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Primitive Expression is the mediation technique used in Dance Rhythm Therapy.  

It is a rhythmic, vocalized, powerful dance technique characterized by the simplicity of the "first" gestures that make it accessible to all, especially in the field of therapy. 

(see its origins and a detailed description in the tab Mediation technique).


1. The dance mediation technique 

Primitive Expression was created by the Haitian dancer-choreographer, Herns Duplan, according to the pure and stylized aesthetics of primitivism in art. It corresponds to today's preference for dances with a marked, pulsating and repetitive rhythm that can lead to trance. Its primitivist, "cubist" aesthetics with simple and powerful forms respond to the modern need to deconstruct academism and find the roots, an essential element from which the West had moved away.
Expression Primitive is "the fruit of a deep crossbreeding" between traditional Haitian dances and Afro-American dance. Herns Duplan had indeed worked with Katherine Dunham, a pioneer of Afro-American dance and at the same time an anthropologist. Her thesis, supported in 1950, was on Haitian voodoo and the sacred therapeutic rituals of the Caribbean. While being interested in finding the universal, Katherine Dunham sought the common within diversity and found in the pulse the human invariant, present in all cultures, within the diversity of their forms of expression.

The pulse is indeed universal because it is the most familiar, the most natural of rhythms, as it is that of the heartbeat. It transposes the vital beat of the heart and the breath into the rhythm of music and dance. It is alive, it lives and vivifies. But beyond that, it is the sound image of the cycle: the cycle of day and night, the cycle of the seasons, the rotation of the stars, the oscillation of the living, the cycles of psychic development. Τhe pulse is, as Herns Duplan writes: "a perfect cycle: it appears, lives, disappears; it obeys a ternary law which governs us all. When it is repeated at regular intervals, it becomes a framework of life, a means of fixing time, of regulating it, of constructing and elaborating it.

Primitive Expression is first of all a powerful rhythm, played on the drum. Listening to the drum makes 

one feel the pulse strongly. It is transmitted throughout the body and spontaneously awakens a latent energy that springs forth in rhythmic movements. There is nothing like this to renew life impulses, to stimulate the immune system, to reinforce the defenses, and to drive out the mortifying forces to make room for joy.

Primitive Expression  involves simple, powerful gestures, accessible to all... 

Primitive Expression is the vocalization of gestures by the dancers. It is not a song with words, but an improvised vocal expression composed of rhythmic and melodic phonemes.


2. Dance-Rhythm-Therapy 

The work of Katherine Dunham and Herns Duplan has been continued by others. France Schott-Billmann has been teaching it since 1976 and has given to it a therapeutic foundation based on natural and human sciences (anthropology, psychology, psychoanalysis).


Dance-Rhythm-Therapy has been practiced for about fifteen years in hospitals or with individuals. Its effectiveness lies first and foremost in the rhythm, the powerful rhythm that accompanies Primitive Expression. It is like the shamans and musicians who accompany the dances of possession where, throughout Africa, the divinities are incarnated in humans.

France Schott-Billmann has dedicated herself to the shaping of Primitive Expression as a therapeutic mediation. She writes: "I founded Dance-Rhythm-Therapy from Primitive Expression after having studied for my thesis numerous therapeutic rituals, traditional, tribal or shamanic ones, which rely on tools forgotten by Western European therapies: the rhythm, the singing, choral group, resonance, ritual, joy, danced trance…"

However, dance therapy is not just about releasing tensions in a disorderly way. It is a triangular relationship between a patient and a therapist, a relationship mediated by dance. The dance must therefore be structured to provide a safe framework, a solid support for the therapeutic process that the patient will carry out in relation to the therapist. 

Rhythm is also the shared common time that allows one to connect with the other through synchronized movements, to feel, at the same time, an individual and a member of a group; furthermore, it is a framework, a structure, whose main feature is the periodic repetition which allows the movement to come to an order and to be ritualized while keeping its natural structure. 


Repeating a gesture creates a resonance, redoubled by the synchronous group, a singing-dancing choir.  Under the effect of repetition and resonance, the energy and the form of the movement are amplified, which, added to the hypnotic effect of repetition, leads to the trance of dance, a Dionysian state of enthusiasm (“en+theos”, in greek, meaning "the god in oneself": Life). This state is an experience of being traversed by an unknown energy, accompanied by the happiness of feeling intensely alive, tuned with what one is in the depths of oneself, where one discovers that this is vaster than a thought.

Man has always sought to go beyond the limits of ordinary consciousness, to reach a state of expanded consciousness where reality is "augmented" as are the capacities of the body and those of the spirit, which becomes inspired, imaginative, creative, artistic... The West, wanting to be the champion of logical reason, excluded it for a long time, but now opens its arms to it with the practice of hypnosis or meditation, which are spiritual practices but adogmatic ones, not religious. It is the same for dance. 

There is no therapy without a search for meaning, a set of sensations, emotions and thoughts. The whole process of Dance-Rhythm-Therapy leads to this by the modification of the state of consciousness: through repetition, the movements become reflexes, they unfold and fold automatically, return, start again, are reborn, continue, are tenacious and bounce back ceaselessly. This hypnotic automatism rests the dancer from the effort of thinking, he/she is there and elsewhere, absent and present, he/she thinks without thinking. This dynamic meditation leaves room for the unconscious, an unheard of presence which hears in the rhythm the cardio-respiratory order, the motor of life; which sees in the movement, the order of the human body: bipedalism, walking, verticality, symmetry; which discovers in the concordance of the two superimposed orders that of the living man, a hyphen between the earth and the sky, between the body and the symbol. The repetitive, symbolic, evocative movements are signs. They "speak" to the dancer, they insist on being heard in order to reveal his/her human nature that shares with all, and his/her singularity inscribed in this universal. 

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