Professor Vivien Marcow Speiser, the director of Arts Therapies programs at Ono Academic College, will return to her home country of South Africa as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in 2020. She will work at her undergraduate alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg with the Drama for Life program, where, together with her colleagues, she will be found the first academic dance therapy training program ever offered in Africa.
Marcow Speiser noted, “Returning to the university where I developed an intellectual curiosity and passion for social justice brings my academic career full circle,”
Professor Marcow Speiser grew up in South Africa during the apartheid years. Dance study and performance was an important tool for her to get through the difficulties of living during this period. She explained, “Dance offered me a way of sorting through the complexity of feelings I experienced in and around me and created a pathway into the profession of dance therapy,”
Marcow Speiser immigrated from South Africa to Israel in 1970. In 1973 she volunteered in a rehabilitation hospital during the Yom Kippur War. There she saw, first hand, how dance and movement therapy could contribute to patients’ recovery. After travelling to the United States, she enrolled in Lesley University’s first dance therapy training program and graduated in 1977.
In 1980, Professor Marcow Speiser returned to Israel and founded the Arts Institute Project in Israel, which over time formed a cooperative relationship with Lesley University and offered master’s degree programs in Expressive Therapy (Art Therapy, Dance Therapy, Music Therapy, Drama Therapy and Psychodrama). Today, this program continues under the auspices of Ono Academic College. The first cohort of dance therapy and psychodrama students began their studies at the Kiryat Ono campus in October 2019. Art Therapy students are currently studying at Ono’s Netanya campus.
Marcow Speiser received the 2014 Distinguished Fellows Award from the Global Alliance for Arts and Health, a 2015 Honorary Fellow Lifetime Achievement award from the Israeli Expressive and Creative Arts Therapy Association and, most recently, the 2019 Lifetime Achievement award in Applied Arts and Health.
Expressing her hopes for her time in South Africa, Professor Marcow Speiser said, “I intend to formalize that capacity for rhythmic connection that is so deeply ingrained in the culture into the start of a professionalization of a formalized training program in dance therapy at the University of the Witwatersrand.”