Belly Dancing During Pregnancy
an instructional Dance video by Gaby Oeftering
Reviewed by Delilah
The idea that bellydance was used as prenatal conditioning for women
in ancient times is not a new one; I've heard it since the day my
bellydance career twenty five years ago. Anyone familiar with the true
art would come to this conclusion intuitively. Susanne McNeilin did some
important pioneering and research in the 80's on "Birthdance" as she
called it. But now in 1998 another women currently devoting her energy
and resources to actively researching, documenting, and pursuing the
reclamation of this bellydance/birth connection as Gaby Oeftering from
The video Belly Dance During Pregnancy is a must-have, and not just
for bellydancers. It is an excellent resource for three important interest
- Bellydancers, and most importantly Instructors
- Midwives, doctors and childbirth educators
- Pregnant women or mothers-to-be
I'll start with a brief outline of the script:
- Featured dance performance by Sabine during her third trimester of
- Introductory talk by Gaby Oeftering:
- how she began her work,
- the advantages of Bellydance as exercise for childbirth
- safe practices,
- inspirational words.
- Featured dance performance by Havva in her third trimester of
- Scientific and historic talk by Dr. Liseiotte Kuntner, Doctor of
- scientific and historic progress in the art of child birth
- benefits of vertical birth,
- benefits of Oriental dance in prenatal conditioning,
- historic photo documentary on birthing practices, shown through
art and manuscripts.
- A second featured dance performance by Sabine.
- Talk by physiotherapist Irmtraud Schieder on
- the use of the giant rubber ball and other exercise
- specific exercises and therapies and their effects on the body
- Actual real-time class with Gaby
- Warm ups:
- Giant ball exercises,
- 8 Yoga stretches.
- Belly dance class:
- 7 hip movements,
- 2 shoulder movements,
- 3 rib cage movements,
- Many arms and hands movements.
- A third featured dance performance by Sabine.
First of all, I want to say I am very enthusiastic about this video.
I think it should be in every bellydance instructor's library, as well as
in the libraries of every midwife, childbirth educator, doctor, and
community for that matter! This video is done well enough to be taken
seriously by all fields. Here are some key factors: 1) It accomplishes
the task of being comprehensively instructive to the bellydance teacher
who encounters pregnant women in her classes or who wants to work
specifically with pregnant women. 2) It contains scientific and
historical evidence that is delivered by experts in their fields, and thus
can broaden the insights of all doctors and childbirth educators. 3)
Pregnant women in good health can exercise with it's real-time classroom
instruction. 4) It is important to our larger culture, as it provides
beautiful and therapeutic visual inspiration through performances of the
Gaby began her studies on the benefits of bellydancing during
pregnancy and during childbirth in 1991. She read everything she could
get her hands on about pregnancy, yoga, massage, birth habits all over the
world, matriarchy, Reiki and other healing energy techniques, vertical
birth positions, midwifery through the ages, rituals, and dance, medicine
in the Islamic world, training for the pelvic floor, etc etc. . . Her
goals were to strengthen the position that Oriental dance has a
therapeutic advantage for pregnant women in relieving pain, strengthening
the internal mussels involved in the birth process, harmonizing the mother
and child through prenatal interaction, and instilling a sense of joy and
celebration throughout the prenatal and birthing process.
Gaby went to childbirth preparation classes, attended births, visited
clinics, studied yoga and discussed her concepts and ideas with midwives
and doctors. In Germany she began teaching programs for training midwives
about the practical side of the dance, and at the same time began courses
for dance teachers that would be more medically oriented. She now has
developed a common program that combines both groups; this course is
available to sponsors interested in presenting it.
This video has been an instrumental tool in disseminating the overall
concept and in conveying specific information. Originally done in German,
the video was translated and dubbed in English this summer with the help
of Amaya and others in New Mexico.
The performers on the video are beautiful, graceful and integral. We
cannot help but be swept away by their beauty and their strength. It
stirs in us a primordial recollection of an ancient and sacred knowledge;
we feel the truth of this connection in our bodies, minds and souls.
Gaby has made great progress in uniting the fields of dance and
birth. I feel it is important that we give her our support and
encouragement. Her work also empowers the position of our beloved dance
form in society, as it asserts the healing and therapeutic nature of
bellydance for all women. This video is important to us as dancers, for
it increases our understanding of the power of our dance and the power of
our own active creative capacity!
I love the international evolution of this work. It serves to remind
us of our commonality as women. Whether we are American, German or Middle
Eastern we relate wordlessly and universally in the fields of motherhood
Appeared in Habibi Vol. 17, No 1 1998; Reprinted by permission
* For other resource articles on the subject of bellydance and birth see
Habibi Magazine Volume 15 No 1; Habibipub@aol.com or 805-962-9639
Single issue $11 or $32 per yearsubscription rate.