As its name suggests Memotion is about the interplay of motion, emotion, and the individual - movement therapy. Amsterdam Mamas Content Manager Audrey Coggins sat down with its founders to learn more about this very special place where young Amsterdamers learn about themselves (and the world) through movement.
There are so many benefits to dance:
- Socialization: taking turns, coordinating with others while being responsible for one’s own actions
- Mental Development: remembering choreography, concentration and focus
- Musical Developemnt: understanding rhythms and beats
- Stress Relief: Giving our oft overworked and overtired mind, heart and bodies a break
But how often do we think about dance and movement as a tool for personal growth, for healing and for development? This, in essence, is the thrust of memotion, a business partner of Amsterdam Mamas.
Not a Dance School!
Founded by Athina Liakopoulou, a child psychologist and active dancer, and Saskia Watts, a dance therapist who works with adults and children, memotion is not a ballet school. It is not a physical therapy centre. It is not a hip hop school. No jazz lessons here. Rather, memotion focuses on using dance and movement to facilitate positive growth and change.
Listening to Athina and Saskia tell me about memotion, I am struck by a few things: their compassion for children, their passion for dance’s transformative power, and their conviction that movement truly does bring about growth and restoration. And it’s clear they know each other well.
Dance and Movement as Tools to Self (and-other) Discovery
Both women are very clear that they do not teach dance. They deliberately do not ascribe ‘dance’ to a particular style, culture, or music type. Instead, memotion uses dance and movement as tools.
The engaging duo stress that when memotion meets a child, the starting point to working with them is the same: Who is the child? What does the child like? What is the child like? What situation is the child in? What are they here for?
Parents are very involved in the process; they are an integral part of the memotion’s programs to help a child to live his/her best life. For example, in one memotion workshop each child and parent is given chalk to define their own [personal] ‘space’ on the dance floor. It can be a square. It can be a circle. It can be any other shape. However the space is shaped, dance and music allows the individual to express themselves in the way they want.
...dance and movement as a tool for personal growth, for healing and for development.
In this exercise, Athina and Saskia talk to the children about personal space so they can be aware of that concept and right.
After a period of dance and movement in one’s own space, participants are encouraged to interact with other people - whether their own parent or another child. Memotion emphasizes the importance of asking permission, instead of presuming the right to move into another person’s personal space. Children learn it’s okay to want someone else in this personal space for a time, but they also learn the highly vital life-skill of dealing with ‘no’. They start to realise that ‘no’ is not a personal attack, and doesn’t always translate to rejection. They learn to be okay with ‘no’. Children are encouraged to respect the answer.
Athina tells me of a student who was asked by another child if she would allow him into her personal-space-blob while she was clearly enjoying her own space. She picked up chalk and drew a smaller area adjoining her shape and said to the other child, “Um, no. But this space next to me here is for you.”
Athina and Saskia both stress how beautifully illuminating these sorts of exercises can be. Through these activities, parents are able to learn more about their children as well as about themselves. (I see how valuable this particular activity could be for groups of adults!)
Expressing Emotions via Dance and Movement
Memotion encourages and allows children to work with their vulnerabilities and emotions through dance and movement.
We’re not telling the child where to put his/her feet, but we’re giving them space to put his/her feet in accordance to where he/she needs to put them, in line with their emotions.
“Take for example the emotion of anger. Very often children are chastised for showing anger. So the two reactions of this is more anger - think tantrums or bullying - or shutting down. What we do is to acknowledge these negatively-connotated emotions and allow children to express them through dance and movement. We see their movements change as they dive into their emotions,” explains Saskia.
Athina chimes in, “Yes, and anger isn’t a ‘negative’ emotion. It is an emotion, and sometimes, a healthy response to a situation. We teach the children at memotion that all emotions are needed. All emotions are important and necessary for growth."
Making Sense of the World Through Movement
Almost from birth, children are assailed with events that are intrinsically emotional, and must learn to deal with a myriad of emotions.
We can all think of examples of negative events that can trigger emotional trauma (accident, death etc), but Athina explains that children can also exhibit negative reactions to a positive event, such as the birth of a younger sibling. This can be a big change and bring a whole mix of emotions which may take time for a child to process.
Young children often do not know how to voice emotions and can struggle with doing so well into their teens. Giving them a safe space to move is powerful, according to Saskia and Athina, and coupled with music, it provides the children an alternative language to express themselves. In this way, recovery and recalibration can begin.
A six year old child with a difficult domestic situation came to memotion because of extreme tantrums, behavioural outbursts, and aggressiveness towards younger children. memotion began to work with the child (in an one-on-one setting) and worked creatively to build a story of what was going on at home, helping the child to explore ways to acknowledge and regulate their emotions in this framework. Over the course of the therapy, this child’s tantrums and extreme outbursts lessened and he learned to talk about his feelings and situations.
The Superhero in You
Another powerful example of how Saskia and Athina use dance and movement to work with children is with their Superhero exercise, a popular activity within the MoveMe Groups. In this activity, imagination and dreaming is let loose.
Children are encouraged to talk about an element of their own personality that they might want to turn into a superpower. Whilst some might want to choose something they are good at as a superpower, Saskia and Athina try to get them to see that anything, even weaknesses, can be a superpower and turned into strengths: “I can’t hear from this ear” can be turned into a superpower. Through dance and movement, the children are given time and space to be that Superhero.
Saskia and Athina want to impart to children that they are all special people because each one of them is unique and deserves to be seen. Memotion has seen children grow in confidence and decrease in shame through this exercise.
There are three types of sessions that memotion offers, all with Saskia and Athina working together.
Theme workshops: Parent and child can connect in a different way and explore important developmental themes such as physical and emotional boundaries and identity.
MoveMe groups: Offered for children of 4-8 years, these are weekly classes where small stable groups of children will have a safe space to express themselves through dance and explore their own experiences.
Individual coaching: Here, the duo work with children on an individual basis. These are for children with more specialized/acute needs such as trauma, anxiety or a change in family situation.
To learn more memotion, including its try-out classes, please visit their website.
memotion has paid to be featured on Amsterdam Mamas because they believe that their services would be of interest and benefit to our readers, and we think so too. For more information on sponsored posts and advertising on Amsterdam Mamas, please see our Advertising and Disclosure policy.
Audrey Coggins is the Amsterdam Mamas Content Manager and Chief Copyeditor. A Malaysian by birth, she relocated from Australia to Netherlands in 2018 and is still trying to pronounce "goede morgen" correctly. Audrey finds her inner peace through writing, editing, calligraphy and eating.
Photo credits: All photos and copyrights belong to memotion.