The power of belly dance

Dancing for Ludmila Bondarenco (Mila) is an expression of femininity, elegance and tenderness.

“I dance because I feel, I love, I live,” she shares passionately. 

Originally from Muldova, after her daughter started University, Mila moved to Ireland almost a year ago to join her husband and now teaches a belly dance class in Clonakilty.

Before moving here, Mila, who holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology, worked as a psychologist and director of art therapy at a high school in Moldova, providing psychological support to people with disabilities and assisting in their social integration.

She is also a violin teacher and yoga and gymnastics instructor, as well as holding qualifications in mindfulness and meditation and Thai massage.

On the dance floor, Mila is a mesmerising vision, as she twirls and shimmies and undulates in a graceful and creative blur of colour and movement. In dance her body becomes her voice; and her passion and zest for life is compelling to all who are lucky enough to witness it. “Dancing gives me the bravery to listen to myself and follow my own path step by step,” she shares. “For me, belly dance is a perfect art form, harmoniously combining choreography, music and theatre.”

As a teacher, Mila is warm and supportive, with a ready smile. She believes that a happy woman is one who appreciates herself, trusts her intuition and listens to her body. “Through dance, a woman can fully liberate herself and gain confidence,” she explains.

According to Mila, belly dance will not only improve your physical and mental health but also help you find your inner powerhouse. It’s about celebrating the fact that you’re a woman.

One of the oldest forms of dance, the earliest forms of belly dance originated in Egypt in the 19th century. It was made famous in Europe by authors and painters who were fascinated by its exotic nature. While in Western society, belly dance has a somewhat sensual reputation, many claim the dance originated in fact from female celebrations such as fertility and child birth.

Belly dancing is no more seductive than any other dance form such as hip hop, zumba, tango or salsa,” says Mila passionately. “It’s a dance for women of all shapes, sizes and ages. It’s about celebrating your body and having fun.”

“Women who have a negative self-image and believe their bodies do not fit western beauty ideals find self-acceptance in belly dance because it doesn’t have those restrictions of height, weight, body type or age,” explains the dancer. “Belly dance gives women a way to feel good about themselves and their bodies.”

“Every women can belly dance and can be graceful and look beautiful doing it. An important component of oriental dance is improvisation, which alone fosters creativity and the release of bad energy.”

Mila describes her own profession as being related to “the healing of souls”. “Art therapy is based on the theory that creative expressions can foster healing and emotional well being. Dance therapy is based on the philosophy that the brain and body are connected so physical movements benefit both the body and the mind.”

Through her work as an art therapist, she has seen the healing power that belly dance has on a person’s emotional health. “It has helped people deal with breast cancer surgery, bulimia, fibromyalgia, lower back pain and much more,” she says.

Although the movements are easy to learn, Mila does give fair warning that belly dance is not an easy dance form to master. “It takes one month to learn a dance; one year to see your body as a whole and to start understanding what the hell are you doing with it; three years to be amazed by the hidden capacities of your body; a lifetime and, if you are like me, then you will need your daily dose of dance.”

If you’re looking for a class that you’ll smile all the way through and for a long time afterwards, join Mila’s belly dance class in Clonakilty. Text or what’s app her on 086 455 1257 for more information. 

Mary O'Brien

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