Turning Bellyache into Belly Dance

Girls find their center at SEEDs®

By Lindsay Ahl In Tumbleweeds March, 2007

At some point, we’ve all gone out looking for something that will help us answer certain feelings: How do I stop yearning for some beloved who is not there in the way I want? How do I face what might be a meaningless life? How do I accept myself for who I am and work with that, rather than fighting it? And underneath those questions, a few more practical ones: What do I want to do with my life? How can I best manifest my talents and interests so that I can make a living?

These are the kinds of questions that, if no answer is found, can bring on various forms of identity crisis. And these are the kinds of questions that teenagers are asking – probably not exactly in those words. Their actions are asking these questions, though, and they find their temporary answers everywhere; in the media, with their peers and from testing out as many possibilities as they can. Sometimes this alone can work, but often they live through a lot of self-destruction and wasted time.

Here in Santa Fe at Pomegranate Studios’ SEEDs® program for teenage girls, many of those questions may be answered, or at least explored in a caring environment. SEEDs stands for Self-Esteem, Empowerment, and Education through Dance. Created by Myra Krien and run by Krien and master teacher Lita Ovalle, the program is designed to empower young girls through the vehicle of dance to surmount the difficulties of the teenage years.

Specifically, the mission of SEEDs is to mentor young women to become healthy, strong individuals who are socially and fiscally responsible to themselves and their community. In addition to teaching the girls Tribal Style Belly Dance, the program incorporates talking circles, journaling and presentations by diverse professionals who discuss their work and how they become what they are. The girls are asked to think and talk about their fears and commitments, and taught how to set and accomplish their goals. They are taught about finances; how to save, invest money and figure out how much money they need to accomplish their goals.

The dancing itself is invaluable. The girls learn that committing themselves to an athletic art teaches them discipline, which itself is a great lesson for life. But it also entails learning about the body and how it functions, which helps the dancer know herself better an in turn to respect and understand herself more deeply. Krien takes this program further than many disciplines do. She doesn’t just teach the girls about how their bodies work, she teaches them to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the human body. As one of her graduates says, “how to make art out of your body.”

Girls who have graduated from SEEDs have said that the program gave them “confidence and motivation,” and a way to channel their energies positively. They also describe learning the dance as “a spiritual thing.’

The SEEDs program can’t help but be a mini-course in enlightenment. It involves discipline and requires a commitment. It asks girls to know themselves and to have compassion with others. It teaches them that to compete with one another serves no  higher purpose, but instead to value who they are in their uniqueness and value the same in others. There is “no right body type.” The girls make lasting friendships, and receive the benefit of the mentorship of Krien and Ovalle. It’s truly a program any female would enjoy and benefit from, regardless of age.

In addition to SEEDs, Pomegranate Studios teaches tribal dancing to children ages 6-9, early teens (10 to 14) and adults. For the young ones, the classes are about falling in love, the sheer joy of expression through movement and the love of the music. The dance and the music are a rich cultural experience. The posture and simple coordination are great, and of course nothing beats “free dance” time in a huge studio with mirrors, running across the floor with a three-yard veil of silk!