Is Dance a Therapy?

Towards the end of June 2023, I took to Facebook to share a post. In it, I expressed my belief that many individuals within dance communities might benefit from therapy. To my surprise, some countered by asserting that dance itself is the therapy. I must admit, this statement got me thinking, after several weeks of pondering and marathon discussions with friends, I arrived at my conclusion – despite the counterclaims, the majority are mistaken; dancing is not therapy.

Please, don’t get me wrong, I do understand where you're coming from, but please let’s not make things more complicated. We live in a very complicated world where nothing matters anymore, leaving us grappling to define even the most basic notions – like what it truly means to be a woman!

Dance and therapy do not share the same path, nor the same goal, although they do overlap in many occasions. In this post I will explain why I believe dance is NOT therapy. I am not trying to write a philosophical dissertation of any kind. Just simple common sense!

I decided to write about this topic simply because I care, and as the founder of Corazon. A platform for the promotion of dance I felt the obligation to fully understand what dancing really is, what it means, what does it implies, concretely, what am I promoting?

I see more and more people selling dance as therapy, and the sad truth is that more than half of them are neither dancers* nor therapist*. (*Just so we are clear, I understand that anybody can dance, and anybody can give advice, nonetheless is not because someone is capable of doing this, that I consider them either a dancer or therapist). I would like to invite you to raise the bar high when it comes to dance therapy because only then this art-science (call it whatever you want) can be of any use.

Why this situation bothers me? Well, with Corazon I’ve made the promise that I will always support and promote dancing anywhere in the world. We want to help communities grow and improve. In my opinion anything related to therapy, is also related to medical assistance, in this case mental; therefore, it requires a higher level of responsibility towards the person treated (patient). Helping and promoting therapy is a responsibility I don’t want to have as a dancing promotor, unless the instructor is certified and good in both areas.

For this reason, when someone comes and tries to sell dancing as therapy, I get all crispy! There is little to no control in this field. For many people dancing is therapy, for others there is a thin line in between. For me there is a big gap and I will try to point out all differences between these two activities so you can clearly see: It is not the same!

Aspect Dancing Therapy
Purpose About art and self-expression About healing
Progress Continue when feeling better Stop when feeling better
Journey Approach Inside out journey Outside in journey
Approach to Problems Escaping from problems Confronting problems
Instruction/Method Programs for teaching Methods for healing
Individualization Same basic moves for all (social dance) Adapted to individual needs
Impact Focus Physical impacting mental/emotional Mental impacting physical/emotional
Target Audience Anyone People with trauma, depression, grief
Expected Outcome Improvements in body, mind, and soul Healing mental issues

Now, just for the fun of it, let’s play around with the idea that dancing is actually a therapy. So, dancing = therapy (cuz this is the argumentation I had with some people). Let’s dive into the deep end of rational thinking and consider the following questions or statements. Feel free to put on your thinking caps and share your thoughts. Now, I might be wrong – shocking, I know – and I definitely have room to learn.

  • To kick things off, the most basic question: therapy for what? And for the sake of what?

  • Despite many people dancing for hours and years, why do some people still struggle emotionally?

  • How come there’s enough telenovela-level drama in these dance communities to make even the juiciest soap opera envious?

  • Speaking of drama, if dance is a therapeutic remedy, then why do countries where people dance like no one’s watching, like in South America and Africa, also seem to have a Masters degree in Drama? Shouldn’t their killer dance moves translate into emotional stability?

  • If dance is therapy, how many of you have attended a first day of class where the instructor asks about your childhood and your father?

  • And while we’re at it, let’s rename “the first dance” at weddings as “the inaugural therapy session.” After all, given today’s odds, that couple might just need some counseling before they even nail their tango.

  • Now, I’ve got a riddle for you: Why don’t we see party invites like “Therapy Beach Party”, “Sensual Therapy Nights”, “Milonga Therapeutica”, or “KizzMeInTherapy”? Seriously, why not? After all, dance is therapy, and therapy is good right?

  • If dance is therapy and dance is addictive can we say therapy is addictive?

  • Picture this event headline: “Crazy Salsa/Bachata/Kizomba party”, or “Salsa/bachata madness”, or “Insane (whatever) party” Now, we all agreed that dancing is therapy, what are your expectations for this party? Are you prepared to cha-cha-cha away your emotional baggage and tango your way to enlightenment? Moreover, if you’re hitting those dance moves with therapeutic precision and the party’s wrapping up by 2 a.m. instead of the scheduled 4 a.m., we’ve pretty much hit the jackpot of success, haven’t we?

  • Quick survey: Has anyone with mental issues or depression ever said, “I’m booking a private dance lesson with a dance instructor to work on my trauma”? No? Me neither. Because last I checked, dance floors don’t come with “Let’s Talk About Your Issues” signs.

  • Now, for all you active dancers out there – you know, the real-life therapists – please spill the beans (anonymously if you prefer). Share your insights! Have you discovered your inner struggles while tearing up the dance floor? What’s your dance move prescription for kicking those issues out the door?

