Dance has always been a way for people to express themselves. Many use dance for exercise as well. Such is the case with belly dancing, long known for increasing suppleness and toning stomachs. At the Saartjie Baartman Centre, belly dancing is being used to heal, helping women and children who have been abused learn to smile and laugh again.
The initiator of this use of the ancient form of Gypsy dance is Marina Rehbein, a professional dancer from Yugoslavia. In an article by Sarah Lockwood in the Weekend Argus (May 26 2007), Marina is quoted as saying, “I have taught belly dancing for many years and I have always known about the benefits it can bring to people who have been abused. A few months ago, articles on the benefits of belly dancing were published in a number of papers and I had so many calls from women in the townships who wanted access to the classes, but were unable to travel into suburbs like Tokai…I knew then that I wanted to make belly dancing more accessible and bring its benefits to people who would not otherwise have access to them.”
So for some months now, Marina has been running classes at the Centre for the community. The lessons are free for the residents of the Centre, who are increasingly finding the belly dancing an important part of their healing process. They are able to relax and enjoy themselves, putting their past traumatic experiences for the moment behind them.