Creative Arts Therapies Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Art in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling (MA)


Creative Arts Therapies

First Advisor

Imus, Susan

Second Advisor

Downey, Laura

Third Advisor

Brown, Andrea


dance/movement therapy, ethnographic, Chicago, Illinois, West African, dance, drum, African Americans, emotional, presence, diaspora.


This ethnographic study explored the possible innate healing properties and therapeutic aspects of West African dance within a public community setting for people of the African diaspora, specifically the African dance and drum community of Chicago. The study was conducted to identify a possible means for preventative work, explore the unique mental health needs of African Americans and expand the understanding of dance/movement therapy concepts outside of the clinical setting. The study revealed the usefulness of West African dance as a means to connect African Americans to their heritage of physical, mental, and spiritual healing. A narrative analysis of informal interviews, in-depth interviews, and participant observations established seven major categories in which West African dance was influential. The categories were condensed into three unique healing and therapeutic properties: emotional regulation, maintaining presence, and addressing diasporic stressors. The results suggest for the integration of West African dance, dance/movement therapy, and preventative programming for African Americans, as well as implications for future studies. 82 pages.