Dancing the way to healing

African dance instructor says dance is an alternative way of healing


Reported by Shabnam Jessa 

Movement is the key to unlocking trauma that is trapped in both body and mind, said Jacky Yenga an African dance instructor.

Based in South Vancouver, Yenga teaches a dance healing program called Mbombo, which means friend.

Yenga grew up in Cameroon, Africa and said dance as healing is vital to the Cameroonian people, adding that she wants to introduce this to others.  “I want to bring this to western culture,” Yenga said. “We are too much in our minds here. Dance brings us more into our bodies.”

Yenga said she doesn’t teach dance for the purpose of exercise but encourages participants to connect with themselves and their community.

Benefits of expressive arts

Peta Schur, co-founder of the expressive arts therapy program at Langara College said art has the capacity to help people achieve a better state of mind. “It’s extremely powerful when working with trauma. It’s very deep and gentle,” said Schur.

Dance therapy programs usually range from ballroom to yoga and stretching, and involves structured schooling and certification.

Langara College was the first in B.C. to bring in the expressive arts therapy program that incorporates theatre, drama, movement, visual arts, and creative writing in their teachings.

Changing lives

Mariam Barry, an attendee at the Mbombo class said dancing helps her focus on how her positivity transfers out to the world. “It helps me to be of service to others and elevate our community as we elevate ourselves,” said Barry.

Sound engineer, Anoushka Rajan was paralyzed at 16 years old and started dance therapy with a physiotherapist who was trained in Kathak, a classical Indian dance form. Rajan said her life would not have been the same had it not been for dance therapy. “I began as a dead mass in a wheelchair and after several months, I walked out of the hospital,” said Rajan.

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