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Billy’s Drum: feet and rhythm in Sesame
therapeutic practice
Catherine Butler
To cite this article: Catherine Butler (2018) Billy’s Drum: feet and rhythm in Sesame therapeutic
practice, Dramatherapy, 39:2, 63-75, DOI: 10.1080/02630672.2018.1482363
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/02630672.2018.1482363
Published online: 16 Jul 2018.
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Dramatherapy, 2018
Vol. 39, No. 2, 63–75, https://doi.org/10.1080/02630672.2018.1482363
Billy’s Drum: feet and rhythm in Sesame therapeutic practice
Catherine Butler*
Unaffiliated scholar
Billy Lindkvist’s demonstration at a Sesame Seasonal School of foot and
rhythm work for connection, sense of self, and grounding, was an inspiration
for me to train as a Sesame practitioner. In this paper, I will explore the
origins of this work in Billy’s experience and how she developed it, how it
has continued in Sesame training, and lastly show how I have used this
associated aspect of a basic strand of the Sesame Approach, Movement with
Touch and Sound, from RCSSD placements through to current client work,
describing its application and adaptation for different client groups including
people with dementia, ASD, Parkinson’s, and physical and learning
Keywords: Lindkvist; feet; rhythm; Sesame; movement; therapy
The substance of this paper will, of necessity, be largely experiential: my
experience of observing Billy’s work based on feet and rhythm, and my practice
of it then, which was soon built upon in training placements; and my employment
of it ever since with many kinds of client work. Billy’s own life experience
provided both the origin of her work and the motivation for its continued
development. The need for the experiential, in learning as well as description
of this aspect of Billy’s ‘method’ (a contributing source and an enduring part of
her unique therapy of ‘Movement with Touch and Sound’), is strongly expressed
both in her own book describing her journey as a drama and movement therapist,
and in the conversation she had with Jenny Pearson that is reported in the Sesame
Approach book (to both of which I refer a number of times below [Lindkvist
1998; Pearson 1996]) We have to feel it in our own bodies before we can bring it
to others and feel with them. Again, from continuing experience, we can develop
ways of our own to take forward this therapeutic method – and Billy was a great
believer in moving on to new development in our practice as our learning and
understanding increased, underpinned by our own instinct, and knowledge in the
body. I will describe some of the developments that have come to me in this way,
and how I have used them, later in the paper.
But first, I relate my introduction to Billy and her work, and go on to tell the
story of how she came to this and developed it for herself – from her own words.
© 2018 The British Association of Dramatherapists
C. Butler
Billy, feet, and rhythm
At one of the 5-day Sesame Seasonal Schools that were run for many years
by the Sesame Institute, and that were often an introduction and inspiration to
apply for the full-time Sesame course, I had the privilege of being taught on
one of the days by Marian R. Lindkvist – ‘Billy’– herself. She had not been a
tutor in Movement with Touch and Sound on the RCSSD Drama and
Movement Therapy (Sesame) course for some years, so this was an exceptional treat. This was the Spring School in April, 2000, and for me it certainly
fitted the season, life opening up. We were introduced to all the strands of the
Sesame Approach, including the theoretical and practical bases of Jung,
Laban, and Peter Slade’s Play, and Myth and Drama, as well as Billy’s
speciality. I have found a letter from the leaders of that week in response
to my written feedback from the School, saying ‘so glad that the week
brought you freedom and a new way of experimenting with ways “to be”
… Finding the next step is always a dance with the unknown – may the way
open for you!’ After what I had experienced, including importantly that halfday with Billy, I knew I wanted to do the full-time Sesame training at
Central, which seemed impossible at that time … but astonishingly soon,
the way did open.
Three images, from not just visual but whole body memory, stand out for me
from that day:
First, the introduction of stamping while standing and then moving in our
accustomed circle at the start and end of the session, and the physical together
with psychological effects of that on us participants.
Second, observing and then experiencing Billy’s work with pressure on the
feet, participants working in pairs, partly to reproduce the foot-to-ground effects
for those unable to stand. She spoke about and showed the relation of this to
‘Movement with Touch and Sound’, a type of therapy she discovered and
developed herself, and that became an important strand of the Sesame
Approach in teaching and practice.
Third, the use of drums and rhythm, related to the stamping mentioned above,
and involved in the ritual of the session, its opening and closing.
