This Outreach Program Proves That Dance is a Powerful Healing Tool
PC Alex Zou
As dancers, we know that movement has major healing powers. But one New York-based artist is showing the world just how powerful dance can be.
Eryc Taylor, director of Eryc Taylor Dance, began a movement workshop at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health four years ago. From there, his outreach work has grown exponentially: his company now leads 17 workshops a week all across New York City, working with mental health patients, people living in supportive housing, chemotherapy patients and addicts. The dancers have even traveled to Mexico, where they led workshops with orphans who've been abused.
Taylor built the workshops using elements of improvisation, Pilates, gyrokinesis and hip hop, and varies the energy of the classes based on the needs of the students. He also draws on personal experience: "Dance helped me through a lot of dark times in my past," he says. "It was really therapeutic during hardships I faced growing up."
"I get choked up when I think about how many peoples' lives I've had an impact on," Taylor says. "In one group, there were all these women who never spoke to each other. Afterward, they started their own walking group." For some clients, the benefits are purely physical: John, a patient at PCMH, was so locked up in his neck when he started the workshops that he couldn't get down to the floor. By the end, he was holding plank pose and doing pushups.
Get a glimpse of Taylor's work in action at the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance Uptown Arts Stroll on Friday, June 2, where former dancers living in supportive housing will perform a piece inspired by their experience in Taylor's workshops.
My best running buddy was on my left. To my right, a total stranger with whom I'd suddenly become competitive. As the 15-person group headed into a two-minute push, the instructor got hyped, and the remix blasting Rihanna's "We Found Love" transitioned to "Smooth Criminal."