This article first appeared on The Online Citizen.
We are inundated, on a daily basis, with multiple messages about how our bodies can or should look better from slimming and facials to skin whitening and body hair removal. There is just so much we can be unhappy with when it comes to your bodies. How can we ever be happy with the way we look, much less enjoy inhabiting the only body we’ll ever have? Could dance help us become more comfortable with our bodies?
I asked three female dance instructors:
According to Yuki Chua, director of Bellydance Discovery Pte. Ltd., who has been teaching for over seven years, belly dance is an expressive form of dance that derives from movements natural to women’s bodies. From ancient times, it was a dance to celebrate new lives, and the movements even prepare a woman to get ready for pregnancy, child delivery, and post-natal recovery. She emphasized that confidence starts within, and not with how we look.
Yuki adds, “Women feel better when they can move better. No one feels good when one feels stiff and clumsy. When a woman is able to move well, she will be more ready to express the sensual side of herself.”
Linna Tan, Director of Bobbi’s Pole Studio Singapore, who has been teaching Salsa, Exotic Dance and Pole Dancing for over ten years, agrees: “Dance and movement are forms of expression. Being able to use your body as a tool to express yourself will help a woman understand how her body moves and works, hence, getting better in touch with her body.”
Ming Leong, Owner of Acro Polates Pole and Aerial Fitness Studio, elaborates: “It takes time for a beginner to get past the initial psychological barrier, the insecurities and the self-consciousness, before she immerses herself into dancing. Once she gets past that, she is lost in her own world, and translates her thoughts and her feelings about herself through the dance and movements with the greater control of her body. And with that, she realises she can be, and is in control, and there is always another peak she can push her body to, and she will constantly strive towards that, just like how a writer wants to have a wider vocabulary of words to express her- or himself freely.”
On Sexuality and Sensuality
Just how is dance connected to sexuality and sensuality?
Ming, who teaches pole dancing, aerial fitness classes and exotic dancing, certainly thinks the link exists: “Dance and movements are visually stimulating and a communication of body language to the audience. They can evoke strong emotions and desires, and arouse reactions and feelings according to what the dancer is trying to convey. With dance and movements, a woman can slowly discover ways in which her body can move and express itself and the vocabs (vocabulary) of her body language expands with time, so does her confidence when she realises she can string emotions along with each and every movement. Dance is an art form that embodies elements contributional to the ‘feel-good’ factor of a woman, and ultimately it is all about the confidence that sums it up.”
Linna believes that sensuality is not about how you look but how you feel about yourself. She shares this: “Dance is a wonderful way of getting you comfortable with your body, maybe not right away but if you keep at it, you will feel more connected with your body and as you get more confident, your sensuality will naturally shine through.”
Yuki has this fun ‘ABCD’ message for women out there:
* Accept who you are and
* Be yourself, not others, as
* Confidence ooze from within and
* Darlings will come from everywhere
All three instructors each have success stories aplenty to share. For Ming, pole dancing has even helped one of her students battle post-natal depression and improve her poor self-image she has had of herself after childbirth. Overall, there is a vast improvement in terms of techniques and self-confidence, as well as coordination of body movements for her students.
Linn had this touching story to share: “The transformation can be very great. I have this girl who was very timid and obviously very self-conscious when she first came to our classes. Her dress sense was dowdy and she had a very unbecoming hairstyle. She wore unattractive glasses and if I were to so much as raise my voice in class, I think she may burst into tears. I was gentle with her, of course, sensing that she needed encouragement and I made sure I paid attention to her, but not too much because I sense that too much attention will make her uncomfortable. She was very quiet and didn’t interact with the other students but she was a very determined soul. There was a particular move that she couldn’t master for the longest time and many of her classmates could already do it. I saw her struggling and I taught an exercise to practise at home that will help her to get that move.”
“By the next class, she was doing the move perfectly! She was very diligent, determined and hardworking. I was very impressed with her progress. As time passed, I noticed her starting to interact with the other students and as she got more and more confident, the glasses gave way to contact lenses and the hairstyle is now sexy and the clothes more stylish. She remains very hardworking and I sense a little bit of competitiveness with her classmates but I think it’s great because it keeps her motivated and that helped her improve by leaps and bounds. She is a totally different person from the timid, mousy girl I met long ago. She’s not super wild or loudly confident but she is certainly more out-spoken, more self-assured and definitely, sexier!”
Yuki would attest about the benefits of dance to one’s body image: “Many of our students are very shy when they start belly dance and now they have more confidence, better posture, the ability to dance better and most importantly, they feel more confident of themselves and accept their curves. We have a couple of students who have knee and back problems, but after several months of bellydancing, their physical conditions improve and even their physio(therapists) are surprised.”
Linn added, “They start walking taller, they start wearing clothes that are more attractive, sometimes more figure-hugging, sometimes the hemlines get shorter. I have had many students who come to tell me how much better they feel about themselves.”
As a sexologist, I strongly believe that it is important to have some sort of acceptance of your body before you can comfortably share it with another person. Dance is a fantastic way to do so. It is not only a good form of exercise but also fun. Having tried all three forms of dance (belly dance, exotic dance and pole dance) myself, I would encourage all ladies to consider signing up for classes if you are at all interested.
Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.