What a difference a day makes – Aretha Franklin
Breathe – D Spotted E
Miss you so – Diana Krall
La Bilirubina – Juan L Guerras
Makubenjalo – Lira
Prelude Opus 28 #4 – Chopin
Dabayres Tango – Buenos Aires
Gymnopedie3 – Eric Satie
Biodanza Facilitator/Didactic Tutor, IBF-Hallandale, Florida, USA
Biodanza Facilitator/Didactic Tutor, Bethesda, Maryland
Biodanza Facilitator/Didactic Tutor, Montreal, Canada
Biodanza Facilitator/Massage therapist/Art therapist-London, Ontario, Canada
Meetup Groups-free social networking that you can join to let you know what is happening in your city!
Maryland meetup group: http://www.meetup.com/BIODANZA-Maryland/
Miami meetup group: http://www.meetup.com/BIODANZA-MIAMI/
New York City meetup.com group: http://www.meetup.com/BIODANZA-East-Coast-USA/
Links to IBF Schools and facilitators wordwide:
www.biodanza.co.za South Africa IBF School of Biodanza
www.biodanza.us San Francisco IBF School of Biodanza
www.spaziobiodanza.it Naples, Italy IBF School of Biodanza
www.alidellavita.it Alberto Bonazzi, Italy
www.biodanza.ca Canada IBF School of Biodanza
www.biodanzamexico.com Mexico IBF School of Biodanza
Other Interesting Links
www.bewellworld.com – holistic wellness in Maryland
Created in the 1960s with the aim of helping people reconnect with their passion, vitality and sensuality, the technique of Biodanza uses a mixture of dance and music, carefully chosen for its rhythmic qualities, to release the power of expression we all hold deep within us. Sarah Dallas talks to the Chilean Rolando Toro, the founder of Biodanza, whose diminutive frame belies his enormous energy.
Q: How would you describe Biodanza? Is it a physical therapy? A system of growth? A creative exercise? A spiritual practice?
A: Biodanza is more than all of these! It addresses the totality of the human being. It doesn’t separate people into fragments. Biodanza has many therapeutic effects, but these are not the goal. Biodanza is basically a reeducation in love. The exercises bring us into real intimacy with other people.
Most of us do not connect deeply with others. We just look at the superficiality of the other person – their nose, the shape of their mouth. But the act of looking deeply into another’s eyes is ecstasy! It amplifies our entire perception of who we are. The Biodanza exercises wake up our ‘vivencia’, or aliveness, and this allows us to really feel the intensity of each moment.
Q: How many people would you estimate are involved in Biodanza worldwide?
A: In South America there are schools everywhere – in Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Brazil. We also have a school in the USA. In Europe we have fifty teachers, each of them with between 15-80 students, so in Europe there are about 1,000 people practicing Biodanza. We have schools in Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and many schools in Italy. I have just been invited to go to Japan and Australia. By the year 2,000 I would like Biodanza to be available everywhere. My aim is to have the whole planet dancing!
Q: Why do you think it is so successful?
A: Because it is a necessity. People are lonely, because they have such difficulty expressing love and sensuality. They sense a huge lack of meaning in their lives. They fall into a slow depression and feel stressed. They may look for health, but health is not enough; happiness is what’s necessary. Biodanza provides a refuge for people to feel their real identity.
Q: How did you come to create Biodanza? Where did the idea originate from?
A: It was through the profound darkness that I witnessed during the Second World War. Six million Jewish people were killed – I felt we were living in a civilization of death. At the time, I was a professor of medicine at the Centre of Medical Anthropology in Chile, looking for educational ways by which the human race could be helped to move forward. But I was also very aware that education was actually part of the problem and that schools and universities were in league with our individualistic, ego-based society. The film ‘The Wall’, with the Pink Floyd song ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, portrays this so well.
For a while I believed this madness in civilization could be biological. I tried to find out if there was some trigger in the human mechanism which was the cause. I also started to work with mental patients in psychiatric hospitals in Chile, using a variety of tools such as painting, theatre, and voice work.
