The Healing Power of Movement

Eric Kupers of Bandelion strongly believes that dance is an artistic as well as a healing practice.


Ensemble Bandelion performs "Modern Dance Inferno III."

Terry Kupers

If you think about it, dancers are among the bravest of performing artists. Not only do they get hurt all the time, their careers are among the shortest. And yet dance is among the most fundamental of human expressions. From the earliest times, we danced on important occasions—welcoming a member to the tribe and accompanying him or her on the last journey; imploring the sun, the rain, the change of the season, and giving thanks for a successful harvest. Not to speak about all those dance practices that were called upon to heal both physical and psychic wounds.

Eric Kupers of Bandelion, an ensemble within Dandelion Dancetheater, strongly believes that dance is an artistic as well as a healing practice. Considering the state of current medicine, it is perhaps odd that this latter function appears to gain traction in contemporary dance around the country. As a society we need healing, and many ensembles—AXIS Dance Company, Sarah Bush Dance Project, Dimensions Dance Project among local ones—have found dance an embracing medium to entertain even as they try to break down harmful misconceptions and practices both personal and communal.

Exceedingly committed is Kupers and his multidisciplinary ensemble whose performers include professionally trained as well as community artists. For a while, he worked to counteract what has been called “body phobia,” which resulted in several versions of the Undressed Project. It was made up of nude dancers, including in one performance, a man who had a lost limb and a very heavy woman. The surprise and shock value, depending on your perspective, wore off in about 10 seconds, and then all saw the dancers as performing artists.

But the country’s current upheaval has pushed even the always-energetic Kupers’ into high gear. The upcoming concert is his fifth this year. On Jan. 20, his dancers and the Inclusive Interdisciplinary Ensemble at Hayward’s CSUEB performed Inaugurate Radical Inclusion with a three-minute silence at the moment of the president’s swearing in. Dreaming Sabbath, Cycle 2 explored new formats for healing and performance (March 23-25) by pairing dance/theater with communal acupuncture—as practiced in contemporary Chinese clinics. This Little Light, under the banner of “a ceremony of raising our courage and passion and creativity” will include the hilarious Modern Dance Inferno III and two cooperatively created local premieres, Laura Elaine Ellis’ We the People and Antoine Hunter’s Breath of Rebellion.

This Little Light, May 19 and 20, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland, tickets $10-$36 (no one turned away for lack of funds).


This report appears in the May edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.


Published online on May 10, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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