So what were the effects of these ‘new ways’ that were opened up during the
session, in my personal experience of them, as I remember it? Of course my
memories in the body were reinforced by more learning and practice of these
ways over the full-time course and following years, but I can see Billy on
that day, in my mind’s eye, in relation to them all.
Stamping gave me a feeling of connection to the ground, and from the ground
through my feet to my whole body; connection to my ‘self’, and to those
stamping with me in the circle.
The use of rhythm in movement gave me a further feeling of connection with
others when we moved together, as well as self-expression, and the drumming
felt strong in both bringing the group together and in ‘conversation’ between us.
Both stamping and rhythm I found to be grounding as well as freeing. (But this
was only a seeming paradox, as I understood through more training in Laban
Movement Principles: these were things that helped me to be centred, to move
and express from the core – which Billy also understood from her own experience, see below.)
Billy’s demonstration of pressing on feet for those unable to put their feet to
the ground, to enable them to feel the connection, the grounding and promoting
the sense of self – this looked like something entirely new, opening up therapeutic possibilities. But also in observation, in practising and then reflection on this
at the time, I realised I had felt a strong body memory, a personal connection
especially when she first did it. I remembered something from my early childhood, my father saying a little rhyme as he patted and pressed my bare feet –
‘Shoe an old horse, Shoe an old mare, But let the little colt go bare, bare, bare’. I
see now this is in a 2/4 (walking) rhythm, two beats with pats of foot followed by
two beats of held pressure on it, repeated four times, for each foot. I remembered
the feeling of connection between us, the affirmation (sense of self), the feeling
that I was safe, ‘held’– that I would now relate to both relationship and grounding. These feelings, which allow one to be oneself, were brought back to
consciousness by what Billy showed us.
So these new therapeutic ways, for myself as well as work with others,
affected me strongly at the time; their effects were, naturally, much strengthened
during the experiential Sesame training at RCSSD. I have used them in Sesame
sessions starting with placements during the course and throughout my subsequent therapy practice. I have adopted and adapted the tools more or less,
depending on the client group and the individual, and I will say more on the
adaptation in each of the case examples below.
I will now relate what we know of the origins and development of this
important way in therapy in Billy’s own experience.
How Billy found and developed these aspects of her work
We have the story of this in Billy’s own words, in her book ‘Bring White Beads
When You Call on the Healer’, hereinafter referred to as ‘Bring White Beads’
(Lindkvist 1998). Billy’s development of her method is also reported, especially
how this became and continues as the ‘Movement with Touch and Sound’ strand
in the Sesame course at RCSSD, in a chapter on ‘Marian Lindkvist and
Movement with Touch’ by Jenny Pearson in the sourcebook ‘Discovering the
Self through Drama and Movement: The Sesame Approach’ (Pearson ed. 1996).
The chapter also contains an interview with Billy, as well as Jenny Pearson’s own
valued and well-described experiential learning and client work in Billy’s
method. I shall refer to both of these below. Billy makes it clear that three things
in her experience were seminal for the development of her own, unique way of
therapy. I give them in the same order that she does, in the opening chapter of her
C. Butler
First, what she observed, felt, learned and practiced with peoples of South
Second, the effects she experienced in movement work in her personal
Third, the relationship with a person she herself called the ‘catalyst’ of the
book, her daughter (who was given different diagnoses from early years, but
whom she eventually recognised to be on the Autistic spectrum). Billy says
‘without [her] it could not have been written, because nothing in it would have
happened’. This experience in her own family motivated much of what she did
throughout her life: Billy was the original model of the Sesame ‘wounded
healer’, whose vulnerability facilitates her own embodied learning, which then
facilitates attunement with clients.
Billy’s South African experience
It is a dramatic opening to ‘Bring White Beads’, but then Billy was well practised
in drama, before she had the dream which opened the way to her using it in
therapy. We are taken straight to South Africa, to a Diviner’s hut – the Diviner to
whom she had to take a present of White Beads – and then to a ritual, a ‘healing
dance’ performed by the Diviner’s ‘novices’. She had seen this dance before,
during her periods of working with client groups in South Africa, and in the
darkness of the healer’s hut where the Shades are honoured. But now she asked
the Diviner if she could film the dance saying she hoped that in ‘her country’
(UK), ‘The practice of the dance may help some of the sick to feel better’. Even
though this would have to be out of doors in the light, and therefore not strictly
follow the ‘genuine ceremonies’ she had seen, she thought that just as the novices
have to learn and practise regularly, always have ‘clappers’ available, they would
be ‘in the mood’ and it would show something of the nature of the dance. This
consisted of three main steps, and all were varieties of stamping. It is this filmed
occasion of which we then read (Lindkvist 1998, 4–7).
