Move and Be Moved: The Effect of Moving Specific Movement Elements on the Experience of Happiness

Jenneke van Geest*, Rosemarie Samaritter, Susan van Hooren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Dynamic body feedback is used in dance movement therapy (DMT), with the aim to facilitate emotional expression and a change of emotional state through movement and dance for individuals with psychosocial or psychiatric complaints. It has been demonstrated that moving in a specific way can evoke and regulate related emotions. The current study aimed to investigate the effects of executing a unique set of kinetic movement elements on an individual mover's experience of happiness. A specific sequence consisting of movement elements that recent studies have related to the feeling of happiness was created and used in a series of conditions. To achieve a more realistic reflection of DMT practice, the study incorporated the interpersonal dimension between the dance movement therapist (DMTh) and the client, and the impact of this interbodily feedback on the emotional state of the client. This quantitative study was conducted in a within-subject design. Five male and 20 female participants (mean age = 20.72) participated in three conditions: a solo executed movement sequence, a movement sequence executed with a DMTh who attuned and mirrored the movements, and a solo executed movement sequence not associated with feelings of happiness. Participants were only informed about the movements and not the feelings that may be provoked by these movements. The effects on individuals were measured using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule and visual analog scales. Results showed that a specific movement sequence based on movement elements associated with happiness executed with a DMTh can significantly enhance the corresponding affective state. An additional finding of this study indicated that facilitating expressed emotion through movement elements that are not associated with happiness can enhance feelings such as empowerment, pride, and determination, which are experienced as part of positive affect. The results show the impact of specific full-body movement elements on the emotional state and the support outcome of DMT on emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number579518
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


  • dance movement therapy
  • emotion
  • body feedback
  • interaffectivity
  • embodiment
  • positive affect
  • Laban Movement Analysis


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