changing lives through dance
Bellydancing has a powerful ability to promote physical and mental wellbeing, particularly among women, for whom it can help tap into their sensual, feminine side.
Bellydance is widely accepted as having significant health and wellbeing effects for women from all walks of life. Although there has been no formal study undertaken yet, bellydance teachers worldwide report that their students benefit greatly from increased self esteem, improved body image and improved self confidence from learning to bellydance.
It follows that women who have poor body image or damaged self esteem or self confidence for a variety of reasons benefit in particular from learning to bellydance. For example women who have been affected by abusive relationships, including domestic abuse and women recovering from cancer treatment that affects body image (ie mastectomies, hair loss) report that bellydance has helped them enormously.
Why does bellydance help?
The reasons for the beneficial effects are manifold and seem to be fairly unique to the dance form. Firstly it is a solo female dance and most bellydance classes are women-only, thereby creating a safe space for women, away from the male gaze. Secondly, the dance embraces all body types and a woman doesn’t need to be young, supple or fit to begin bellydancing. Furthermore, the moves of bellydance – shaking the shoulders, moving the hips, undulating the torso – are rooted in the female body and feel very natural to a woman. Finally, the format of a bellydance class seems to encourage very supportive and sociable behaviour amongst women. And they’re fun!
Working with women affected by trauma
In 2017 we began conversations with hospices, women’s refuges and women’s prisons about the possibility of us bringing bellydance classes to their service users. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with several managers saying they had been looking for something like this for years, but there had been nothing available. Each organisation went back to their service users and asked if they were interested. The excited response in all cases convinced us of the need and desire for our work and in July 2017 we started a programme of weekly classes in refuges, hospices, organisations supporting women affected by sexual crime and for victims of slavery and trafficking.
Types of organisations we are partnering with
• Domestic abuse support services, in particular women’s refuges
• Organisations offering support to victims of rape, sexual violence and childhood abuse
• Hospices, hospitals, respite care centres
• Organisations offering support to victims of slavery and trafficking.
The beneficiaries (and how bellydance might help)
The beneficiaries will almost always be adult women who have been affected by trauma in some way, such as:
• The psychological effects of domestic abuse (self esteem issues, body and self hatred arising from emotional abuse, withdrawing from society etc)
• The psychological effects of rape and sexual abuse (body hatred, shame, self harm, disassociation, PTSD)
• The effects of cancer treatment, such as mastectomies or hair loss (loss of body image, undermined self esteem, loss of sense of self, fear of the future.)
• Terminal illness (uplifting of spirits, self esteem, motivation associated with learning a new skill)
• The effects of slavery and trafficking (the effects of imprisonment, self esteem, self confidence, the need for socialisation, lifting of spirits)
If you would like to know more, or would like us to bring bellydance to your support organisation please email firstname.lastname@example.org
“Taking bellydance classes is the best decision I’ve ever made. I had major body and self-confidence issues that were impacting on my day-to-day life. Learning to bellydance has made me realise that womanly curves should be celebrated and it has boosted my self-confidence. It’s connected my mind with my body, in a positive way, for the first time. The classes also helped me to cope with a recent bereavement, it gave me a focus and the ‘feel good’ factor of the classes, and bellydance itself, helped me through an extremely tough time.”
“After surgery for a double mastectomy I felt very angry with my body for letting me down and viewed it as ugly and disfigured. It’s easy to disassociate yourself from your body in those circumstances but bellydance helped me to reconnect with my body through the movements, which felt so good to do. This helped to restore my confidence and self esteem.”
“For me, bellydance taps into a part of me that is feminine, fluid and sensual. When I dance, I love my body and the way it moves and from that, I’ve gained in confidence about my body generally.”
“Bellydancing has tremendously helped me mentally, physically, medically, socially and every other way, shape and form you can think of.”
“It has helped so much with my confidence about my body shape, I now appreciate my womanly curves, it seems this is what they were made for, and I’m quite happy to show them off!”
“In some ways I feel as if my self esteem has improved so much that I feel guilty for allowing myself this happiness.”