SEEDs of Power

Belly dancing program helps girls build self-esteem and learn life skills.

By Casey Casias In Generation Next

Belly dancing is the victim of a lot of stereotypes. It is often wrongly thought of as sexually driven. However, to the participants in Pomegranate Dance Studio’s SEEDs® program, the dance form is a creative means of expression.

SEEDs (which stands for Self-Esteem, Empowerment, and Education through Dance) is a program put on for girls between the ages of 14-20 that both teaches them belly dancing and helps to build self-esteem. It is a yearlong program in which a group of 15-20 girls learn tribal-dance movements.

But that is only a part of the course. Each class includes a talking circle in which students discuss issues that face women. Guest speakers are invited to speak with the group, particularly to help with money issues. They advise the girls on things ranging from understanding the stock market to saving for retirement.

In addition, Myra Krien, who is one of the owners of the dance studio, helps each girl achieve one personal goal that she sets for herself at the beginning of the program. There is no limitation on what this goal can be; the goals range from getting into college to finishing a novel. Krien helps the girls make a plan to achieve their goal, whatever it may be. Lita Ovalle, who teaches the class, also helps the girls strive toward accomplishing their goal. She oversees the talking circles as well.

Girls in the SEED program learn the smooth and controlled movements of tribal dance. Tribal is composed of many dance forms put together, ranging from flamenco to ballet, but is mainly derived from the dances of the indigenous tribes of Northern Africa, which is where it gets its name. Many of the tribal movements are elaborations on things the people perform every day, such as picking fruit or balancing a basket on one’s head. There are even movements that are based on walking.

Both the physical and emotional aspects of the program have had a positive influence on many girls who participate in it.

“Everybody gets along with each other; there is no drama. I also find it to be very relaxing after a day of stress at school. I come in feeling completely exhausted, and then I leave feeling really energetic,” said Costanza Fusco, a junior at Capital High School.

Fusco says the program has influenced her greatly, “but on such a level that it is difficult to put into words.”

Serrana Gai, a sophomore at Monte del Sol Charter School, said now that she’s in the program, she dances nonstop. “I feel much healthier and stronger and more comfortable with my body.”

For Heather Marts, a junior at Santa Fe Preparatory School, who said she feel secure and graceful with her dance classes, the talking circles have also been an unexpected benefit. “I didn’t really expect to get so much into the talking part of it. It is actually really great to talk about things that affect us – things that I don’t usually talk about with a group of teenage girls.”

Kyrie Von Erffa, who is a senior at Santa Fe Academy, was unsure about the influence the program would have on her life. “When people told me how amazing it was, I thought, ‘Yeah uh huh, it’s dance.’ I wasn’t that thrilled about it. I didn’t really understand the community part of the program. Besides learning a lot about yourself and the other girls, and you are prompted to think about things that you don’t usually think about.”

SEEDs is not the only program that Pomegranate Studios supports. After completing the yearlong course, graduates can become a part of the apprentice dance company called Ahatti, which offers the dancers an opportunity to focus on performance rather than learning. Other classes are offered on a come-when-you-can basis, costing $5 a session and focusing on basic movement instruction.

Belly-dancing history is rich and complex, and so is the SEEDs program. It is an extraordinary experience and opens many doors for its participants. It destroys all of the typecasts of belly dancing and shows it for what it is; a beautiful and difficult art form.