Biodanza’s literal translation is “dance of life”. Followers of the system of movement say it can foster mental, spiritual and physical health, and can help your connections and relationships with others. Rolando Toro, who started the movement in the 1960s, was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his efforts.
Toro was something of a Renaissance man; he painted and held exhibitions, lectured in Medical Anthropology, and worked as a psychotherapist. At Santiago del Chile’s Psychiatric Hospital, he became interested in how dance and music affected his patients.
He understood that dance was used in tribal societies to express deep emotions, and to connect with other people and with humanity as a whole. Formalised Western dancing has removed the spirit of individual expression from the activity; Toro wanted to find a way to help patients reveal their inner selves through movement. In this way, he believed, they could dance their way back to being whole.
Based on the results he witnessed in the hospital, Toro began to think about how movement and music affected overall states of wellness. He expanded his research to healthy individuals, and developed the theoretical model for Biodanza in 1966.
Since then, the Dance of Life has spread to more than 60 countries around the world. Japan, Slovenia, Reunion, Mauritius, Zambia, South Africa, the United States and many nations in South America and Europe have embraced the practice.
Entering the Vivencia
The different exercises and types of music used in Biodanza help participants to enter vivencias, or heightened states of being. In these vivencias, Toro believed, the five different modes of living that exist within everyone – Vitality, Affectivity, Sexuality, Creativity and Transcendence – are brought back into balance. Repressed emotions, past traumas and difficulties in dealing with life then fall away naturally.
Healing at the Cellular Level
Biodanza’s series of movements involves affection, connection and love. These are repeatedly reinforced, so that they imprint on participants. During classes, dancers report feelings of happiness, joy and simple gratitude for being alive. These positive emotions evoke deep immune system and Autonomic Nervous System responses, stimulating healing and hormonal balancing within the cells.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System is also activated, dissolving muscular tension and prompting deeper breathing. The idea is that, not only does Biodanza help to repair existing damage and weakness in your system, it makes you more resilient to stress and future issues.
Physical, Mental and Spiritual Connections
The idea of all health stemming from properly-functioning cells is not new. Meditation and other practices are also believed to get them humming along, thereby fostering a sense of emotional and physical wellness.
Proponents of Biodanza have experienced faster healing from injury and illness, better friendships and romantic relationships, and a transformation in the way they see themselves. One of the most beautiful descriptions of the practice is “a re-education in love”; as we are able to connect more to others and ourselves, so our health is improved and maintained.
Go as Far as You Want With Biodanza
In some ways, Biodanza is similar to Yoga; it’s a system of thought-out exercises intended to develop wellness on every level. Toro himself said it is more than a creative exercise, system of growth or physical therapy; it “addresses the totality of the human being”.
Movements get more complicated over time, as dancers develop their strength, and people with Parkinson’s Disease, Autism, Down’s Syndrome, vascular issues, mental handicaps, trauma, addiction and different types of eating disorders have all benefited from learning Biodanza.
But the important thing to remember here is that a Biodanza class can be as esoteric as you want it to be. Just like Yoga, you can simply enjoy the peace and sense of physical wholeness that the practice brings, or use it as a gateway to deeper spirituality.
Someone suffering from an eating disorder, for example, could connect back to physically feeling good or could work on developing stronger sacred connections. Take what you want to use and leave the rest, and you’ll see the benefits.