Once the Diviner appeared, the novices moved into place, with the Diviner in
the centre and the drummer on her right. Billy then describes the movement of
the ritual:
I expected a period of warming up and I was not disappointed. First the
clappers started and then a number of songs were sung. Various people stood up
and stamped or executed one or other of the healing dance steps in a rather casual
fashion. Suddenly the mood changed. The Diviner took the drum sticks and
introduced a different drum beat, soon handing over the sticks to the drummer. At
first the novices moved in a circle anti-clockwise ‘to introvert the libido’ as we
might say or, as the Zulus put it, ‘to bring the energy into the centre’ (Lindkvist
1998, 6).
The dancers then went on to alternate ‘ordinary’ stamping with ‘double
stamp’, ball of foot to heel; a kind of high kick followed by a stamp; and a
rising on the toes followed by a hard stamp. Led by the Diviner, with the
κι αν
σε επαφή
με τους
με γυμνά
τα πόδια
στη γη;
drummer, signalling to them including by various contacts with the ground, they
continued this (with the occasional rest) for three hours. It may be asked what, for
the Diviner and the novices in the ritual, is the source of healing involved in this
stamping on the ground. Billy’s ‘informant’ (not named) told her that the Shades
are under the ground, and the power to heal must be drawn from them, so this
kind of ‘grounding’ has a whole extra dimension for people with this belief. For
them, the Shades ‘are in the lives of all people’, and a healer will use her contact
with them to diagnose illness, as well as in the healing ritual (Lindkvist 1998,
7–8). (For trained Sesame practitioners there will be resonances with all this, not
just the ‘warm-up’, grounding etc., but also with Jung, Myth, Ritual. But here I
am focusing on movement, work with feet and rhythm, and their effects – others
may take forward the aforementioned connections).
Billy tells us that she became very close to the Diviner, who promised to
prepare her so that she could work her way. Billy felt that ‘being so close to her
unconscious the Diviner had sensed in me a woman whose troubled life had led
her to use her experiences as … a channel through which healing might take
place’ ‘; and ‘This meeting … affected me so deeply that, in retrospect, I believe
it guided me to write something of my work as a movement and drama therapist’.
From this, we have ‘Bring White Beads’ (Lindkvist 1998, 9).
Billy’s experience in personal therapy with movement
In her book, after recounting this very important episode in Africa, and before
telling us how it affected her subsequent client work, Billy says she must ‘relive’
another experience that was vital in what she became, and did: her ‘own personal
experience on the receiving side of Arts therapy’, which first happened in 1965.
She was working with a colleague who was a movement therapist, and who
asked her to ‘explore a cave’. Billy being a performer so far, she thought out and
represented the scene, quite well as she thought – but then the therapist said ‘And
now stop thinking. Do it from inside’. When Billy found she could do this, and
‘articulate through [her] body’, ‘inner movement’ expressed through it, the
experience ‘coloured [her] way of working through drama and movement over
three decades’; and also the basis of the way the teaching and learning in this
therapy had to be – experiential: ‘It is only when we experience therapy through
an art form for ourselves that we understand what it is, how it works … ’
(Lindkvist 1998, 10).
