Applying the Narrative Futuring method
The Narrative Futuring (NF) method familiar from positive psychology was used in the group’s meetings. The method has not been applied to scientific-artistic research before. The NF method approaches the present from the desired future and typically, the method involves writing a letter. However, words can’t describe everything, and not everything can be put into words. By using the method in the context of movement, it is possible to reach beyond words.
“The participants included in the choreography elements of the future that were important to them and practised their expression in terms of movement. Each of them created a small movement composition for the common avatar-based choreography.”
Based on these dance narratives emerging from movement improvisation, Pohjola compiled the narratives into one entity, selected the music and created a chronological sequence of events from the point of view of choreography.
“The participants did their movement compositions independently, according to the guidelines given. Yet, the different pieces of choreography resonate with each other, creating a common theme for the choreography. This is astonishing, considering that the participants did their movement compositions remotely from home.”
The process of performing dance in depression has not been studied much yet
The effect of dance on the treatment of patients with depression has been studied before in intervention studies involving dance. These studies have examined the impact of dance lessons taken during a certain period of time on the physical, psychological and social well-being of the participants.
“However, less research has been carried out into the process of performing itself, which is the focus of our research.”
In her studies, Pohjola has found that performing has a different meaning for those participating in a dance project than mere participation in dance lessons. For example, together with her Swedish colleagues, Pohjola has studied a performing dance company whose members have Parkinson’s disease.
“In the interviews, the dancers emphasised that their commitment to a common dance project is more intense than to dance lessons, and they were more committed to the responsibility. The dancers share a common focus they are working towards. Preparing and performing a choreography also created a shared non-verbal language through which the experience was structured.”
Watching a dancer move also activates the mirror neuron system in the brain. Mirror neurons are neurons that react to movements, sounds, expressions and gestures, and mimic what the other person is doing and feeling. This is why they are also called empathy neurons.
“The mirror neuron system is activated especially by a dance genre that is familiar to the viewer, or in this case, by the participants recognising their own movements being performed by the avatar.”
Hanna Pohjola's photo: Petri Jauhiainen