Work Experience 16: Dance Therapist
Yumi Schaefer is a positive, energetic person whose passion is to promote wellness and joyful living in others. She often wears bright clothes and a flower in her hair, and her cheerful manner always makes me (and no doubt many others) smile. I love it! Yumi is a dance therapy instructor and has worked with a wide range of client groups from children to the elderly, and those with varying physical and mental conditions. The classes she teaches include chair dancing, line dancing and pilates for wellbeing. I was really excited about joining in on some of Yumi’s classes and learning a bit more about what she does.
What did I do?
The first class I participated in with Yumi was a dance therapy class she runs at Blue Care Respite Centre, Ashgrove. This is a centre where elderly people who live with carers, as well as those that may live by themselves, attend a day program that can include excursions, outdoor and indoor activities or holiday programs. Blue Care’s respite services are designed to give relief to carers and people in care by offering support where it’s needed and therefore enhancing their quality of life. The class I attended had 10 participants who were sitting on chairs in a semi-circle facing Yumi. A few of the people use walking aids, so chair dancing is a fabulous way of getting them exercising and moving safely. Yumi first welcomed each participant with a smile and a clap. Her class mainly focussed on using gentle movements and stretching, creative movement and relaxation. What I really liked was how she actively engaged each person. They all had an opportunity to tell a story and create a movement to be used in the dances. She made each person feel special and valued. At one stage Yumi brought out a bag of percussion instruments. Half of the class played instruments to the beat of the music while the other half of the class did actions, before swapping over. I even had the chance to sit in her seat and think up some dance moves for everyone to copy – that was a bit of a laugh! At the end of the class Yumi instructed everyone to do some gentle stretching and deep breathing. I really enjoyed this class, and it was obvious how much Yumi loves teaching it. The elderly participants all left with smiles on their faces, and so did I.
The next class I joined in on was something I never really saw myself doing…line dancing! Yumi invited me to bring my mum along, and I was quite glad when mum agreed to join me. Mostly because back in the 90’s when we used to do step aerobics together mum was always more uncoordinated than me (she’d go left when everyone else was going right). So I figured at least I wouldn’t be the worst in the class. Haha…sorry mum! Really though, my mum is never shy of trying something new, and I knew we’d have a good giggle together. Yumi welcomed everyone to the class and started with a warm up. That wasn’t too hard! But the dances became more complex. I was good when we were going in one direction but as soon as we had to make a quarter turn and repeat the moves I lost it. Mum and I nearly bumped into each other a couple of times which made us laugh. All the while Yumi and the other more experienced members of the class were very encouraging. It was such a great mind and body workout. Mum enjoyed it so much she took her friend along with her the following week.
My final session with Yumi was a pilates class. This proved a couple of things to me: a) I have shocking core strength and flexibility and b) I need to take up pilates regularly. It’s amazing how difficult I found some of the moves, especially as I was using muscles I haven’t used for a while. Yumi didn’t waste a minute in this class. We were constantly moving, and she regularly gave encouragement to everyone. I felt great after the class, and was sore for about two days after (in a good way).
What did I learn?
Yumi believes that moving our bodies in creative and expressive ways brings about healing and empowerment within, and leads to personal growth and change. I hadn’t heard of dance therapy before, so was interested to learn from Yumi that it can improve physical, emotional and mental well-being. I have to admit, whenever I have a bit of a boogie in my kitchen it definitely makes me feel happy! Especially when my kids roll their eyes at me. Haha! Yumi has such a passion for her job, and genuinely cares for each person she teaches.
Oh, and I learnt that line dancing is pretty good fun!
To read Yumi’s interview, click here.