Billy’s development of her unique mode of therapy, and the inclusion of stamping
Billy sums up some main factors in this later in her book. She explains why she
thinks her emphasis on sound and movement originated in her experience with
her own children and their energy and freedom in ‘natural movement’ (including
when she pushed on their kicking feet during nappy change. It ‘struck [her]
forcibly how much the non-ambulant and electively passive person was missing’,
C. Butler
and she sought to make up for that loss. Having one ‘normal’ and one autistic
daughter helped to give her ‘confidence in many different [clinical] settings’. She
says ‘Much of my work is based on what has been called by Audrey [Wethered]
‘informed instinct’ … My growing awareness over the last twenty-seven 27 years
of Laban principles and what I have learned of the philosophy of C.G. Jung, have
stood me in good stead (Lindkvist 1998, 98). She says elsewhere that she met
Peter Slade (Play), and also Audrey Wethered and Chloe Gardner (Laban), in
1966. Audrey had studied Jung for years, and Chloe had used movement with
patients in psychiatric hospitals. As well as strengthening the emphasis on the
therapeutic effects of movement, understanding of Laban principles gave Billy a
terminology that she could use to describe and explain her own therapy in words
(Pearson 1996, 70–71). We see here origins of the elements of what became the
Sesame day-release (1972) course, the first in the UK for training dramatherapists, and then the full-time course, first at Kingsway from 1974, and then at
RCSSD from 1985.
But she had started working on her special therapy that became ‘Movement
with Touch and Sound’ in 1963, and she founded the Sesame Institute in 1964 to
promote this work. It was not until the late 1970’s that she went to South Africa
and saw the stamping ritual there, which was henceforward included in her
therapy, first with clients in South Africa, and then with teaching Sesame trainees
from 1978. Stamping was a powerful therapeutic tool, its effects and what it
shows: ‘It is what is inside [the person who stamps, or] what he feels that causes
him to be unable to stamp. It is how the action of stamping with his body also
reflects upon his feelings that is important. A man can begin to be someone when
he stamps’ (Lindkvist 1998, 152). She was interested in the current scientific
research into the psychological effects of ritual dance and drumming, which was
mainly concerned with endorphin production (Lindkvist 1998, 251).
Billy gives many examples in her book of how she incorporated stamping in
her work, how it became an important opening and closing ritual in sessions, how
it related to the work she was already doing with foot pressure, massage, etc. with
her early clients; and also her increasing use of the drum (Billy’s drum, made for
her and given to her in Africa, became an important symbol for many a trainee),
and rhythm generally: tapping and clapping, rhythmic song, sound and movement. (Lindkvist 1998, 49, 79, 91, 99)
My own experience as Sesame practitioner on RCSSD placements and in
subsequent clinical practice
I am giving these examples of learning and development through client work
together. Although I was on a steeper learning curve during the Sesame training,
as all practitioners know, we continue to learn from our clients and develop new
ways throughout our careers. Billy was an exemplar and advocate of this, always.
The Sesame Approach remains firmly founded on its range of established bases.
Even those that can be more narrowly defined as ‘theoretical’, such as Jungian
Analytical Psychology, Laban Movement Principles, Human Development, and
Peter Slade on Play, are in that foundation because Billy learned about them in
the course of her own experience and development of her ways in therapy. Drama
was already part of her life and practice before she employed it therapeutically
with KATS; myth, and story generally, have a clear lineage through this and then
Jung. The source of Movement with Touch and Sound is, as we know, uniquely
Billy, whatever the influences that helped it on the way.
Rhythm and music, though not included as part of the ‘canon’ of Sesame
when the Approach is described, are part of the experience of all who have
undertaken the training. (I have been told that music was in fact on the course at
one time, long ago.) Rhythm is implicated in so much that is done in sound and
movement on the course that we take it for granted in what we do as qualified
practitioners. It’s in our bones and we use it constantly. My own life experience
has meant that I was particularly drawn to this in Sesame practice, from the first
introduction to the Approach I had at that Seasonal School. In brief, coming from
a musical family, and playing several instruments and singing, this aspect would
naturally appeal – but also, specifically, I had always wanted to play percussion
as a child, and used whatever was to hand to beat a rhythm. So rhythm has
always spoken to me and for me. I knew in myself the grounding, the sense of
self (yes, ‘Our body is our self.’ [Cooper 1996, 25]) and the connection with
others that it could give; and so in whatever way was possible for particular
clients, I have used it in my practice and noted the effects. This includes rhythms
in music apart from percussion, and the stamping and tapping I learned through
Billy; and I have been stimulated by noting these effects, and learning from them,
to do research on the effects of different rhythms and tempi in client work. I see
the beginnings of this in my first client notes, on RCSSD placements during the
Sesame course.
