Alumni Spotlight: Anginese Phillips C’10, Dance Therapist

Anginese Phillips is a licensed creative arts therapist and board-certified dance/movement therapist with the American Dance Therapy Association. As the co-director of Full Force Wellness Repertory and founder of Creative Clarity, Anginese has helped thousands navigate through professional and personal life-changing transitions.

Her work has been mainly with adults including those from Good Shepherd Services, Service Program for Older People, and Girl Be Heard. Anginese’s clinical experience, as well as her theoretical framework in using dance/movement therapy, has become the catalyst for co-creating Full Force workshops which support each individual in learning more about their mental, physical, and emotional needs. With Creative Clarity, Anginese has developed and implemented clinical creative arts programming for adults, older adults and their caregivers across various facilities in NYC.

Anginese was a guest workshop facilitator at St. Francis College, Gibney Dance, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Lutheran Social Services of New York, and WeWork. She has been featured in the New York Center for Living’s blog, the SoulWork podcast, and was also on the panel of Careers in Dance at CUNY Hunter College. Recently featured in Dance Magazine, Anginese’s clinical experience, as well as her theoretical framework in using dance/movement therapy, has become the catalyst for supporting each individual in learning more about their mental, physical, and emotional needs.

 BENEFITS OF DREW

Anginese knew she wanted to major in psychology and minor in dance at Drew because it gave her the flexibility to immerse herself in the New York City dance scene, while also receiving a solid education.

I asked her why she chose psychology as a major and she said, “I was always a good listener with friends and family and was always interested in learning and hearing other people’s perspectives. I am non-judgmental and always enjoyed being with people.  That was what initially drove me into psychology.”

Her love of dancing started at her Quaker high school. She said, “Their belief system in terms of simplicity and individuality really fostered the way in which I wanted to explore dance.  I always knew there was a therapeutic element to dance. I knew that dance allowed me to explore who I am as a person through movement.  I also knew I wanted to start a dance company in the future to work for myself.”

Though she minored in dance at Drew, she felt she was majoring in dance because she was so involved in the dance program. She really grew as a choreographer at Drew. Her dance instructor, Cheryl Clarke, was a huge part of her professional growth as a dancer. Anginese said, “She challenged me not just to use dance on the entertainment level but analytically. Most of her skill set came from Laban Movement Analysis.”

She danced her first two years at Drew and choreographed pieces in her junior and senior year. Anginese said, “I choreographed 2 or 3 different pieces which involved auditioning dancers, holding rehearsals, etc. which made me feel like I was running my own dance company.”

She interned her senior year in Harlem with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co (American choreographer, director, author and dancer.)  That was a dream come true for her. She worked in the administrative department and was able to work with Bill.  He was premiering a piece called “Fondly Do We Hope . . . Fervently Do We Pray” about Abraham Lincoln abolishing slavery at Lincoln Center and she was able to be there and support him at this event and see what it was like to be under stress knowing that The NY Times and other major media outlets were coming to review it.  She said, “That was the year he also won a Tony award and I was able to be a part of that too.  I was also able to learn the ins and outs of running a non-profit dance company.  It was also great to work with a person of color who is an artist with a diverse staff and dancers.”

Her favorite memories of Drew revolved around her roommates in Drew’s first co-ed quad. Anginese said, “Other favorite memories include having the flexibility to create dance pieces. Also, I loved my advisor, Psychology Professor Dr. George Harold Jennings.  He was amazing in helping me on my journey. He knew I loved dance and psychology so he helped me find a way to combine them.  I enjoyed exploring that with him.  He was always so supportive.”

MASTER’S IN MOVEMENT THERAPY

When did you decide you wanted to pursue a Master’s in Movement Therapy? 

In my senior year I knew I wanted to go from Drew to grad schoolThis was a good way to combine dance and psychology.  Between Sheryl Clark and Dr. George-Harold Jennings, I was able to figure it out.  I knew I wanted to do something full time.  I picked Pratt because it was in the city. Drew gave me the fundamentals but grad school helped me learn about who I am and how to apply the fundamentals. When you go to grad school for therapy, you really go in dissecting yourself because before you can work with anyone you have to understand who you are, and what triggers you and what works speaks to you.  It was a program where they stress that everyone has a therapist.  It was a great program.

