Trudi Schoop (1904, Switzerland – July 14, 1999, Van Nuys, California) was a comedic dancer who pioneered the treatment of mental illness with dance therapy.[1]

The performerEdit

The daughter of the editor of the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung,[2] Schoop was mostly self-taught, though she did study some ballet and modern dance after she was an established performer. She performed throughout the 1930s and made several tours of the United States, arranged by the impresario Sol Hurok.[1] Schoop, the performer, was often referred to as a female Charlie Chaplin. She often toured often under the moniker, "Trudi Schoop and her Dancing Comedians."

Schoop stayed in Switzerland during World War II, and often performed in anti-Fascist cabaret shows. She resumed touring after the war, but disbanded her dance company in 1947 and moved to Los Angeles, California[3] to undertake an exploration of dance as therapy for schizophrenic patients.

The therapistEdit

Among the several California medical institutions where Schoop worked was the Camarillo State Mental Hospital, where she was recommended as a therapist by UCLA neuropsychiatrists who had reviewed her theories.[3] Schoop developed what she called body-ego technique, which used movement to help draw patients out of isolation and help them to respond to, rather than shrink from, human contact.

More about TrudiEdit

"By being who she was Trudi invited others to be themselves", Joan Chodorow, Ph.D., author and Dance/Movement Therapist (DM/T) who studied with Trudi

Replete throughout Trudi Schoop's work is a sense of humanness, compassion, being fully present with people, and really liking, dare I say loving, the people she worked with. Trudi made no bones about the fact that when she was younger she went through a period where she became very obsessive-compulsive, and started to say prayers three times, and do every thing three times because she thought it was good luck. This kept escalating until she was doing things or mimicking what she was going to do 81 times for good luck.

As Trudi describes it she was going deeper and deeper into this obsessive-compulsive loop. Along with realizing the futility of the obsessive path she was traveling down she also found out that dance could bring forth all of these confused hidden inner states and manifest them in the external world, and that through doing this she began to heal. She began to be fully present with the confusion and pain of these inner states, and then fully present with her joy and love as well.

A prime example of Trudi's work and presence is in the 1990 Claudia Wilke documentary Video where a schizophrenic woman is yelling about how much she hates everything. She gets to Trudi's DMT group and is yelling about how much she hates it there and how much she hates the music. Trudi, looking fully present, looks at the woman and says "can you show us how it is to hate the music?" and then there is quiet. No domination. No subservience. Trudi is simply fully present with the woman. A short while later the woman begins yelling again and Trudi says "Have you ever dreamt you were trying to run away and can’t?" There is a long pause, and the woman says "sometimes", and then there is silence. Then Trudi says, "I have too." Then she waits a while and asks others in the room if they have ever had that dream. Most of them respond yes. The schizophrenic woman is now a part of the group.

These examples are listed because throughout materials about Trudi what comes through over and over is that she gave people an unthreatening and loving space to be themselves. She shared herself with them, and she connected with them where they were. During a session where she is training interns in DMT at the psychiatric hospital she says to the interns "I don’t want you to pity these people, there is much joy to be had here." She leads the DMT groups and she also shows up as simply another human being. She can relate to what it is to be confused or scared.

The above scenarios are mentioned before any techniques or methods in that the techniques and methods arose out of who she was. She had her humaness, she danced, she continued to heal, she lived fully, loved, helped other, etc. That was the core. The methods are what arose from that core. Themes that describe Trudi's work are the following: being fully present with herself and others, using dance and movement to externalize internal states, being mindful and teaching others mindfulness about how they stand, walk, move, etc., having fun and playing, joyfulness, love, and connecting all of these human experiences to a deeper archetypal universal world. And understanding that these daily human experiences, i.e. struggle, joy, sickness, health, etc., coexist side by side with this deeper archetypal, transcendent, experience. In a description of Trudi's work Joan Chodorow, a DMT practitioner and author who studied with Trudi, describes Trudi and some of her concepts:

  1. Mirroring: This was an essential part of Trudi's work. She often began by "trying on" the movement qualities of her patient to imagine what the inner experience of a particular gesture or posture might be.
  2. Invite Exploration: When she felt there was a connection, Trudi would gently and playfully invite exploration toward a wider range of movement possibilities.
  3. Unity: She always kept feelers out for the blessed, star-crossed moments of unity, unity of intention and action, unity of tension, unity of the many body parts in one body. In Claudia Wilke's 1993 film, Trudi said: "We may be split all day, but then see something in beautiful in nature" and something shifts. In those moments, "your whole body has a unity and clarity. That is really all I want."

[Trudi] valued play, imagination, curiosity, exploration, individual freedom, mutual respect, and symbolic expression of every emotion. Her trust in the reciprocal nature of the body-mind connection and her interest in exploring opposites, led her to work with contrasting extremes toward finding a new center. – Chodorow, presentation on Schoop 22 October 2006


  1. ^ a b Anderson, Jack (1999-07-23). "Trudi Schoop, 95, Pioneer In Therapy Using Dance". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  2. ^ "Comic Dancer". TIME Magazine. 1936-01-06.,9171,755583,00.html?iid=chix-sphere. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  3. ^ a b "Trudi Schoop". Variety. 1999-08-03. Retrieved 2008-08-07.

Further readingEdit

  • Dance magazine, article, "Trudi's Here Again", (mime Trudi Schoop), February 1938.
  • Levy, Fran. 1988. "Trudi Schoop, Dance Movement Therapy: A Healing Art."Reston, Virginia: The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
  • Mitchell, Peggy and Schoop, Trudi, "Won't You Join the Dance: A Dancer's Essay into the Treatment of Psychosis", National Press Books, ISBN 0874842298/9780874842296/0-87484-229-8.
  • Young, Therese Adams. "From Dance Mime to Dance Therapy", Thesis (M.A.)--Texas Woman's University, 1986. Microfiche.|bEugene :|cMicroform Publications, College of Human Development and Performance, University of Oregon, |d1988.|e2 microfiches : negative.

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