Belly Dancing During Pregnancy:

an instructional dance video by Gaby Oeftering
Reviewed by Delilah

(available from Visionary Belly Dancing at

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 Freiberg, Germany.

The video Belly Dance During Pregnancy is a must-have, and not just for bellydancers. It is an excellent resource for three important interest groups:

  • 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:

  1. Featured dance performance by Sabine during her third trimester of pregnancy.
  2. Introductory talk by Gaby Oeftering:
    • how she began her work,
    • the advantages of Bellydance as exercise for childbirth preparation,
    • safe practices,
    • inspirational words.
  3. Featured dance performance by Havva in her third trimester of pregnancy.
  4. Scientific and historic talk by Dr. Liseiotte Kuntner, Doctor of Ethno-Medicine on
    • scientific and historic progress in the art of child birth preparation,
    • benefits of vertical birth,
    • benefits of Oriental dance in prenatal conditioning,
    • historic photo documentary on birthing practices, shown through art and manuscripts.
  5. A second featured dance performance by Sabine.
  6. Talk by physiotherapist Irmtraud Schieder on
    • the use of the giant rubber ball and other exercise equipment,
    • specific exercises and therapies and their effects on the body during pregnancy.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 dance .

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 and bellydance.

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; or 805-962-9639
Single issue $11 or $32 per yearsubscription rate.

See Alexandra's Library for many articles on Belly Dance and Pregnancy