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  1. #1
    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    Default Belly dance as therapy

    It seems like there are a lot of people drawn to belly dance wanting to use it as a sort of "therapy" to work through their psychological issues.

    Some women see belly dancing as a tool for helping them come to terms with their insecurities about their appearance and sexiness.

    Some see it as helping them heal from sexual abuse that occurred in their past.

    Some see it as reawakening their creativity which has been trampled by their jobs, their family situations, etc.

    Some find it empowering, particularly if their lives make them feel powerless in other ways.

    Some are needy about wanting to be the center of attention, and find belly dance attractive because it's commonly presented as a solo dance.

    And there are many other ways in which people find that it helps...



    I think it's great that belly dance can play an important role in people's lives such as the above examples.

    But it troubles me when I see belly dance teachers marketing their classes with promises that it will deliver the above benefits. I think teachers should provide an emotionally-safe instructional environment, but should focus their classroom language on dance instruction, and leave the "empowerment" speech at home. Let the students decide for themselves where the dance fits with the rest of their psyche.

    What do others think?

    Have you had teachers who did try to treat their classes as group therapy? If so, what did they do, and how did you feel about it?

  2. #2
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Unless the teacher has some fairly substantial background in psychology, he or she is treading on thin ice making any claims of this nature. I have occasionally taught classes for abused women, but I did so at the invitation of a professional trained in group therapy who was present during the class. During class, I taught dance- I did not talk to them about empowerment or overcoming the effects of the abuse they'd suffered. The closest I come to helping students deal with insecurities, etc. is to tell my dancers that they are beautiful, that a particular interpretation is inspired, that they are showing improvement with each class, things teachers do on a regular basis for all students.

    I briefly had a teacher many years ago who combined a sort of new age feel-good therapy with her classes and talked a lot about empowerment and chakra and getting in touch with one's inner goddess. I have no objection to anyone finding comfort in fairie card readings and spirit guides, but all I wanted was learn more about the Egyptian style she professed to teach. There was too much talk, not enough action, so I moved on.

    Shira, I'd give you rep for some really great new topics, but I have to spread it around first. Consider yourself repped in spirit.

  3. #3
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    I think the therapy one finds in belly dance is more of an unspoken, personal thing, and it's different for every individual. So I think a lot of people might be put off by a teacher who does that, especially if they came to class just for the love of learning the art form.

    On the other hand, there's definitely a market for dance-therapy and such teachers are setting themselves apart from the many teachers out there and finding their own little niche!

  4. #4
    V.I.P. lizaj's Avatar
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    I think we all get something special from this dance or we wouldn't continue to love it. It has transformed my life and that was important as a gal of a certain age ,going through the menopause and finding something that felt me so glad to be on my feet.
    However as a belly dance teacher,it scares the hell out of me that someone may take may classes as some sort of PATH TO HEALING !!!!!
    I do have a student who is recovering from ME but she is an intelligent girl who is pacing herself and goes along with medical advice.
    Also I am not paid enough to be a therapist!
    I do have training as a counsellor as I was a school tutor but that isn't my role nowadays.It is simply to teach safely the fndamentals of Egyptian belly dance to adults.
    Of course we have a teacher near to me who on her websites claims to cure all sorts of ailments.

  5. #5
    V.I.P. Kharmine's Avatar
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    If anyone remembers the American advice columnist Ann Landers, she used to routinely advice troubled and lonely people to take up square dancing. I vividly remember a square dancer finally writing her in exasperation, telling Ms. Landers to lay off. Something along the lines of "We're not a therapy group!"

    Yes, dance can be therapy. But people really need to take it on terms of enjoyment, not salvation.

  6. #6
    V.I.P. adiemus's Avatar
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    Puhleeeeeaz
    Dance is far too intense for it to be therapy! It feels just as bad thinking about this as when I think of the earthmothergoddessdancer thing that gets hurled at bellydance.

  7. #7
    V.I.P. Caroline_afifi's Avatar
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    All exercise is good for the mind... including a walk through the park.

    I dont think people should focus on one particular art form believing it is a 'cure' for something.

    Music and art therapies are used for some issues, but they are used as a specific tool by professionals who know what they are doing.

    'The arts' are only good if you enjoy it, if you enjoy it you feel better.

    That is as far as it goes for me.

  8. #8
    Senior Member maria_harlequin's Avatar
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    I personally find it therapeutic to dance and it's helped me A LOT in terms of dealing with emotional problems. Perhaps not an intense drilling session but when I'm just improvising...it's incredible. I actually do feel closer to God.

    But then again, I also find cantering on a horse across a wide open field and listening to my favorite music in a car therapeutic. But I certainly wouldn't find other activities therapeutic even though they may be labeled as such.

    Anyway, what's the deal with belly dancing = therapy and empowerment anyway? You don't see this going on with other dance forms...or am I missing out on something? I've never heard anyone call flamenco or hip - hop "empowering".

  9. #9
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    Default belly dance as therapy

    I think all the empowerment (sp?) is self earned and worked out. the dance class as in any class is a place apart from the world where one has the problems. it is a place of intensity... but the problems there are not life threatening or earth-shattering.they are problems that one can work out -be guided in the way and then when accomplished feel good about. but any good class with good teachers can do that. now about physical therapy... i have to say yes yes yes. many long years ago it was an orthopeditic doctor who recommended belly dance or pt but belly dance would be more fun - just find a reputable teacher and explain the situation... as he said you now have to learn where your muscles are and how to use them ... this was after a few months in a cervical collar... when the collar was off i could barely keep my head up. i restarted belly dance after healing from let see for got the name but it was an inflammation of my ribcage cartilage. after i got better started to have the same pain when the weather changed. this time reg dr said it might be start of arthritis...but with excercise could hold it at bay... guess what how do you excercise your rib cage... belly dance. okay so that's my way more than 2 cents in Shira.(if it's too much your fuzz balls can email me hairballs) Creaks
    p.s. but the art, music, culture and beauty of the dance is by itself more than enough. and that is where the joy comes from
    Last edited by Creaky Old Dancer; 08-15-2009 at 03:02 PM. Reason: hit the send button too soon

  10. #10
    V.I.P. adiemus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maria_harlequin View Post
    Anyway, what's the deal with belly dancing = therapy and empowerment anyway? You don't see this going on with other dance forms...or am I missing out on something? I've never heard anyone call flamenco or hip - hop "empowering".

    I think this might be some of the baggage from the 1970's - 'women for women' as well as
    - that many classes are full of women
    - that for many women, the fact you can be curvaceous and still dance is the first time they've been able to accept their body as it is
    - many women are older than those who go to hiphop or ballet, and maybe have 'issues' to deal with, or are moving through 'healing' or growth just as part of life
    - some of the myths about 'earth mother' and 'fertility' makes the whole idea of bellydance appealing for women to claim it also as a 'healing' space

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