The Pomegranate SEEDs® Program

By Lindsay Ahl In Shimmy December, 2009

The Pomegranate SEEDs® Program is a four-and-a-half hour per week program devoted to teaching teenage girls ATS® dance, self-empowerment, and self-esteem among other things.  It is a program that Myra Krien created and now teaches to other women to help them set up this program in other cities.  There are currently several other SEEDs Programs, for example, “Red Clover SEEDs” in Vermont, created by Christine Demarais, and “Sundarii SEEDs” in Roswell, New Mexico, created by Stacey Ennis.  Sofia Onstead has a SEEDs Program through Euphoria Studios in Portland, Oregon, and Bonnie Cowley has Wildflower SEEDs in Texas.  And there are several others: in Alaska, Colorado, California, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico.  The program is designed to help teenage girls through the difficult period of adolescence by giving them a community, and the tools and self-knowledge that will help them to become successful and happy adults.

The next training session for potential teachers of the SEEDs program is in June of 2010.  It is a six day intensive training that feels like a mini SEEDs for teachers.  Much time is spent dancing, but much time is also spent talking and journaling, just as the teenagers do in their program.  There is practical information: discussion of daily lesson plans, the ins and outs of developing your own SEEDs program in terms of marketing, contracts, enrollment, non-profit vs. profit, fees and scholarships, and the impact of SEEDs on a dance studio.  There is also more psychological and philosophical discussion: What is a good teacher?  How do we develop self-esteem and body image?  What facilitates reaching one’s goals?  How do we find our own true voice?  How do we create for ourselves financial independence, personal power and options, and contribute to our community?

In order to apply, you need to have at least three years of training in your particular dance form, and some of that should be knowledge of ATS.  (Tribal Style lends itself well to the program goals, with the emphasis on both group interaction and communication and the ability within that to improvise in a common language.)  Each teacher-in-training is deeply committed to bringing this program to her community and to becoming the best mentor and teacher she can to the community of teenage girls in her area.

This particular calling – combining dance instruction with administering to the personal growth and transition into womanhood of several teenage girls, requires grace and strength, determination and hard work, efficiency and compassion.  And, of course, a deep love of dance.

It is through the dance that the girls will come to love and accept their bodies, and learn to communicate silently with the other girls.  It is through the community that dance provides, and the talking circles and journaling and questions and discussions, that the girls come to know themselves, and begin to create the future for themselves that they desire.  Each girl picks a goal at the beginning of the year that she wants to achieve by the end of the year.  The program and teacher help to hone that goal so that it can be achieved.

There are many amazing women who have graduated from the SEEDs Teacher Training and have begun their own SEEDs programs, sometimes with great struggle, but great rewards as well.

Amarillo, Texas
Here is a section from Bonnie Cowley’s story, about setting up a SEEDs Program in Texas:

I returned home to Amarillo convinced everyone would be as excited as I was to bring such a wonderful program to our community.  My expectations were that everyone would “get it” as I had – that doors would open gratefully to welcome in SEEDs.  I knew if I created beautiful brochures, spoke to all of the club meetings, made the phone calls, contacted schools, and churches, etc. that young women would flock to attend.  I was in for a rude awakening.  I knew going in that Amarillo was a conservative community, and did not have the comfort level with diversity and culture that are more prevalent in other cities.  It was then I knew I needed to take a step back, and educate the community first.  That just because I understood the mission, and felt the passion, most people I spoke to had no idea what I was talking about.  I found that I could not advertise in the public high schools unless I was a 501C3 (non-profit), and only those non-profits whose mission is in line with public school systems are allowed in.  I was told by one High School Migrant Director, that as long as the participants did not show their mid-section, they would bring the request to their board members.  Needless to say, this has been a great learning experience and I continue to be steadfast in my mission to bring SEEDs to our community.

I am happy to an announce that because of the generous giving of time from 4 women, I will be conducting my first SEEDs program, starting on September 27th for 3-5 young ladies from Pampa, Texas.  They will be driving an hour each way to attend.  It may only be 3 girls, however, I know with perseverance and dedication to this work, SEEDs will continue to grow here.

Starting a program, such as SEEDs, in the Texas panhandle, has been a challenging one.

Portland, Oregon
Here is an excerpt from Sofia Onstead, who through Euphoria Studio in Portland, Oregon, began her SEEDs Program:

Now that my program is up and running I wanted to share my experience as well as some tips for starting your own SEEDs program so that you may learn from my trials and errors.

First, start early!  Finding girls for the program was my greatest challenge.  The brochure took much longer than expected, and it’s hard to advertise without material to distribute.  If possible, start before school ends, because locating teen girls in the summer can be challenging.  My plan of action was to go to festivals, recreation centers, malls and other places I thought teens might hang out, and try to talk to as many girls as possible.  Never underestimate the power of being real and personal.  Actually connecting and telling one girl about the program was much more effective than passing out 100 brochures.  Do as many performances as possible!  I was able to do a few performances in schools, which proved to be extremely helpful.  There are so many misconceptions about what belly dance is, that girls really need to see it to understand and fall in love with it!  Once those girls see the movements, fringe, coins and glitter and hear the exotic music, they are hooked!  Leaving stacks of materials in schools didn’t bring me any girls, so I wouldn’t bother wasting your materials in this way.  If you do use schools to distribute, it is best to find someone that can act as a spokesperson for you.  Find the right person that is excited about the program and they will be a great help.  Gym teachers and counselors are good places to start.  You never know when you will run into a group of girls, so always be prepared and have materials on you.

And here is Holly Luky, creator of Sedona SEEDs talking about the program itself:

The teacher-training program wasn’t all work though, we had a lot of fun together aside from learning.  Myra and her lovely Mosaic Dance Company performed one evening at a local restaurant and we enjoyed a fabulous meal as we watched, which was the perfect way to start the program.  On the fourth night we met for a BBQ at Myra’s home and continued our in-depth discussions over homemade food, a beautiful sunset and great company.  We also took time each day to simply dance…where our minds could take a little break and our bodies could just move.  We danced through ATS beginning and intermediate formats with a touch of improvisation together at the end.  As we danced throughout the week we got more familiar with both ourselves and with each other, and as we danced into our final improvisational formation I saw each of us come together in perfect time with the music and smiles on our faces.  I imagine that is what happens to the girls that attend the SEEDs program…They arrive uncertain about what they will be experiencing, have an amazing time learning about themselves, and at the end they have the tools to improvise their own dance – the dance of life.

I think this is what happens to the girls in the SEEDs program.  The girls have many more tools than they would have had to “improvise their own dance.”  So also, the graduates of the SEEDs Teacher Training.  These women, a little more experienced, are already dancing their own dance, but after the Program, they have the tools to take their dance out into the community and share it on a very deep level, with the community at large, and with teenagers who come to their program, seeking a mentor.  It is a difficult but rewarding and generous act – to share your art.  This teaching requires that you give much of yourself, but also enables you to find yourself, and grow deeply as a dancer, a teacher, and a woman.