Healing Through Dance and Movement with Migrant Farm Workers
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Coming to work on Canadian farms for 8-to-ten months out of the year leaves migrant farm workers feeling lonely and homesick. The precariousness that is produced by employment programs under the Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) such as the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) leaves migrant farm workers vulnerable to exploitation and isolation in their host rural communities. Mexican and Guatemalan migrant farm workers are further isolated due to language barriers. To address these problems, this research is based upon Dance and Movement Therapy (DMT), which is founded on the fundamental premise that, through dance, individuals both relate to the community they are part of on a large or smaller scale, and are simultaneously able to express their own impulses and needs within that group. This phenomenological study explored the experiences in the Niagara Region of Mexican and Guatemalan migrant farm workers’ participation in experiential ‘dance for relaxation’ community arts sessions. Approaches used in the sessions were grounded in DMT and a movement-based, expressive arts therapy (MBEAT) framework. In post-session verbal reflections using a focus group style of inquiry and individual interviews, migrant farm workers provided evidence regarding the effectiveness of DMT and MBEAT.