Dancers as part of a movement therapy class in a studio dancing with fabric.

Members of the Lesley community shined at the recent 56th annual American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) conference, winning a range of awards and recognitions as well as facilitating major components of the virtual four-day event.

Alumna and dance/movement therapist Stefanie Belnavis ’15 won the Exceptional Service Award in recognition of her service on multiple ADTA committees to build sustainable, inclusive and cross-cultural spaces, as well as for her contributions as president of the New England ADTA Chapter and her culturally-affirming work with BIPOC birthing families in the Boston area.

Headshot of Stefanie Belnavis, facing the camera smiling.
Alumna Stefanie Belnavis ’15 won the Exceptional Service Award

Alumna Ebony Nichols ’19 won the Innovation Award, honoring her work as a somatic mental health and wellness practitioner and her research in Africanist Aestheic in Movement Observation, centering Black aesthetics of the African Diaspora in the exploration of movement.  

Headshot of Ebony Nichols smiling at the camera, wearing a white blazer
Alumna Ebony Nichols ’19 won the Innovation Award

Connecting across the world

The conference theme, “Dance/Movement Therapy: Ancient Healing, Modern Practice,” focused on the historical examination of both the history of the DMT field and the recognition of the traditional practices of dance as healing across cultures around the world.

“There was a strong connection made around the world through Zoom this year,” reflects alumna Selena Coburn ’18, who was inducted as the ADTA Ethics Committee chair and moderated an international ethics panel. “My favorite part was moderating the Standards and Ethics Panel discussion. It was wonderful to hear from our world partners about best ethical practices in their world settings.”

Adds alumna Phoebe Kapo Chung ’17, a panelist and the ethics chair for the Hong Kong Dance Therapy Association, “Knowing the stories behind every culture, it’s like opening pandora’s box. It might give you clarity, might bring an ‘Aha’ moment, which might be a big surprise. This panel discussion teaches me how to be curious, how to respect, and always to stay humble and to listen to my own culture and others’ culture.”

Reflection and action mark historic moment in dance therapy

Lesley professors Dr. Valerie Blanc and Dr. Nancy Beardall presented on advancing Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice (EDIJ) within the dance/movement therapy field and the ways to deconstruct and improve both movement observation and general educational practices. Both serve on the ADTA Education Committee.

“Educators across the approved ADTA programs are currently engaging in essential work of deconstructing our pedagogy,” says Blanc, coordinator of Lesley’s Dance/Movement Therapy Department. “To collaborate with other educators, students and alumni in this process is opening doors for change in the field.”

Grid with four headshots of faculty members: Nancy Beardall, Val Blanc, Jacelyn Biono and Charne Furcron
Lesley faculty presenters at the 2021 ADTA Conference included (clockwise from top left) Nancy Beardall, Valerie Blanc, Charné Furcron and Jacelyn Biondo.

Lesley alumnus and current PhD student in Expressive Therapies Stephan Reynolds ’19 led the opening and closing ceremonies. Four 2021 Lesley graduates, Iyit Benusia, Xavia Hawkins, Violet Siyao Li and Caitlyn Gilmore, presented their Lesley thesis work during a research panel.

“I am eager to see how our voices and contributions from the conference this year will shape the future of the ADTA and, specifically, its continuing education offerings,” says Gilmore.

Blanc and Lesley adjunct professor Dr. Charné Furcron presented on the connections between spiritual practice and self-care and clinical work, and temporary core faculty member Dr. Jacelyn Biondo moderated a panel discussion for this year’s Marian Chace Foundation Lecture, which featured a viewing and discussion of a 1982 film about dance therapists in various contexts of clinical practice.

“I (am) hopeful that this moment in time could act as an intergenerational bridge,” says Biondo. “A place for newer generations of dance therapists (to) be inspired by the brilliant work in the film and for the practitioners in their generation to be hopeful about both the longevity of and dynamic shifts in our clinical practice.” 

During the October 14-17, 2021 event, the ADTA installed its first Black and Indigenous board president, Dr. Angela Grayson, who was welcomed through a moving installation ceremony facilitated by Mara Rivera and Nancy Herard Marshall, who are guest faculty speakers for Lesley’s Dance/Movement Therapy department.