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Dance as therapy

She walked into dance class with red eyes and thick tears rolling down her face

All I could do was hold her and let her know that she is not in it all by herself. When she calmed down I asked her what was going on and she responded, “There are so many things going on, I am overwhelmed. I don’t know where to begin. But I feel the pain.” We hugged for a second time and I invited her to join the group that was learning the new dance steps. We quickly got lost in the music and put all our efforts into keeping balance and rhythm. We bumped into each other a couple of times, but that just made it even funnier. When I saw that huge smile on her face, I didn’t recognize the girl that had walked into the room crying.

Dance therapy is a creative way to improve physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The research on dance therapy’s health effects is fairly limited. However, the testimonies of our participants tell a powerful story.

Dance is a language we all understand

We have a big group of women in our dance class who do not speak English or Dutch. They might speak a dialect that is only spoken in their specific tribe. This actually seems to add a whole different dimension to our workshop that improves communication in the expressions and movements of both our dance instructors and participants. Our brave participants who were victims of human trafficking have often been in positions where they were not in charge of their bodies. Our aim is to give that control back through movement and choreography.

Every week it is a true delight to laugh and move together with our students. We have even learned traditional dances that are specific to the tribe(s) that our student(s) come from. There are about 37 women who live in the safehouse, many who are far away from home and awaiting their court date. To say that living in a safehouse can be very stressful is an understatement, but somehow the music and movement seems to create an unspoken sisterhood betwixt us all.

Tonight I will sleep well!

The actual physical exertion impacts the overall quality of sleep because hormones that improve the emotional state are released. We always try to follow a set pattern in our dance workshops, but the best part is when we freestyle at the end. All the protective walls are let down and in a safe environment we allow each other to express ourselves. We can definitely say that our dance workshops are the highlight of our week!