  • And for those who’ve hung up their dance shoes, does this mean you’ve ascended to the ultimate level of healing? Bravo! Did you meet Buda? Jesus? How are they? You’ve graduated from dance therapy with honors. Please show yourself to the world. It is time for people to see you as the magnificent role model. We need you to shape the future of the world.

Many people confuse these two terms, dancing and therapy, due to the allure of the “feeling good” or “feeling better” factor. It’s true, you do experience those positive sensations, but nonetheless, they are not interchangeable!

In his book “Awaken the Giant Within,” Anthony Robbins delves into how our brains are inherently wired to constantly seek pleasure or opt for the easiest way out, as a default setting.

This is precisely why many things that are “good” for us tend to be challenging. For instance, given the choice, would you rather buckle down for work or chill with your pals? And let’s talk about eating habits – are people predominantly reaching for junk food or nourishing meals? I understand not everyone follows the same pattern; not all are predisposed to laziness or unhealthy eating. There are numerous exceptions, driven by various factors. My emphasis here is that our brains are naturally inclined to seek shortcuts whenever possible, steering clear of the long, winding paths. Just take a glance around you – you’ll find evidence of this everywhere, and it’s not exactly a breeze.

Examine your life: are you basing your decisions on how effortlessly and smoothly they can be accomplished, or on what truly benefits and suits you best?

Consider dancing communities, especially beginners – their primary pursuit is often fun and pleasure. Should things get too challenging, they might throw in the towel, claiming it’s just not their thing. As long as they linger within the cozy boundaries of their comfort zone, and everything remains hunky-dory, they’re content. Does this scenario strike you as therapy? Does it sounds like self-discovery, self-awareness, self-improvement, and all the other self-whatever-you-want?

The road of least resistance and the path of what’s genuinely beneficial, unfortunately, aren’t one and the same. Now, let’s get one thing straight – I’m not here to cast blame or point fingers. Heck, I’m guilty too; when I hit up a diner, I’m the first in line for the greasiest burger or the biggest pizza loaded with toppings. And speaking of my dancing journey, I’ve gone through my fair share of phases as well.

Claiming “dance is therapy” is kind of like saying “guns kill.” But hold up! It’s not the guns doing the deed, it’s the people. Think about how many times you’ve come across headlines reading “a gun killed someone.” Nope, it’s folks who wield them. It’s the intentions at play that wield real power, whether for noble causes or less noble ones. Guns? They’re just tools – they can defend, they can hunt, or unfortunately, they can cause destruction in times of conflict.

Dance, my friend, is a versatile tool, much like guns. They’re both dual-sided coins, both can be harnessed for either positive or negative outcomes. Consider this: if I were to instruct you in a particular dance move and you followed my instructions to the letter, I could potentially cause you harm, even break a bone. Flip the script, a few changes to the recipe and intensions and that same move could elevate your skills, when executed correctly, could be a stepping stone to honing your dance prowess, making you a dance virtuoso. It’s all about how the tool is wielded and the intention behind it, much like balancing on the edge of creating something wonderful or inviting chaos.

Dancing follows a similar path. So, what’s cooking in your intention pot? Heck, do you even have a recipe brewing? Or is it just a matter of dancing because it’s an absolute blast and makes you feel on top of the world? I’m no therapist, but humour me – pondering these questions might just be the ignition switch to exploring the mystical realm of dance therapy. Now, if having a blast is your ultimate destination, no worries – it’s like escaping to a land of joy, or simply embracing the thrill ride. And hey, that’s absolutely fine! It’s a ticket to fun-town, and there ain’t no shame in that game!

On the other hand, if your goal is to use dance as a tool for self-improvement, self-awareness, discovery, and a surge of confidence, then it’s high time you start asking yourself other questions. Switch up your focal point, be daring enough to venture beyond your comfy bubble, and elevate your awareness. Brace yourself, for this is an alternate route – one that opens the gateway to not just delight, but deeper joy, a profound sense of fulfilment, ultimately catalysing a positive transformation. And my dear friend, this is precisely the essence of Corazon.

“At our core, we firmly believe in the transformative power of dancing, “conscious dancing”. By paying attention to our bodies and following rhythms, we become better individuals, radiating positivity and compassion. Through this art, we connect with ourself and the flow of life, unlocking self-discovery, self-awareness and personal growth.

As we evolve, we inspire others to do the same, creating a ripple effect of positive change, and our journey of self-improvement extends beyond ourselves, fostering a brighter future for ourselves and everyone around us. Making the world a better place to be!”

This is our purpose, our core essence, the very reason for our existence, is what we stand for, and while we will always promote the joy of dance we are equally devoted to advocating for this unique journey, the path that leads straight to your heart!

In conclusion, and as you can see there are many differences between dancing and therapy, in terms of purpose, methodology, audience and outcome, and even though they overlap, they are not the same. If you still want to believe dancing is therapy, that is fine. I just hope you understand and use this methods wisely. Because I do believe that dance can be use as a tool for self-improvement and self-discovery. Enjoy your day, and keep dancing!

By Gabriel Zambrano


  • dance
  • therapy
  • improvement
  • growth
  • general