One day I threw a party for the patients in the hospital. I witnessed a huge change in the patients. They dressed up and behaved in a very different way. When they danced, I saw their behavior change even further. Something shifted at an unconscious level. I decided to take the experiment further. I introduced regular dances with music and invited the doctors and nurses as well. I noticed extraordinary changes. Eventually the medical students got interested and Biodanza as a method began to emerge. I created a program and I started to get famous. I was invited to a Congress of Psychodrama in Buenos Aires, where I demonstrated the methods of Biodanza. It was a huge success and I was offered work teaching Biodanza in Argentina. I had just lost my university job in Chile because of the Pinochet coup. So off I went. More and more people became interested in learning and teaching, and the Congress of Biodanza attracted many European therapists. I was later invited to teach Biodanza in Italy, where I have been living for six years.
Q: How long does it take to learn Biodanza?
A: To learn Biodanza enough to be able to teach it to others takes three years. We have a training course which is hard. It’s not a matter of simply learning a list of exercises. Students have to attend 26 weekends, read scientific papers, take an exam, write a thesis and, after that, do six months as a practitioner under the supervision of another teacher.
Q: You say that humans have lost touch with their ‘five basic modes of living? What are these and how does Biodanza reconnect us with them?
A: The first is vitality. We are the result of our fragmented civilization, which obliges us to be hypocrites and live in a false way. So we think one thing, feel another, and act out something else. We lose sight of our real identity. This fragmentation, or disunity, produces such illnesses as cancer, which is a breakdown in cellular unity. It is caused by a group of cells which don’t obey the totality. Likewise, schizophrenia is a disunity in the mind. Biodanza provides a group of exercises addressed at restoring our integration, which restores our vitality. This is pure health.
The second mode is sexuality. Generally speaking, we place an embargo on our erotic feelings and hide behind a code of “proper” behavior. This gives rise to serious conflict. So these Biodanza exercises awaken our sensuality.
The third group is creativity. Not just in the aesthetic sense, but a deep creativity that transforms our lives. We need to place our creativity at the service of life! That’s when it really flows and you become the true protagonist of your life. Then, if you want to live somewhere, you go there. If you want to live with someone you do it. If you want to change your profession, you go for it!
The fourth mode I call ‘affectivity’, which is the capacity for love. Most of us find love so dangerous! We protect ourselves against it because it carries such a high risk, in that it can cause great suffering. If you look at people at the beginning of a relationship they are generally happy. But when love begins to enter the relationship in a profound, transforming way, they escape! The mind always defends itself from the unknown. ‘Affectivity’, though, is not only personal love. It is the ability to love all living things, plants, animals -even the universe. People who are racist have a high level of sickness in their affectivity. They haven’t developed their potential for love. They are very sick people. They think only of one person – themselves.
The fifth mode is ‘transcendence’, which is the ability to see and feel further than the immediate, to experience our personal relationship with the totality. The set of exercises that relate to this mode result in ecstasy and an expansion of consciousness.
Q: As a Chilean, what have you discovered in bringing this rather spontaneous and physical teaching to the UK? Do the British have a particular reaction to your work?
A: I have found that the English need to feel intellectually safe before they can let go!s When the students feel safe, they relax. Last night we had a session with 80 participants in Covent Garden. It was marvelous. The English have a reputation for being very distant, but the truth is they are very passionate. The reserve is just a facade. After all, history shows us that the English have a real fire in them!
Q: How has your teaching changed and evolved over the years?
A: It is evolving all the time. What we are doing today is very different from the Biodanza of thirty years ago. For example, we have done a great deal of investigation into which kinds of music can awaken different human energies. Today we select music according to very tough criteria. In the same way, new exercises constantly replace old ones. At the moment I have a big research group at the School of Medicine in Chile and two research groups in Italy. We recently discovered an exercise that releases dopamine in the synapses, and have now introduced this exercise into the program. Also, another exercise has been introduced that reduces high blood pressure.
Biodanza isn’t just about dancing. It’s about dancing with certain objectives. People who come to classes don’t need to know about all this, but there is constant research going on behind the scenes.
Q: What is the difference between your work and that of, say, Gabrielle Roth?
A: The main difference is that Biodanza is about contact between people. Biodanza in solitude is no good. Its whole purpose is to help you communicate with others; to go deeply into intimacy. Another difference is that, although Biodanza does acknowledge painful feelings, the exercises never focus on them.
Q: You have said that Biodanza can help you reach your ‘inner self’. How does it do this? What is the difference between your method of doing this and others, such as various forms of meditation?
