Meet Zoyka Francalanci Aguayo, Master of Creative Arts Therapy student at the University of Melbourne

Photo of Zoyka Francalanci Aguayo, Master of Creative Arts Therapy student at the University of Melbourne.
Zoyka Francalanci Aguayo, Master of Creative Arts Therapy student at the University of Melbourne.

As a practising psychologist with a passion for dance (Flamenco and African Rhythms), Zoyka Aguayo’s decision to study the Master of Creative Arts Therapy specialising in Dance Movement Therapy at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) was something of a no-brainer.

'As a psychologist, I’ve always been on the lookout for methodologies or techniques that are both simple and effective for a client’s development and growth,' she says.

She recognises dance as one such technique, with benefits for both physical and emotional well-being. In the practice of psychology, she says, 'the arts have always provided simple but profound ways to work with metaphors and address issues in [a] playful manner.'

Dance is increasingly being understood as an effective tool to understand emotional states of being, and help clients to effectively (and literally) move through them. 'Movement will prompt [clients] to make conscious connections between their states of mind and emotion, and they will proceed to move from there, both in their therapeutic space and in life,' says Zoyka.

An international student from Peru, Zoyka’s appreciation for dance is multi-faceted, and has both cultural and recreational underpinnings. 'Peruvian dance traditions are influenced by the country’s cultural heritage and history,' she says.

For centuries, dance has been used as a healing practice in many cultures.

'It’s not a coincidence we are seeing the benefits of dance movement therapy in a variety of contexts, not just in terms of a person’s sense of wellbeing and emotions, but also physically with coordination, mobility and neurological connections.'

Dedicated to the most up-to-date research from the field, Zoyka says this masters degree has expanded her understanding and vocabulary of movement, breath, touch and artistic expression as they apply to therapeutic settings. She is particularly admiring of the huge contribution to the field of the late Kim Dunphy, who brought this course at the VCA to life.

Initially, however, Zoyka found the course content challenging. 'It was difficult because I felt the need to [rapidly] broaden my artistic movement vocabulary. At the same time, [I found it] gratifying because I’ve found answers to all of my curiosities and questions as a holistic psychologist that pure psychology frameworks couldn’t answer, at least not up until two or three years ago.'

According to Zoyka’s philosophy, 'our body is the best resource expanding and strengthening our sense of self. To live a coherent, connected, and happy life, our thoughts, feelings and actions must all be on the same page. The body is the best regulator for this, and it is where you will find the majority of the answers to the mind.'

After leaving the VCA, Zoyka is most excited to bring all of her newly acquired movement techniques to a clinical setting.

'I am excited to create something unique, I consider myself a hybrid of many fields; psychology, yoga and mindfulness, organisations, creative arts, dance, my interest in AI, all those different areas contribute of the authenticity in my work, so I am looking forward to getting it out there.'

Zoyka talks us through a ten-step dance movement exercise:

This is a simple exercise that anyone can participate in. You will need a journal.

  1. Find a quiet place where you feel safe and calm, where there will be no interruptions or other people.
  2. Once you have found this space, I invite you to close your eyes and take three deep breaths in and out. Be aware of your breath and the sensations in your body.
  3. Keep your eyes closed and think of something that is present for you right now. It could be a situation, a feeling, something you have to do, something that bothers you, or maybe something that you are looking forward to.
  4. Take what you connected with the most, and stay with it. Feel the sensations this brings to your body, the feelings and the states of mind - note whether they are pleasurable or not.
  5. If you had to represent this event in a shape or movement in your body, what would it look like? (Do the shape or movement).
  6. Be aware of what that shape or movement is it, where it feels tense in your body and where is feels soft. What would you have to do to find release or satisfaction from this shape? If you feel good in this position, where is your grounding point and where can you get more expansive?
  7. Without letting go of the pose or the movement, answer this: To what are these physical sensations speaking?
  8. When you notice some thoughts or feelings arise, jot them down.
  9. To finish, shake out the shape or movement from your body, being mindful to be safe.
  10. Thank yourself for the experience.

Learn more about the Master of Creative Arts Therapy