The healing power of bellydance

Trigger warning: In this article I write about some hard and violent experiences that might be triggering for you.


“I’ve been raped!”

“I’ve been raped”. When I was 14 years old, a good friend of mine wrote this in a note and passed it to me. Her pain, shame and feelings of guilt were bigger than her capacity to speak out loud.

“My husband hits me but just the right amount”. This is the sad testimonial I once read in a newspaper. She was the victim of an abusive relationship. There are many other women in similar situations.

“I have cancer. They are going to remove my breasts”. A very common sentence that is heard in any home, across the world.

These are just three examples of very hard and traumatic situations that women all over the world suffer from, just for the mere fact of being women.

The healing power of bellydance

For a reason that has not been scientifically proven yet (I so wish someone could do the research!) bellydance has enormous power to bring back a woman’s self esteem, even when she was not aware she had lost it.

Bellydance for me was also of great help in the past, and it’s still helping me now in the present.

In my 15 year long career as a belly dance teacher, I’ve witnessed amazing transformations in my students:

  • Women that couldn’t even look at themselves in the mirror, who end up proudly showing their bellies in class.
  • Women with agoraphobia who excitedly perform on a stage after years of not being able to get out of their houses.
  • Women who approach me after class to tell me how belly dance has helped them to work on their self-esteem or helped them in their therapeutic process.
  • Women who decided to not kill themselves because they had made a committment to perform with their class mates.

These were women experiencing dreadful traumas who found in belly dance a source of strength, and resources to help them cope with their problems.

After all these years teaching the “general public” and seeing such big transformations, I found Charlotte Desorgher (or she found me, I still don’t know) and I was offered to work on this beautiful project, which is what I wanted to write about today.

Offering free belly dance lessons to women who are recovering from trauma.

We call it Bellydance for Joy!


Yes, once a week I go and teach belly dance to women who have recently escaped from abusive ex-partners and violent, life-threatening situations .

According to the professionals  who work with the women, belly dance helps them reconcile with their bodies and with the present moment. A major issue for victims of trauma in general, is the difficulty in staying present: they are usually very worried about the uncertain future or stuck in harrowing memories of the past.

Many of us still need to be reminded that we have the right to enjoy our bodies – to move our bodies with freedom. And this is part of my job, to offer women the chance to enjoy their bodies by teaching them how to belly dance.

Since July 2017, I’ve been involved as a belly dance teacher in this inspirational project, and to this day I wouldn’t trade it for anything else: the satisfaction I feel when I see the women smile, when they giggle learning how to shimmy or to isolate a chest movement, is immense!

This is why I wrote this article and why I always spread the word about this project. I’m convinced that these classes are a breath of fresh air for these women.

Because a world with happy women is a fairer and better world. More dance equals less suffering, that’s simply how it is.

PS If you are curious about my personal story, you can read about it here: How to be a good dancer even if you don’t look like one.

Zahida Palma is a belly dance teacher and dancer, founder of, a blog where she shares her visions, articles and tutorials about this beautiful dance form.


Please help us continue this inspirational and much needed work by making a donation to Bellydance for Joy – even the smallest amount really does make a difference. Click on the logo to donate

Will you help us bring joy to victims of trauma?

Today I’m asking a direct and maybe difficult question. Would YOU personally be prepared to make a donation to help fund our work giving the joy of bellydance to victims of slavery, domestic violence, rape and terminal cancer?
Over the past few weeks, as we’ve told the bellydance community on Facebook about our work with women affected by trauma, and about the fund we’ve set up in Yvette Cowle’s memory, we’ve received literally hundreds of Facebook likes, loads of shares and lots of supportive messages. All this is really lovely, but honestly, without any money, we can’t do anything!!!

We’ve really, truly appreciated all the likes, shares and supportive messages and we’re incredibly grateful, but without actual donations we can’t deliver even one class for women with terminal cancer in a hospice. No-one fleeing from the terror of their violent partners, and not even one woman who has escaped from horror and misery of slavery will be able to experience the healing power of bellydance.

On 11th September we’ll be launching a major crowdfunding challenge with international foundation Global Giving because we need to raise serious money to help us do this genuinely valuable and inspiring work. We are also applying to local authorities, trusts, foundations, the lottery etc, but we desperately need the support of the community.
Will you make a donation to actually make this work happen? If every person reading this post donated just £10 we could raise a significant amount of money to enable us to continue and expand our programme. We’ll be sharing more about our campaign in the run up to September 11th, and we really, really hope you will help us by making a donation later this month, however small.
Charlotte x