A: What we are searching for in Biodanza is the development of ‘the five lines of vivencia’ in such a way that we produce a fullness, a totality of being. There are a lot of systems that work only on transcendence. This is simply not enough. It is also necessary to have health, to feel love, to create and to connect globally with everything that is alive. There are also systems that focus on building up muscles. So people get very fit, but their sexual life is a disaster and their creativity is weak. Biodanza is about feeling the intensity of the moment. If we are in the here and now, then life becomes fantastic and every moment is full of enchantment. For example, I am being interviewed by you, but in this moment, I am enjoying the gesture of your eyes. The interview really doesn’t matter! Most people are looking into the past or the future, but if we live in the intensity of the moment, a great well-being arises in us that sustains us even through major difficulties.
Q: Tell us about the scientific work you have done around Biodanza?
A: I see Biodanza as a new concept in medicine. We have done an enormous amount of research into the psychosomatic causes of illness. The exercises have been used in hospitals in South America for fifteen years now.
There are different branches of research and teaching. For example, we have specific Biodanza exercises for old people, for back problems, for people with Parkinson’s Disease, high blood pressure or heart problems, and for psychiatric disorders. In most cases, illnesses are produced by emotional conflict or deep frustration. Heart disease patients for example, feel a certain type of suffering, a very deep frustration which produces a heart attack. A person with hypertension is frequently suffering an emotional conflict. The problem is not about microbes or viruses.
We recently bought a topography machine, which allows me to measure the effects of certain movements on the human nervous system. Right now, I am measuring the effect of the caress on the neurological system.
Q: What do you think about more controlled dancing, like ballet or ballroom dancing? What about the new Techno and Rave dance culture?
A: Formal dancing can be extraordinarily rigid. It usually has an aesthetic objective – it is not aimed at inner transformation, or expressing the joy of movement. Ballroom dancing is fun, but it doesn’t have a deeply transforming power. Contemporary dance, which is often influenced by African rhythms, can be quite spectacular. But it still aims at putting on a show or performing. My problem with disco and rave dancing is that there is a difficulty in communicating with people. With the lights, you can’t really look into another’s eyes, and to look into someone’s eyes is much better than any drug! Also, the high volume of the music doesn’t allow us to talk. And the style of the music is very mechanical – it’s not an organic music that stimulates the emotions. It stimulates rhythmic movement only. The poetic side of movement is gone.
Q: Are you inspired by African tribal dancing?
A: I have been to Africa several times. They have very important ritual dances, but the women are very suppressed. For example in one area certain tribes cut the lips of the vagina. I am trying to spread feminism on that continent. Before I can do any work in Africa with Biodanza, the women have to be liberated.
Q: Are you optimistic about the future of the human race?
A: There is a new intelligence emerging, which is shown by the growing number of ecologists, human rights activists, women’s rights workers, peace strategists, alternative medical practitioners. Millions of people have this new awareness. The old intelligence based on the manufacture of arms and self-defense through fear is gradually fading. We just have to wait and hope! I am a sceptic but I will fight until the end.
It is so important to amplify our perception. People don’t tend to perceive things properly. When we are with other people we don’t generally look into their hearts. We don’t perceive the happiness, the sadness, the suffering – we seldom really look. When we do, we realize the most precious thing, that each of us is part of a totality. That realization changes the way we live our lives.
Sarah Dalles, “Dances With Passion – Interview with Rolando Toro”, Kindred Spirit, Vol 3 No 8, 1996:
We all now know that physical and emotional trauma lodges in the body and that most illness has an emotional and psychosomatic basis. What we are now faced with is the possibility that joy, happiness and well-being can also be deeply embedded at a cellular level by the very same biological pathways. Biodanza, meaning to dance with life, is a method for doing just that. Dr Padraic Churba-Doyle reports.
The biological science behind Biodanza is only now reaching the public domain. The Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert and The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton (see pg 28 of the February/March 2008 edition of Odyssey magazine, South Africa) provide the biological understanding and hard science of what Biodanza is about. Rolando Toro, the founder of Biodanza, had a deep understanding of this cutting-edge biology decades ago. His genius was to create a means by which everyone can tap into their genetic potential and re-programme their biology to create chronic states of joy and well being – known as vivencia. Biodanza’s use of music and exercises evokes deep autonomic nervous system and hormonal change. Like many other health methods, such as yoga, the autonomic nervous system is brought into balance. This is designed to reduce the chronic levels of stress we all live under. But it then goes further and works with deep seated hormonal change that has the capacity to create change at a genetic level. You can imprint your cells with positive messages of affection, love and well-being. In academic research literature, this biological pathway has been known for over 20 years.
