Finding and sharing connection through dance

Pictured above: Dancing together with the Octaband®, a tool for connection through movement, created by Donna Newman-Bluestein.

Donna Newman-Bluestein has been a champion of dance therapy for decades, employing dance as a powerful and necessary form of non-verbal expression. She has worked with individuals all over the world, helping them find a means of communication regardless of their mental or physical ability.

Donna’s passion for dance began at an early age. She recalls the happiest moments of her childhood as those related to dance. This desire to help others communicate is foundational to Donna’s own life: “I felt as if I didn’t have a voice in my family,” she recently shared. “This has been my strongest motivation to help other people find a voice.” Now, Donna summarizes her work to helpings others feel “seen, heard, and valued” – cultivating connection across the visual, aural, and kinesthetic spaces.

People living with dementia are a special part of Donna’s life and work; she walked with her dad through his own dementia diagnosis. He benefitted tremendously from the support of a dance therapist, but according to Donna, also experienced much of the “nonsense that is perpetuated about dementia.” Those in the DAA community are all-too-familiar with this “nonsense” – messaging from physicians or other community members that a dementia diagnosis means imminent loss of living well or communicating effectively.

Dance, Donna explained, is part of a larger portfolio of arts – all helpful for helping individuals express themselves. “We are all born creative. It is important to notice what you are drawn to – really, what delights you!”

Donna points out that “Dance and dementia are both happening in the present” and remind us to be present, first with ourselves and then with the people around us.

Most recently, Donna’s work comes through her business Dance for Connection, where she provides direct programming, education and training, along with professional writing, advocacy and research to communities everywhere. Donna is also creator of the Octaband®, a “playful, interactive tool for increasing one’s sense of belonging and connection through movement.” And last but certainly not least, she is the Administrator of DAA’s Arts & Dementia Facebook group, a vibrant community of more than 400 members who believe in this ever-important link between living with dementia and the arts.

Inspired by Donna’s story? Ready to create or explore a new form of expression?

  1. Join DAA’s Arts & Dementia Facebook group to share your own art or encourage others in their sharing. This community is open to all!
  2. Purchase greeting cards that feature art from the Arts & Dementia Facebook group – just in time to send notes for the holidays!
  3. Register for one of DAA’s Virtual Engagement sessions – we have weekly opportunities for expression through art, song, movement, and more! (Open to people living with dementia and care partners only)
  4. Watch Donna’s Ted-style talk, shared by the American Dance Therapy Association, to learn more about the specific benefits of dance therapy.

Thank you, Donna, for your encouragement to be true to ourselves and to engage in such a beautiful variety of methods for expression.