I always knew this was what I wanted to do, and now at Columbia I’m getting the chance to do it.
There is a certain grace to dancers in all their movements, even plopping onto a coffee shop couch shows the awareness Megan Hall, a second year grad student in the Dance/Movement Therapy program at Columbia, has about her body. It started when she began attending dance lessons at the age of nine.
“There were a lot of sequins and jazz hands in the beginning,” she says, laughing. “And, of course, I was in the Nutcracker: I was a snowflake and a flower.”
At age 14, Megan figured out she wanted to share her love of dance as a means of expression with others. It was career day at Megan’s school and she spoke with the dance department at University of Kansas. “The secretary [of the program] mentioned someone with the title of movement analyst, and I immediately was intrigued,” Megan says. “I never even got to speak with that person, but I realized that there was the possibility of a career in dance.”
She stayed with the idea all through high school, and began researching colleges. After scouring the American Dance Therapy Association’s website for accredited schools, Megan found Columbia, one of only six approved programs. “I knew I wanted to go there, but I wanted to get a psychology background to deepen my knowledge.” With that in mind, Megan headed to Knox College, a liberal arts school in Galesburg, IL, where she majored in psychology and minored in dance.
“The dance program at Knox started out really small,” she says. “But by the time I graduated, it had tripled in size.” Emboldened by the growing popularity of dance, she began looking at grad schools. “I applied to a few other schools, but I picked Columbia because of the dance world connections of the school and the city.”
I applied to a few other schools, but I picked Columbia because of the dance world connections of the school and the city.
Her research on the meditation aspects of dance therapy helps her in her current internship at Rush University Medical Center. Megan works in the Child Life Department, doing individual sessions for children and adolescents with medical illnesses, as well as some group sessions for those with psychological issues. “The meditation is extremely important to help them focus and communicate,” she says.
As her thesis approaches, Megan is taking her experiences from her internship and wants to explore dance movement therapy’s effect in adult oncology. “Cancer patients have a lot of anxiety over how unpredictable their life is over the course of their illness,” she says. “With dance and mindful meditation, you can take them to a really beautiful place in their minds, and bring that to their bodies.”
Megan’s experience at Columbia is helping her pave the way towards her future ambitions as part of a medical team. The Dance/Movement Therapy program offers counseling classes to prepare students for their Licensed Professional Counselor exam, in addition to courses on Laban movement analysis and other non-traditional dance classes.
Megan’s experience at Columbia is helping her pave the way towards her future ambitions as part of a medical team.
“Every class is done within a lens of clinical intervention,” Megan says. “Yes, there are dance classes, but it’s like, ‘Learn this exercise to help others.’” Students find time for more creative expression outside the classroom. Megan organized her own dance company, Progression Dance, which performed in Dance Chicago 2008 and Megan took home one of the Outstanding Choreography Awards (New Voices).
“I always knew this was what I wanted to do,” Megan says in a measured, sure voice. “And now at Columbia I’m getting the chance to do it.”