African Dance & Birth



pregnant woman dancingHow about some African dance to get in the spirit of the last trimester and to prepare for labor? African dance is particularly grounding during pregnancy-it allows you to be present in the moment and to forget about everything else. You learn to focus your thoughts, a technique that has been proven to be helpful in labor and in dealing with pain.


You also learn to follow the rhythms of the drum as you dance improvisationally – in much the same way, you will follow the rhythm of the contractions during labor.


African dance instructors encourage the class to relax and learn to “hear with the body,” to breathe deeply and follow the movements with the feet, not the rational mind.


A special trademark of classes in African dance is the sense of community. They often begin by forming a circle and doing warm-ups. A pregnant woman has a special, honorable place in class and is supported to move along at her own pace.


After warm-ups, the dancers usually move across the floor in lines of four or five and progress to more complex dance steps. These steps are then presented in a dance combination that gives a taste of village life. For example, a dance may reenact winnowing, pounding and preparing food, picking fruit, bathing in a river, shoveling, carrying a baby on the back, or using a shuffling motion to soothe the baby.


Most of the dances taught in the US derive from Central and Western Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad, and Tobago. The rhythms are wonderfully complex. For African dance classes in your area, check the newspaper, call libraries, music stores, YWCA, bookstores, and musical venues. Also check the web for resources.

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