A History of DMT in Ontario

DMTO acknowledges that embodied practices such as dance have been used throughout history in relation to healing by and within indigenous communities.

Earliest recorded history of Dance Movement Therapy in Ontario

From 1970 to 1988, York University was home to a Dance Therapy Stream developed and taught by Julianna Lau, the very first Registered Dance Therapist in Canada in 1972. As there was no association, no system for accreditation, and no one else working in the field yet, this registration was through the ADTA. (American Dance Therapy Association) Lau initiated and maintained relationships with The Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, Etobicoke General Hospital 5th floor psychiatric unit, Dublin Public School in Downsview, and Pleasant Public School in Willowdale and the Thistletown Regional Centre for Emotionally Disturbed Children.

In 1977, the ADTA held its first international conference in Toronto, Ontario.

1980’s – 1990’s

The Dance Movement Therapy Association of Ontario (DMTAO) was created in the early 1980’s to connect a small community of like-minded individuals in the hope of facilitating further growth for a field making its entrance into Canada. Focused primarily on the dissemination of information surrounding the type of work that was being completed throughout Ontario and later nationally, the organization:

  • aspired to build its membership
  • published newsletters
  • offered workshops
  • advocated for the field with regards to establishing a Canadian graduate
  • fought for dance therapy’s accreditation
  • hosted a conference for the American Dance Therapy Association
  • successfully supported the growth of the field

The DMTAO was dependent on a large amount of volunteer work of too few and struggled to maintain its activities beyond the 1990’s. As a direct result of the termination of the DMTAO, the growth of the field appears to have been impacted.

Dance Movement Therapy continued to be practiced throughout Ontario by a small group of dedicated and passionate individuals: Bat Sheva Koren (Toronto/Israel), Mary Moncrieff (Ottawa), Debbie van der Laan (Toronto), Janet Lemon Williams (Guelph), Phyllis Saadon (Toronto). 

Present Day

Currently, there is a resurgence of interest and activities surrounding Dance Movement Therapy in Ontario and Canada. It is an exciting time once again for Dance Movement Therapy in Ontario.

As part of its mandate, Dance Movement Therapy Ontario (DMTO) serves as bridge between emerging and pioneer Dance Movement Therapists in Ontario. As we look forward to our vision for the profession, we acknowledge and are grateful for the work that has been done.

Special thanks to Andreah Barker for contributing research from her Masters on the History of DMT in Ontario.

Please contact us if you would like to contribute information to this written history.