Examples from client work in placements
1. Individual client in a group with profound physical disabilities, at RCSSD
Movement with Touch and Sound was, as we have seen, initially developed
by Billy with client groups of this kind, and it remains central to Sesame work in
these contexts. Though we had learned about what it is through demonstrations
and practice in our student sessions, my experience in context was the ultimate
teacher. Billy said in interview:
Students find this … work very difficult, initially. I don’t really like teaching it on
the course because very often people can’t see the point of it in the studio. I prefer
to teach it in the field … I notice this with students every year: when they come to
write about their fieldwork, they will describe how they have used Movement with
Touch because that’s the only thing they can use in certain settings.
C. Butler
Jenny Pearson then comments that this need for experiential learning ‘means
that we have to have fieldwork placements with supervision on the spot from
people who actually do the work … To me that is the most important single
feature of the training’, and Billy responds ‘ … it can’t really be learnt unless you
see the person who has the need. It’s only when that need calls up the theory you
have learnt that the whole thing comes together and you begin to understand’
(Pearson 1996, 67).
My client in the group was blind from birth, and had recently had two
strokes. He was able to weight bear if supported on both sides, but our sessions
were mostly on mats, just as in Billy’s original work, and we followed how she
organised such a session and much of what she did in it. That included foot
massage, foot pressure, tapping, and a lot of rhythm, even if stamping was not
possible. With the foot work, I recalled in my body the experience of Billy doing
itrecalled It was a revelation, and a moving one, to feel the response of a client
whose needs were being met in this way. I also realised another body memory I
had when Billy did it – but this time, with myself as agent for bringing the feeling
when of connection work, support of the sense of self, and the grounding when
doing this work with my own son as a small child.
In rhythm work, we used percussion instruments and one’s own body to make
a rhythm. I learned so much from the kind of work we did in this placement that I
was later to use and take forward with other client groups. But one thing stands
out especially for me, and that was a way I was able to connect with my client
through the tapping of rhythms. After we had done rhythm work in the group, my
client turned over on his front and I lay down by him. He reached out to touch
my hand with his finger and then tapped a rhythm on the floor. I responded with
that rhythm. He smiled a big smile, and tapped a different rhythm, which I
followed and then varied. Smiles again. We went on to have a conversation in
rhythms, varying them and also the leading and following. He would sometimes
make sounds with his tapping as well. The opening of communication, of
connection, of relationship (which is also supportive and strengthening of self)
in this way I can now see as the start of what I have continued to develop in client
work using rhythm, in many contexts.
2. Group work with children on the autistic spectrum, RCSSD placement at a
special school.
In this placement, we were able to use stamping and clapping, which we did
at the beginning of every session of the series – our opening ritual. We also made
much use of percussion and rhythm through the session, in many ways. Song was
also included, as it was in the placement previously described. But here the
children were able to join in with the songs more vocally.
Looking at my old notes on our session plans as students, and comparing
them with Billy’s sessions in South Africa in ‘Bring White Beads’ (which I had
not then read), there is what would appear to be an uncanny resemblance between
the two. But of course it is not uncanny. Our Sesame tutors and our supervisors
were steeped in the knowledge and practice of what Billy created. It had been
working in practice for them over years, and we too were now gaining our
experiential learning – first on the course, and then, in placements: meeting,
getting to know our clients and responding with what we had come to know as
therapeutic in ourselves. I see in the session notes for this placement that I am
exploring the value of the ‘rhythm aspect’ for this client group, and how it could
‘focus and channel the energy’ for those on the autistic spectrum who are given
to doing repetitive things. That is also a rhythm; also the ‘centering’ capacity of
rhythm. Both of these, I saw later, reflect things Billy wrote about in ‘Bring
White Beads’, and I would note them and they would be reflected in what I
brought to my session planning through the following years with a variety of
client groups.
Examples from client work in my subsequent therapy practice
I began work as a therapist immediately upon graduating from the course, and
from my first job (with a group in a Dementia Assessment Day Centre) I have
used rhythm and music.
3. Adult Client in a group with various learning difficulties.
In a session early in the series, we did the story of ‘The Musicians of
Bremen’. We had begun the session with stamping in a circle and then saying
our names within the rhythm. When later we came to the triumphal procession at
the end of the story, the participants started walking around more or less in a
circle anti-clockwise, and again stamping on their way. They wanted to keep this
up for quite a long time! I had a strong sense of their raised energy, much joy,
many smiles, and self-confidence. Then I had photographic images of different
animals from which they could choose … a young woman with Downs
Syndrome, who had ended up leading the procession, showed us with shining
eyes an image of a lion. Looking straight into my eyes, she said firmly ‘That’s
me – inside.’ I will never forget that moment.
