Staff Spotlight: Paul Holmquist
October 16, 2012
By Stephanie Ewing ('12)
In his nine years of work as academic manager for the graduate-only Department of Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling, Paul Holmquist has grown from being a non-dancer to teaching for the college’s only graduate certificate program.
The Rochester, New York, native is an actor—not a dancer—by training, though in addition to his BFA in Acting from DePaul University, Holmquist earned his graduate certificate in Laban movement analysis from Columbia and now teaches classes for certificate students.
“Being an artist myself, it is wonderful to work in an environment like this. The dance/movement therapy students are mature, profound, and very creative,” said Holmquist.
Columbia is one of only six graduate programs for dance/movement therapy in the country approved by the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA). Dance/movement therapy is an expressive therapy, according to the ADTA, where movement and dance are explored therapeutically to improve patients’ mental, emotional, physical, and social health.
The dance/movement therapy classrooms reflect this multidisciplinary approach to well-being, the white boards and desks of traditional academia harmoniously sharing space with dance floors, props, and colorful cushions.
Holmquist said he enjoys the combination of artistry and therapy embodied in the discipline of movement analysis, which integrates movement theories with biological and psychological research.
He gives the example of the theory of Space Harmony developed by Dr. Carol-Lynne Moore, one of Columbia’s certificate program’s founders. In focusing on the harmonic relationships between space and body, movement can take advantage of neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change and adapt. “It means we’re always capable of change and growth,” said Holmquist.
Though it can be famously challenging for artists to find stable, fulfilling employment in their field, Holmquist said that dance/movement therapy graduates have been very successful in finding jobs that let them practice their art and utilize their clinical training.
“There’s been a huge growth market in healthcare, so we are trying to get training for students using their art in a healthcare setting,” said Holmquist.
As part of his work for the school, Holmquist helps dance/movement therapy students chart their coursework to meet the many requirements for state licensure as a therapist. Holmquist also arranges faculty teaching schedules and plans the departments’ special events in addition to teaching for the graduate certificate program.
Holmquist also applies his movement analysis studies to his art as a non-equity theater director and performer. Before each of his theater shows debut, he leads his cast through a movement workshop so they can explore the physical attributes and performances of their characters.
“I’ve become very appreciative, working with dancers, of the power of movement and gesture,” said Holmquist.