The Benefits of Dance for Children with Cancer

VIDEO | 09:59

Jennifer Whitley, dance movement therapist, demonstrates how dance can be used to improve mood and build strength before cancer surgery.

Show transcript

Hello and welcome. My name is Jen Whitley. I'm a dance movement therapist with MSK kids. Today I'm going to guide you through a quick warmup, teach a dance sequence, and provide a short cooldown as we end. To my side I have Tina, who will be demonstrating a modification of movement from the bed position, and Claire to my other side will modify movement if you need to be in a chair today. You might be asking yourself why dance? Dance can be used to help young patients shift their mood, lift their energy, increase range of motion after surgery and during chemo treatments. It's also important to build strength and stamina before you have surgery.

And dancing can be a fun, easy way to get a great workout in and build confidence. Because when we are feeling good in our bodies, we are feeling good in our mind and our spirit. Dance can also be a great way to connect with friends. And this dance sequence might be a great way to start a dance challenge using one of your favorite social media sites.

This video can be a resource for you today and in the future to build strength, increase flexibility and range of motion, shift your mood, provide a confidence boost, express yourself, engage with your friends and have fun. So let's dance. Okay, everyone, let's get started. I'm going to guide you through a gentle warmup today from your head all the way down to your toe doing isolations. We're going to get started with our head. We're just going to do a simple look side to side, five, six, ready and look left and right and left.

Now we're going to bring the head down, around nice and slow, just bringing the head down again, going to the right side all the way around. When you get to the center, let's go to the left, bringing it around and back down again, repeat, bring it down. When you come down, chin to chest, let's bring the head up and now shift into our shoulders. Five, six, shoulders come up and back, and up, and back, and up, and back, and up, and back.

Now we're going to go forward and forward, again, and forward, and again, and forward one more time. Now we're going to do a little bit faster. Back and back, back again to the front, forward and two, three. Now we're going to shift into our ribs. So just shifting your ribs side to side, so feeling that shift in your spine, feeling the spine beginning to warm up as you go right and left a little bit faster. Yeah, so just trying to get the ribs shifting side to side, keeping that lower body nice and stable.

And now we're going to go forward and back like somebody is pulling you with the string and then pushing you back gently forward, and back, forward, and back again, forward, and back, forward, great and back. Now we’re going to go front, around, making a circle all the way around with our chest and side on the left. Again, here we go to the front, to the right. One more time, now, again to the left. Beautiful. Now let's bring our shoulders over our hips. Make your stance nice and wide as we get into our hips. Ready, here we go to the right and left, right and left one more time right and left.

Now we’re going to bring it into the center. So now just bring in the pelvis forward, and back, and forward, and back, again, forward, and back, forward and back. Now let's make a nice big circle. Opening up your hips, getting everything nice and loose in your lower body again, to the left around, around, around. When you get to the front, let's go to the right, one more time and left again. Here we go, let's bring our feet in and bring the heel up, stretching out the arch. And now let's switch over to the left side. Stretching out the arch of your foot, opening up the ankle and switch and switch, switch and switch. Now a little bit faster pedal, pedaling the feet out 5, 6, 7, 8 bring the heels down, arms come up nice and tall, really reaching up into space and now forward hold reaching towards me, bringing the body all the way over letting the hair be nice and relaxed, no tension in the back of the neck. Plié, bend the legs, roll the body up one vertebrae at a time and the head is the last thing that comes up.

And now we're warmed up, let's begin, let's learn a dance. I'm going to teach it in three sections. So follow along with me. First we're going to punch out the right arm to the right side, cross it over the body, and then out with the elbow. Let's do the left side, out, across, and punch. Now we're going to twist the body to the right side, two times, bring the foot in, arms come up, and then plant the foot down. Now we're going to do the other side, left side, arm comes out, across and punch, out, across, and punch. Now we're going to twist the other side, twist, twist, bring the foot and the arms up, and plant it down on the left side.

Second section. Let's lift the arms up, bring the foot in, and then step to the side. Other side, arms up, foot in, down to the side, bring your hand to your heart, one on the belly and pulse, pulse, switch it up other side, and pulse, pulse. From here we're going to go back up and then down. Again, back up and down, and now we're just going to move our hips right and left.

And now the third part. First you're going to kick out the right foot, and then tap the left foot to the side and reverse, left, then right. From here, we're going to bring the right arm out to the side, left arm out -- comes out to the side, cross and then down. Let's repeat that one more time, kick and tap, kick and tap, step and arm comes out, cross and down. Then we're just going to repeat the kicks again, kick and tap, kick and tap, arm comes swinging forward, swinging up, and then look.

All right, everybody, let's put all that together. We're going to play some music now; you can start moving your body. Here we go, and five, six, ready, and reach, twist, up, down, reach, twist, up and down, now up, up and pulse, again, hips. All right, now we're going to kick it up. Swings, and up and-. All right, let's do it all again. Here we go. You can just freestyle, five, six, ready, and reach.

Okay, everyone now that we've been moving and getting our bodies nice and warm, we're going to cool everything down. So, let's just bring our arms up, reaching up nice and tall, dropping the shoulders, reaching forward, coming over to stretch out the legs, stretch out the muscles, we've just been using bend the knees, roll the body up one vertebrae at a time. Now we're going to take our right arm and lift up nice and slow, opening to the side and left reaches up, opens up to the side. Again, let's reach across, open the arms up to the other side, reaching with the right across, opening up to the other side and coming back to center.

Really planting your feet on the floor feeling a nice solid foundation as we begin to connect into our breathing. So, let's just take a nice deep breath in, exhale, one more breath in, in through the nose again out through the mouth. Thank you guys so much for coming to dance with me today. It was such a fun time. I want to thank Tina and Claire for showing us that dancing in a chair or bed is totally possible as well. I really look forward to dancing with all of you again sometime very soon.