4. One-to-one client with Parkinson’s disease, in a care home.
My client had had Parkinson’s for many years, his feet and legs were a big
problem – he could only walk when supported, and then usually with shuffling
short steps, intermittently coming to a stop on his toes. His speech was equally
halting. Sometimes it took him minutes before he could begin to speak. His
tremor was not always there, but could be severe. Everything about him could be
jerky, including his mood. He had psychological as well as physical problems, in
part related to time he spent in an orphanage as a child, when his mother could
not afford to keep both her children.
C. Butler
I took over therapy in this care home from another Sesame practitioner, and my
client was especially responsive to story and Sesame work generally in a group she
had led for several years. But when it became too difficult in the group, I took him
one-to-one. It was in these sessions that my special interest in the use of music in
Sesame work, and the effects of different tempi and other musical factors, began. It
started with seeing the effect of two particular rhythms with this client: 3/4 and 4/4.
The former is often used in lullabies and waltzes (both with a ‘holding’ character –
see more on this in my article mentioned above). Once a carer and I had got him
into a chair in a separate room, I began with the music just for him. The session
‘focus’ started with something in 4/4, march rhythm, grounding and energising and
centering. In a short time, he would begin stamping his feet (while sitting). You
could see the energy raised, and his being entrained by the rhythm. The tremor
ceased, his face becoming mobile rather than frozen, his eyes flew open, and then
when the beat stopped, he could usually begin straight away to speak fluently. I
used 3/4 rhythm later in the session, when he would fold his arms as if holding a
baby, and rock them smoothly. Sometimes, he could stand on his feet and move in
the rhythm with me holding him and the carer standing by. The final part of the
session was actually moving out of the room to 4/4 again, as he had ‘found his
feet’ and could walk/march without stopping, both firmly and (as with the speech)
I have since learned, especially from talking with neuroscience researchers,
that this beneficial use of rhythm for those with Parkinson’s is becoming more
widely recognised. They can find their feet, and their rhythm.
5. Pupil at school in NE London, behavioural difficulties – drum work.
This client was a boy of 9, who was said to have ADHD and certainly was
‘getting into trouble’ at school. He had great difficulty focusing on anything we
attempted, jumped from one thing to another, and gave little eye contact, until I
secured the use of the music room for his session and we worked with percussion. Once we began sessions with drum work, he changed, and had that
combination we have so often seen with stamping a rhythm. He was brought
into himself, he was becoming centered and grounded, able to focus, and connected with me, making eye contact and in being able to express himself both
through his rhythms and in words – sometimes one alternating with the other.
The effect persisted through the session.
6. Young adults on the autistic spectrum.
Following this experience, I have also used a drum in the way described
above with other one-to-one clients, including young adults on the autistic
spectrum. The effect of this rhythm work in enabling communication and
relationship is striking with such clients, especially in regard to eye-contact,
and ‘conversation’ in rhythm – with the varying of rhythms and who initiates
the change and who follows. Sometimes it would be hard to tell in this
relating and communicating beyond words. It has also had the effect on
autistic spectrum clients of gathering, centering, and focusing their rhythm
(as I learned in my RCSSD placement with children, above), which allows for
further therapeutic work in the session, for instance by opening the way in
expression and relationship to include verbal expression and exchange where
that too is needed.
7. Clients with dementia, group and individual therapy.
I have written in some detail elsewhere, in the Journal of Applied Arts and
Health, of the work with music, movement and rhythm that I have done in
Sesame sessions with elderly clients in the Mental Health Unit of a care home
Butler 2012). I will just say here that this was done over a number of years,
so that I got to know them well and was able to shape the sessions according
to individual as well as group needs. It was here that I experienced most fully
the effects of different rhythms on the clients, such as 2/4 for initiating
movement, march rhythm (4/4/) for grounding, waltz rhythm for holding
and connection, and was stimulated to further observation and reflection and
research. This included reading and discussion with music psychologists and
scientists of the great advances in neuroscientific study of the whole mind and
body’s reaction to music, of which rhythm is of course an integral part.
