Salve Success: Morgan Dubay ’24 learns to combine dance and psychology for healing
Morgan Dubay ’24 is a psychology and dance double major with a minor in applied behavioral analysis. This combination of different passions has helped her see how the arts can be therapeutic and transformative, and she has even choreographed a recent piece in honor of mental health advocacy.
Life in the dance program
Dubay discovered her love for dance at a “Mommy and Me” dance class when she was just 18 months old. When she was eight, Dubay took a trip to Newport, Rhode Island, to visit a family friend who was attending Salve Regina, and she ended up seeing the dance company perform.
“We saw the show, and I looked at my mom and said, ‘I really want to go to Salve. This is the place for me,’ ” described Dubay. “And ever since it was the only place ever on my radar.”
Dubay worked hard in order to be accepted at the University. Her love for dance continued to grow, and she knew Salve Regina would be the perfect place for her to attend.
“Once they got the dance major, that’s when I really decided that Salve Regina was a no-brainer,” said Dubay.
The dance major at Salve Regina is unique for many reasons, according to Dubay. The curriculum is focused on jazz as the foundation for movement, and the program acknowledges and honors jazz as a historically Black American art form best understood through awareness of one’s own identity and culture.
“I believe that our program addresses the five critical concerns of mercy throughout its curriculum, as we are consistently working through a human rights lens,” Dubay described. “As dancers, we are listening to experiences of Black American artists to think critically about racial inequality in jazz dance.”
The jazz program is also deeply centered around feelings expressed from the inside out, according to Dubay.
“It’s a participation in the purest form of self-expression, so feeling inside and out means we take our emotions that can be good or bad … and let our outward movement express what’s going on inside,” she explained.
Another element Dubay enjoys is performing in the Extensions Dance Company, an audition-based, pre-professional concert dance ensemble that performs in jazz, contemporary and tap styles.
“The program allows space for all dancers and artists to collaborate in a supportive environment,” Dubay said. “I believe that the Salve dance program is unlike any other.”
Combining psychology and dance
Bring a double major in psychology at Salve Regina, Dubay is fascinated by child development and how artistic expression is a means to make important healing connections within the mind and body.
As a first year student, Dubay decided to become a service advocate. In 2022, she became an advocate for the Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the pediatric division of Rhode Island Hospital. She helps in any way she can, whether the task is big or small—and her love for children’s psychology and helping kids process their emotions has grown as she’s continued this work.
Someday, Dubay hopes to combine her love for dance with mental health, and she dreams of working with children.
“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a dance movement therapist,” said Dubay. “In middle school, I began to see an art therapist who showed me that the arts can heal. I have personally felt the benefits of dancing through life’s challenges and roadblocks. Whether it’s basic movement or grooves, movement heals.”
In September 2022, Dubay began choregraphing a contemporary piece that gives an example of how creative expression can help process mental health issues. The piece, entitled “Round and Round,” takes inspiration from watching a family member struggle with schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder.
“I will never understand the battle that is schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder, so I told this story through the lens of an 8-year-old Morgan who just wanted answers for her family member’s actions,” said Dubay. “I have two dancers telling their own individual stories, and one dancer manipulating and preventing any connection or relationship between the two.”
This piece will be highlighted in the dance program’s upcoming Student Choreography Showcase, and performances will be held on Thursday, Feb. 2, and Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Casino Theater.
Looking to the future
In the future, Dubay hopes to begin the master’s program here at Salve Regina in holistic clinical mental health counseling. She wants to utilize what she has learned in both the psychology and dance departments to work with pediatric patients in crisis.
“Since I am interested in the holistic counseling route, I believe that complete mental wellness is accomplished when we take a step back and look at the whole person,” she said. “The whole person includes the environment and guardians when discussing children and adolescents.”
The master’s program here at Salve Regina equips counselors in training to see in such a holistic way. Overall, Dubay is excited to see how her varied educational classes, professors and opportunities have continued to pave the way for her work in the future. She will cherish her time at Salve Regina, always grateful for these formative years of intellectual and artistic exploration.
Article written with supplemental reporting by student writer Amanda Graves ’23
Salve Success is a series of student success stories periodically featured on SALVEtoday. Check out the tag Salve Success for more stories.