Restoring Dignity and Beauty through Expressive Arts Therapy

Mary Reich is on faculty at the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts Therapy teaching movement improvisation, embodiment and somatic practices.

Mary Reich.JPG

“I get students physically moving both in a group and with themselves. I find ways to help people trust their spontaneity and to take on the ideas of play, embodiment and aesthetic relationships. This work includes gaining back ones own authority and dignity. Making art is a physical experience so sensing oneself in new ways is important to the process”.

Mary is a post-modern performer and maker of dance from San Diego. She began dancing in college and continued studying dance at University of California, Irvine earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance. When a torn ACL stopped her from performing, she turned her focus to teaching and choreography, setting her on the path to discover a new way of working in the arts.

“In order to figure out how to move well again, I trained in the Feldenkrais Method which exposed me to not only how to re-organize how I was moving but to how we learn as humans, how we can connect and how to we have a tremendous ability to change”.

Using this method, Mary co-created a successful dance performance collective called Lower Left and for 7 years she taught in and around San Diego, North America and Europe teaching alternative forms of movement and experimental dance.

Richmond studio_All white.jpg

What brought Mary to Expressive Arts was teaching workshops she called Creative Research. This class was geared to students/artist making performance pieces out of the experiences of our lives, and of their 'imaginal' self.

“I found people would have often have strong emotional responses to the exercises in the workshop. I didn’t understand the impact that art making could have and I didn’t know what to do or how to care for people in ways that were satisfying. I found studying Expressive Arts helped bridge that gap and gave me a wider range of people to work with”.

Since then, Mary has worked with a variety of populations, including people with histories of homelessness, in the oncology ward of a children’s hospital, and with pregnant teens.

“For me, Expressive Arts Therapy is about engaging with other humans and bringing people back to dignity in whatever situation they’re in. There is always a beauty and dignity no matter what you identify with and I want people to be in touch with that”.

As well as being on faculty at the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts Therapy, Mary teaches at the San Diego Expressive Arts Institute. For 6 years, she also taught at the Seattle festival of improvisational dance, which Mary said was a huge privilege.

“Teaching is fun. What I witness when students are art making or dancing... you can’t buy a ticket to that show. It’s just people really being human and it is an intimate experience. You see the mystery of life, beauty and relationships. It’s a beautiful way to be.”