Note on recent research related to rhythm in therapy
There is now, especially in the last decade, ‘an explosion of interest in the
rhythmic brain’ (Overy and Turner 2009), and the effects of rhythm of all
kinds, helped by the great advances in neuroscience (see also e.g. MolnarSzakacs and Overy 2009, on the mirror neuron system and its role in communication, empathy, and relevance to therapy). Nigel Osborne details the
powerful responses to rhythm in mind and body, and their causes, that ‘make
rhythm-based … therapeutic processes particularly life-enhancing’ (Osborne
2017, 20–21). Further exploration of the relation of this to the rhythm work of
Sesame practitioners is well worth doing, and would support what Billy
intuitively understood and introduced to therapy. Current tutors on the
RCSSD course are already incorporating the results of recent neuroscientific
and developmental research into their writing in relation to practice (Loutsis
2017, 145–168 [re: feet and grounding]; Porter 2017, 169–188, [on attunement, re: Movement with Touch and Sound, with full discussion of this
therapeutic way]. Please refer to their articles in Dramatherapy: Reflection
and Praxis (2017) for their research sources and application to Sesame work.
C. Butler
Billy’s legacy
Movement with Touch and Sound continues as one of the essential strands in
the teaching of the Sesame Approach in the MA in Drama and Movement
Therapy at RCSSD, and what Billy developed as the Sesame training is
pervasive in the other elements, and throughout all client work (Pearson
1996, 55). It is ‘at the heart of a Sesame practitioner’s therapeutic relationship’,
whatever the clinical context (Emanuel 2007, 33). It becomes so because of
what we experience on the course and in placements supervised by therapists
trained and practised in the Sesame way. The Laban Movement on the course,
which Billy realised as an essential element through her experience of its power
in therapy as well as its gift of terminology (e.g. centering, grounding, flow)
and that can be used in Sesame work, enables us to discover our ‘movement
vocabulary’ and to realise and respond to others’, widening our own movement
potential in expression and communication, as well as understanding (Thornton
1996, 84–93).
For me, Billy’s original introduction, followed by my learning and experience
on the Sesame course and then through my clients (as described above), has
given me that increased sense of connection both with self and others, the
grounding, and the enabling of self-expression, that are particular benefits of
therapeutic work with feet and rhythm. It has also stimulated me to bring this to
others and to look more deeply at how it works.
But I am just one of many who have been inspired and motivated by
Billy’s work, as evidenced by comments at the ‘Billy Bash’, a day in
November 2017 commemorating and celebrating the founder of Sesame.
Repeatedly, people there who had taken Sesame training mentioned how
deeply influential the stamping, the drum and the rhythm had been in whatever
introduction they had to the Sesame Approach, whether by Billy herself, or
practitioners who had followed her. It has provided an opening in the lives of
so many.
I hope I have done something in this special edition of the journal to honour
Billy’s work. I encourage Sesame practitioners and other arts therapists to read
‘Bring White Beads When You Call on the Healer’ if they have not done so, to
understand more of the life experience and resultant therapeutic developments of
this pioneer of drama and movement in therapy, and the unique contribution she
has made.
Notes on contributor
Catherine Butler is currently Chair of the Sesame Institute (UK and International) and
has a private therapy practice using the Sesame Approach.
Butler, C. 2012. ““The Song Is You”: How Music Works in Sesame Therapy for Clients
with Dementia’.” Journal of Applied Arts & Health 3 (3): 321–336. doi:10.1386/
Cooper, D. 1996. “Beginning with the Body.” In Discovering the Self through Drama and
Movement: The Sesame Approach, edited by J. Pearson, 17–26. London: Jessica
Emanuel, R. 2007. “Speaking of Movement with Touch.” Sesame Journal Spring 5: 33–
Lindkvist, M. 1998. Bring White Beads When You Call on the Healer. New Orleans, LA:
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Loutsis, A. 2017. “Body, Movement and Trauma.” In Dramatherapy: Reflections and
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through Drama and Movement: The Sesame Approach, edited by J. Pearson, 52–71.
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Porter, R. 2017. “Multimodality.” In Dramatherapy: Reflections and Praxis, edited by R.
Hougham and B. Jones, 169–188. London: Palgrave.
Thornton, S. 1996. “Dance As You’ve Never Danced Before!” In Discovering the Self
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London: Jessica Kingsley.