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Swing Therapy
by Molly Buck


Swing TherapyThe allure of swing dancing is fairly obvious – it’s a great way to meet people, it’s good exercise, the music is exciting, dressing up is fun, and it is a fairly accessible art form. One could even say that swing dance is a form of therapy.

In fact, some people have picked up on the therapeutic power of the Lindy Hop and have turned it into a business. Jennifer Wong, a trained dancer; her brother, Matthew, a personal trainer; and their mother, Gayook, a professional therapist and consultant for corporations, found swing so enlivening that they formed a venture called JMG   Partnership in 1998 and turned their love of dance into a formalized dance therapy workshop, called JMG Swings!

JMG Swings!, based in Honolulu, Hawaii, offers tailormade swing dance therapy programs to corporations, families, teens and children. Within their programs, the Wongs address such issues as socialization, family and peer relationships, couples dynamics, motivation, self-esteem, problem solving, and communication. JMG Swings! workshops entail group exercises, facilitated discussions, and question and answer sessions to help improve communication between the participants.  

And they learn how to become fabulous swing dancers.

For corporations, the workshops may focus on breaking down the barriers of rank to enhance the interaction between management and workers. Employees learn improved communication skills and the importance of treating each other with respect. For parents and children, learning how to swing dance as equal partners brings them closer together. In both cases, the standard relationships between participants are taken out of context as they learn to trust each other and learn swing dancing as a team. 

"Swing is a fun way to get into some of the more important issues involving relationships," says Gayook.  "We take this therapy and try to make it fun. Doing it this way is innovative. It is bringing together the social aspect with the work aspect."

And does the therapy actually work? One sign of JMG’s success is apparent through a former student’s story. Jim felt that he and his 14-year-old daughter did not relate very well with each other. He wanted to find a way to get closer to her and be more involved in her life. They took a few workshops with the Wongs, and a few months later, Jim’s daughter asked him to chaperone one of her school dances. Mission accomplished.

In addition, many of the issues that come up during the workshops are gender related.

"Often, if a husband and wife are dancing together, the wife will not give her husband the chance to actually lead her," Jen explains. "As a team, they are not learning the dance. However, when they move on to other couples, they are able to learn it better. I explain to them that they have to work together in order to dance with each other, not anticipate each other’s moves. After a few classes, they start to relate better to each other as well." This newfound partnership then permeates many other aspects of their relationship, Jen adds.

JMG workshops focus heavily on the balancing power of swing dancing, combining the mental and emotional elements with the physical challenges. Physically, swing dancing is great aerobic exercise. The dancing aspect of it, though, is also "a moving meditation," as Gayook calls it. Within the workshops, JMG Swings! stresses the balance of mind, body and spirit through the practice of qi gong, which means "breathwork," a Chinese form of martial arts derived from ancient Buddhist and Tao philosophies.

In summing up the philosophy behind their work, Gayook also hits on the reason that swing has endured for decades. "The essence of swing is that it hits every level – the social, personal, spiritual and physical. And it bridges the generations," she says.

For more information on JMG Swings! workshops, contact the Wongs at JMGPartner@aol.com or call (808) 236-4082. 

Behind in your reading?
Check out past ATOMIC features.

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1999 Article List
2000 Article List
2001 Article List
2002 Article List
2003 Article List
2004 Article List
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