It’s 4.30pm. In this primary school in Manique, Portugal, the classes are over, the after school club is about to begin.
There are drawings around the walls. Children’s voices can be heard in the distance. We find them on the first floor. They’re a group of boys and girls who attend the after-school club. They are eagerly waiting for their Biodanza teacher, who they welcomed with smiles and joyful embraces.
These 12 children, most of them between five and seven years old, know the “Biodanza ritual” very well. First, they take off their shoes. Then, they sit in an orderly circle without needing to be told to. The class starts when the teacher puts the music on.
“Let’s walk to the rhythm of the music,” says the teacher. “And when I stop the music we stay still as if we were statues.”
Other fun exercises followed, like imagining that you are a mirror and imitating each other’s movements, or pretending that you are made of clay, while others pretend to be craftsmen who have to shape it. The results are varied: one child seems to be hitchhiking, others seem to be riding a bike, and one looks like Charlot.
Biodanza allows the children to engage in imaginative play in a way that involves their whole bodies.
“The aim is to develop children’s creativity and affectivity, and not to help them understand the intention behind every dance exercise in a cognitive way” says Manuela. “As they are very sensitive to imagination, I tend to use metaphors or tell a story when I propose an activity. Instead of saying “now we’re going to connect with a partner by using a finger,” I say, “imagine that your finger is a butterfly landing on a flower, who is your friend.”
After the excitement of the first series of exercises, Manuela asks if anyone has seen the image of a baby in the womb on television. A five year old girl nods her head. Manuela then invites the children to lie down, close their eyes, and imagine that they are that baby. A lullaby is playing softly on the background, helping the children relax after a hard day at school as they imagine themselves in another world, embraced by the loving warmth of their mother’s belly.
Little known in the United Kingdom, Biodanza was created in the 1960s by Rolando Toro, a Chilean psychologist and poet. His intention was to develop human potential by inducing integrative experiences with expressive movement to music exercises. Biodanza combines both guided and free dances that can be practiced by people of all ages. In addition, Biodanza can be applied to a variety of different groups.
Manuela, who used to work in the computer industry, is called to work with children and young people. She has taught more than 300 children in schools and institutions located around Cascais, Lisbon.
Biodanza has taken Manuela into a different way of life. She tells us: “With the youngest children I can work at a preventative level”
Early intervention in the social inclusion of children is very rewarding because I feel that I am giving them tools that will enable them to become happier and more fulfilled adults in the future.”
This post was inspired by this article, and published here with Manuela Roberts’ permission
Who to contact in the UK
If your school, playgroup, holiday play scheme or home-education group would like to book a Biodanza session, please feel free to contact us. We will let you know if one of our teachers is available to teach in your area.