The steroid hormone mechanism is as follows:
- The music and exercises evoke hormonal change releasing, for example, steroid hormones;
- The steroids penetrate to the cells and they unite to a receptor protein in the nucleus of the cell;
- The activated steroid-receiver can then unite with the Y chromosome in order to act on specific sequences of DNA;
- These specific sequences of the DNA contain glucocorticoide regulatory elements (GCRE);
- RNA polymers then unite with the GCRE;
- These new RNA molecules are then transcribed with the new message or experience;
- New proteins are synthesized from this.
This is one of the biological pathways opened by Biodanza through the endocrine system to the nucleus of the cells, into the DNA and RNA, synthesizing new proteins and transforming cellular activity. Just like trauma can be recorded at a cellular level, so too can positive experiences. And Biodanza is aimed at creating a ‘chronic’ cellular memory of joy and happiness.
ART & EMOTIONS
Biodanza uses music, movement and creativity to access your emotional world. According to Rolando Toro: ‘The emotional world is less understood by psychotherapy and better explored through music, dance, literature and poetry. Those who work with emotions should know more about Shakespeare, Kafka or Virginia Woolf than psychotherapy.’
Music is the language of the soul. It can evoke the strongest, joyous experiences and can elevate you into transcendent states of ecstasy, joy and well-being – all aiming to imprint at a deep cellular level.
How someone walks and moves is a reflection of their state of mind and well-being. Biodanza uses very simple exercises and movement to open your posture, to get you to move more freely, to meet people openly. This in itself has profound changes on how you feel about yourself, how you communicate and how you relate with others.
Human life can be viewed as a daily creative act – like a tree that, arising from a seed, becomes strong and fertile, nurtured by the sap of love. When nurtured sufficiently, it flourishes and bears fruit, so generously that its branches are broken under the weight of its fruit. Biodanza’s intent is to facilitate your natural creative impulses until they flow into your daily life and you change your life for you and those around you.
A coherent life is not based around feeling one thing, doing another and thinking something else. But how many of us live this way? Biodanza’s intent is to increase emotional coherence in your life.
Toro says: ‘Emotions can be expressed through healthy or pathological biological pathways. Without a doubt, healthy individuals spontaneously express their emotions in concrete circumstances, while dissociated persons stop them, disguise them, hide them, or discharge them onto innocent victims. The healthy way would then be that the individual has the spontaneity and necessary sincerity to react to each situation with the appropriate emotions.’
‘Emotions that are not expressed accumulate in the vital organs. Many people are unable to express happiness, rage, sadness, eroticism or tenderness. Those chronically repressed emotions end up attacking the nervous system and the immune defenses. Learning how to express our own emotions in a healthy way is necessary to maintain internal biological equilibrium.’
Biodanza exercises induce the emotions of happiness, kindness, tenderness, affection and many more. Just as a person can learn rage, fear, aggressiveness, and the tendency toward depression, he or she can also learn altruism, eroticism, and kindness. Learning does not only take place at a conscious level. There is also learning on the affective, emotional and visceral levels.
Biodanza works to reinforce positive emotions and, through coherent expression of emotions, to progressively achieve emotional coherence in your life.
We all have a need for affection, to be held, to be loved. It is basically what makes us human. But its biological necessity for our very survival and personal development has been grossly underestimated.
As far back as the 1940s, the psychologist Renée Spitz studied human babies isolated from their mothers in institutional homes. Hygiene was impeccable. But without being held and loved, the immune resistance of these babies was lowered. Thirty-four out of 91 died. In other foundling homes, the death rate was even higher. In some, it climbed to a devastating 90%. A host of other studies have shown similar results. Babies can be given food, shelter, warmth and hygiene. But if they are not held and loved, they have an abnormal tendency to die.
Sue Gerhardt’s Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes A Baby’s Brain (2004) gives us the science behind how our very neurological development is also deeply influenced by how we have been held, touched and loved in our early development.
Says Carolina Churba-Doyle: ‘People need affection, contact, and love in their lives as much as they need water. Rolando Toro again took this basic biological necessity of life and created a system to bring affection, contact and love back into our lives.’
From affection, we have the basis for ethical behaviour. If you can relate to someone and connect with them, you will tend to be ethical in your relationship with them. If you do not have a capacity to connect and have no affinity for another, you will not be ethical towards them. At this fundamental level, we have the root source of dishonesty, crime and war – people without affection for their fellow humanity.
