Could Biodanza and Community Psychology complement each other? In Brazil, they already do.
Tell me more…
The first Biodanza School in Ceará was created in the 80’s, when the community psychology movement was starting in North East Brazil. Prof. Cezar Wagner de Lima Góis was involved in both. From the very start the two approaches have strongly influenced each other. Biodanza has influenced the way community psychologists work in deprived areas – and the Biodanza School of Ceará became deeply committed to social action.
What is Biodanza?
Biodanza is a system of human integration through transformational ‘vivencias’ – intense feelings of aliveness in the present moment induced by music, movement, and group dynamics.
Biodanza started in Chile in the 1960s. Its roots go back to a psychiatric hospital in Santiago, where a psychologist named R. Toro first discovered the power of music to trigger positive emotions, i.e. to uplift patients with depression, soothe those struggling with anxiety, and bring back to reality those who had slipped into psychosis. These discoveries were the seeds that grew into a human development system that has spread to the four corners of the world.
Why the focus on humanity?
After seeing the devastating impact of two world wars, Rolando Toro realised that the source of human suffering wasn’t to be found on personal or family issues alone but mostly on a diseased civilization that urgently needed to be transformed. The first step? Embracing biocentric values and making life the number one priority.
Dance has the power to make us feel intensely alive. It has been an essential part of our ceremonies, rituals and celebrations since immemorial times. It helps us to come together as a tribe, to bond as a community, to express our joys, heal our sorrows, and cooperate for the benefit of all.
Dancing together helps us to rediscover the joy of living and our capacity to enjoy the pleasures of life. Dancing together helps us to unleash our creativity, open our hearts, and realise that we are part of something bigger – our family and friends, our community, our environment, our planet. It helps us to understand the preciousness of life and to take steps to protect it. Finally, it helps us to develop a caring heart and rediscover our humanness. Unable to bear the suffering of others, social action becomes natural.
The power of the caring heart
If our diseased civilization is one of the main sources of human suffering, affectivity is central because social change can only succeed from a caring heart. Rolando Toro often used the term affectivity to refer to what we subjectively experience as affection, friendship, altruism, unconditional love, and our affinity for life, which manifests as the urge to care for all living beings. Community psychologists care about the way people are affected by the world they live in – and so do Biodanza facilitators. Both also believe in people’s power to change the world.
Back to Brazil…
In Brazil, thanks to Góis, Biodanza has been part of the biggest community psychology program since it began in 1982. The social psychology professor from the Federal University of Ceará has not only authored several books on community psychology – but also directs a Biodanza RTS School. When I asked him about the role of Biodanza in community psychology, his immediate reply was,
“when community psychology gains the support of the vivencia it becomes deeper”
He then added
Reflection + dialogue (Paulo Freire) + vivencia (Toro) + solidarity action = a different community psychology
In Brazil, Biodanza has influenced community psychology in two ways. On the one hand, Biodanza has become an approach to facilitating educational and therapeutic group processes. On the other hand, it has become a tool for community development by strengthening the shared vivencias of community activity. Biodanza has also helped to replace scientific neutrality with the emotional connection that a genuine ethical commitment to care requires. In practice, Góis called it weaving life. “To weave life is to make daily connections, to work with purpose and pleasure, to be open to meet people, and to fight against oppression and exploitation simply because you love people and you love life.”
My dream for the UK
In the UK Biodanza is still virtually unknown. My dream is to see its benefits accessible to everyone by making it available in educational, health, and community settings. If I’ve learned something from Biodanza, is that a dream you dream alone is only a dream. However, a dream you dream together is reality – and I’d love you to be part of my dream.
Paula Jardim presented Biodanza at the Community Psychology Festival in Bristol on 15th September, 2017.