American Journal of Dance Therapy

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 118–141

Choreography and Performance with Deaf Adults who have Mental Illness: Culturally Affirmative Participatory Research


DOI: 10.1007/s10465-013-9157-y

Cite this article as:
Malling, S.H. Am J Dance Ther (2013) 35: 118. doi:10.1007/s10465-013-9157-y


Dance/movement therapy (DMT) techniques, particularly choreography and performance techniques, have not been well-researched with Deaf adults who have mental illness. This study investigated the use of DMT, choreography, and performance techniques with Deaf adults with severe and chronic mental illness through participatory artistic inquiry. Primary research questions addressed pragmatic matters of participatory artistic inquiry: What aesthetic choices will the co-researchers make in the dance-making process? How does the researcher provide structure and incorporate her experience as a choreographer without overshadowing the contributions of the co-researchers? Broader philosophical research questions included: How does the use of American Sign Language and other culturally affirmative practices support the dance-making process? How do choreography and performance techniques impact this population’s well-being? Data was gathered by engaging the participants as co-researchers, involving them in the development of research protocol, data collection, data analysis, and the presentation of the research findings. Findings indicated that engaging in a choreographic process addressed the co-researchers’ preexisting treatment goals, provided opportunities for transferring skills learned in previous DMT groups, and empowered the co-researchers to incorporate performance techniques common to Deaf culture. The final choreographic product was presented at the site where the co-researchers receive mental health services and shared with the larger mental health care community through a digital video recording at


Deaf culture Participatory research Artistic inquiry Cultural affirmation Performance as therapy Dance/movement therapy 

Copyright information

© American Dance Therapy Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Columbia College ChicagoChicagoUSA

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