DANCE/MOVEMENT THERAPY

Can you talk about your work at Hucles Episocopal Nursing Home and Service Program for Older People?

I think people forget that even though people are older and in wheelchairs they still are human.  They can make you laugh, they are still creative, they still have feelings and they still matter.  Just to support them and letting them be heard was a highlight for me. I was able to find different ways to bring arts to them.  We put together a Christmas program where they would sing and dance, write poetry and read it.  I had a session with a client and they were saying they were frustrated being in a wheelchair so we wrote a play out for this person.  It was called The Night before Christmas at Hucles.  It was her looking out a window and talking about her feelings and how Santa comes and brings her hope and reminds her that no matter where she is, Christmas is always there.  She performed it and we had an ensemble of singers, dancers, and family came to watch.  This is the therapeutic piece of what art can do.  It was amazing! I did programs for Black History month.  They had their own stories and I brought them to life.  It was important to make sure they felt heard and seen.

Can you talk about your company Full Force Wellness & Dance Repertory?

Photo of Anginese by Thayme Gomez

This started in 2010 with a colleague that I knew from high school.  I wanted to start a dance company and we linked up and ten years later we are still working together. It is project based. We put together performances, choreographing, dancing, and showcasing.  Lately we are into holistic work in terms of bringing dance movement and aroma therapy into different spaces such as social service residences, nursing homes, and creating workshops where people can take classes.  We host in a space in Brooklyn, and we have a combination of dance and aroma therapy and focus on the group and how they connect.  We create a safe space for that and for people to de-stress, to connect to themselves on a non-verbal level and to begin to understand who they are.  Sometimes people hold on in their bodies and it tends to come out in these types of workshops.  We give people the opportunity to move and to verbally process what is happening with them or what is happening with the group.

We have a dance company of no more than five dancers.  There are two pieces that have been reworked from dance pieces I created at Drew and won the best choreography awards for. Choreography is ever evolving.  One piece is evolving into an evening piece.

 What do you think is the key to your success in your field?

Resilience.  Unfortunately, the arts are not necessarily valued and so when you combine art or creative arts therapy it can change.  It’s educating people in what that is and how it can benefit them and understanding it’s not for everyone as well.  It’s providing a platform to be able to speak about it and being realistic about it. As a person of color I have been part of the professionals within this field.  After you graduate, there is a process of getting your license and certifications and I wanted to get all of that. It was important for me, especially being a person of color.  I wanted to work with other people of color who struggle too.

Why do you feel dance therapy is important?

While we are verbal creatures, we are mostly non-verbal.  When we’re children and get older we go back to non-verbal. It’s important how you come off on a non-verbal level.  It’s important to know who you are on a non-verbal level.  The way we move captures who we are. It’s the deepest and the most vulnerable way to learn about who you are and the things that hold you back and the way you can give yourself permission to move forward.

ADVICE FOR STUDENTS

What advice would you give to students who are interested in dance therapy?

I think they should enjoy it.  Go to the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) website and go to a conference but do not take yourself too seriously.  If you do decide to go down this path, there are a lot of skeletons that are going to come out.  Prepare yourself to explore and process. Give yourself permission to enjoy where you are, learn about yourself, and be open to the possibilities.  Have different conversations with dance therapists to learn what type of population you want to work with. Dance therapy is about who you are and how you show up in the world on a non-verbal level.

FINAL FUN QUESTIONS

If you could try any career other than your own what would it be?

I would be a chef.  It’s such an art.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow where would it be?

I would go back to creating pieces for Hucles Nursing Home.

Any fun facts you would like to share?

I love coffee.  Dark or medium roast.

Anginese is featured in Dance Magazine – October 22, 2020

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Photo of Anginese holding a class at Drew University by Thayme Gomez

Photo of Anginese holding a class at Drew University by Thayme Gomez

 

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