THE BIG PICTURE
Toro’s objective was not small. In his view, we have suffered enough. It is time to replace these old patterns with new ones of affection, connection and pleasure. His intent is to assist humanity to reach higher levels of human evolution based on methods derived from the biological sciences. In his view, you have an opportunity to determine or influence your own human evolution and those around you. From affection, we have the basis for ethical behaviour. If you can relate to someone and connect with them, you will tend to be ethical in your relationship with them. If you do not have a capacity to connect and have no affinity for another, you will not be ethical towards them. At this fundamental level, we have the root source of dishonesty, crime and war – people without affection for their fellow humanity. Biodanza’s answer is to get everyone evolving, relating, truly seeing each other, building affection and connection. Which route will win out – survival by tooth and claw or survival through affection, connection and love? The choice is ours.
Dr Marcus Stueck is an award winning researcher (with two Ph.Ds in the study of Biodanza) at the world famous Institute of Applied Psychology, University of Leipzig, Germany. In 1995, while on a scientific expedition studying the behavior and physiological reactions of high altitude mountaineers in the Andes, he came across Biodanza. Since then, he has devoted much of his professional life to the empirical study of Biodanza and its behavioral and physiological effects on participants. In the process, he has also trained as a Biodanza Facilitator and is the Director of the School of Leipzig, Germany.
Abstract From Dr. Stueck’s Evaluation
“Biodanza, a form of intervention intended to further health and well-being, originated in South America by Rolando Toro and encourages self-expression and self-management through music, dance and interaction. Since 1998, we investigated the influence of a 10-session Biodanza program on 150 subjects on various psychological (regulation of emotion, health, personal psychology), physiological (skin response, blood pressure) and immunological (immunoglobulin A) variables.
“Initial results from the experimental-control-group study in Argentina and Germany reveal significant changes in psychological health and personality variables after 3 Months (Post 1). After a further 3 months without Biodanza, the effect could be seen to have stabilized. It could be shown that regular, long-term participation in Biodanza had positive effects on the experience and behavior of the subjects.” – Dr. Stueck
Biodanza reduces stress and lets the immune system take over to do its job. Biodanza impinges on the body’s intrinsic mechanisms of healing by unblocking and facilitating them and thus acts as an indirect guide to organic renovation.
Dance Towards Health? An Empirical Research of Biodanza, Marcus Stuuck and Alejandra Villegas, 2008 written in German, Spanish, Italian and English.
Published Articles and Research Papers
Stück, M., Villegas, A., Schröder, H., Sack, U., Terren R., Toro V., & Toro R. (2004). Biodanza as Mirrored in the sciences: Research concerning the psychological, physiological and immunological effects of Biodanza. 1st International Research Colloquium of the BTD Hanover; Germany (Poster)
Stück, M., Villegas, A., Schröder, H., Sack, U., Terren R.; Toro V.; & Toro R. (2004). Biodanza as Mirrored in the sciences: Research concerning the psychological, physiological and immunological effects of Biodanza. Zeitschrift “Moving on. Dance Therapy Association of Australia” DTAA Quarterly 2004, Vol.3, No 2
Stück, M.; Villegas, A.; Schröder, H.; Sack, U.; Terren R.; Toro V.; Toro R. (2004). Biodanza as Mirrored in the sciences: Research concerning the psychological, physiological and immunological effects of Biodanza. Arts in Psychotherapy, Vol.31, No 3
Stück, M. (2004) Bewältigung psychischer Fehlbelastungen in der Schule: Intervention mit Tanzelementen für Lehrer: „Lerne, das Leben zu tanzen“ (Biodanza). Schulpsychologischer Tag Sachsen, Abstrakt-Band
Stück, M.; Sack,U.; Villegas,A.; Terren,R.; Toro V. (2004) Psycho-neuro-immunological effects of a new psychological Intervention method BIODANZA. 28th International Congress of Psychology (Weltkongress Peking/China, ICP2004). Abstrakt-Band.
Sack, U., K. Meier, K. Bauer, M. Stueck: Psycho-immunological evaluation of stress prevention by Biodanza. 3rd Leipzig Research Festival for Life Sciences, 10. December 2004. Zwickau: Verlag Leipzig: Universität Leipzig (2004), 98