I grew up loving dance. My mother is from the state of Bahia, in the Northeast of Brazil, where the influence of Africa culture is very prominent. Bahia is an artistic area, where music and dance are heard and felt everywhere. When I was young I lived there. When you walk down the street in this tropical land, you are greeted by Afro-Brazilian rhythms floating out of the windows and doors you pass. Any time of the day you will see women of all ages dancing spontaneously in the streets with a sweet abandonment, while rejoicing in the moment.
When I was young I took ballet classes and as a teenager I studied modern and contemporary dances of Brazil. When I went to college to study journalism, dance classes helped me cope with the pressure of sitting at my desk for long hours doing research. Many of my friends in college led sedentary lives, disconnected from their bodies. They seemed locked inside their heads. Since I was involved in theater and dance, I started to see the connection between thought and action, mind and body. I discovered that being inactive makes our bodies as well as our souls rigid, and blocks the flow of authenticity. A sedentary life lacks spontaneity!
The dictionary definition of the verb dance is: -to move the body and feet rhythmically, especially to music. At the heart of dance is rhythm! I believe we all are born with rhythm: we just have to open ourselves to it. All it takes is practice and patience. From my experience as a dance instructor, I can tell you that people who appear to have more rhythm were encouraged as children to move and express themselves rhythmically. Like everything else in life, rhythm can be cultivated!
I have been dancing my entire life, first as a young student and now as a teacher for over a decade. I have seen many of my students' lives, not just their bodies, transformed by the power of movement. Many people start dancing to get in shape, but in the process dance challenges and free their minds as well. In learning to dance, you must overcome obstacles of physical stiffness, lack of coordination and inhibition. Dance is an education for the body and mind in freer expression and flexibility.
Brazilian dance emphasizes playfulness, enjoyment and pleasure. You are encouraged to move your entire body, shaking your shoulders and moving your hips. In many cultures we women have been trained to suppress our sensuality, tucking our pelvis and keeping our hips square, thus hiding the power that our curves express! Even having curves is not embraced in contemporary culture! When you turn on the TV or open a magazine today, all you see is size 2. There’s nothing wrong in being size 2 if you are not starving to death. The problem is when you start to believe that you are only beautiful and worthy of love if you are that size. Most of us are not and never will be. We come in many sizes and as long as we are taking care of our health we should be celebrating our bodies.
Unfortunately, any acknowledgment of female curves in the mainstream media comes with sexual connotations. Sensuality and sexuality are very different. Sexuality is only about sex. Sensuality is about sensitivity; it’s about awareness and presence. Sensuality is the way you feel about yourself, not only your body, but also your power as a woman and a human being.
Shakira is right, hips don't lie. When you move your hips, you allow yourself to explore your sensuality; you open doors to self-discovery. I have received many letters from students saying that taking my dance classes exposed them to parts of themselves that they had not been aware of. By moving their bodies, especially their hips, they were able to connect with a sensual side that they had kept hidden from themselves and others for years. Through the power of movement, negative feelings about their bodies started to disappear. Many of those students say they felt lighter and even a little “high” when, after some months of practice, they were able to find a new freedom, joy and strength.
When I move my hips all self-doubt dissolves to reveal my true being; it is sensual and sacred at the same time. For me to dance is to say yes to life, since dance embraces beauty, pleasure and creative expression. When you dance you expand, releasing energy and unblocking ecstasy!
So, here is a toast to our curves and to the power we girls all possess, whether we know it or not! May you embrace yourself today with joy! May you dance in delight by celebrating your curves with self-confidence!